Government Social Media Comes of Age at Inaugural Conference

At the inaugural GSMCON, 365 "govie" delegates gathered in a ballroom above a casino floor — and may very well have been witnessing the formal birth of a movement.

by / May 11, 2015
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The Government Social Media Conference & Expo's closing session on May 1. Twitter/Kristy Dalton

When San Diego hosted the Golden State Comic-Minicon in 1970, it marked the beginning of a community, a movement, a phenomenon called Comic-Con.

Forty-five years later, Reno hosted the inaugural Government Social Media Conference & Expo (GSMCON), which may well mark a similar coming of age for state and local “govies” — the nickname government social media practitioners have given themselves — as a community of professionals.

Social media is increasingly recognized as mission critical for public agencies, and the 365 delegates who gathered April 29 through May 1 in a ballroom above a casino floor may have seen the formal birth of a movement.

The excitement was palpable. I was honored to be there to witness this small but important historic moment. I was also proud that my company, ArchiveSocial, was able to serve as co-host of the conference, partnering with Kristy Dalton’s team at Government Social Media, the namesake company behind the event.

Many delegates came to Reno knowing each other's work — social media is, after all, the most purposefully public face of public service — but most had never met face to face. That changed at GSMCON, which provided a forum for answering common questions, sharing hard-earned lessons and exploring where social media is going in government.

Here are the top three things I learned:

1. This conference HAD to happen.

When planning the conference, our hope was to attract 200 attendees. That the final tally was almost double the original estimate underscores the importance govies give to their craft and community.

It is all the more impressive given that (a) it was a brand-new event with no track record; and (b) travel budgets and out-of-state travel authorization remain challenging (if not prohibitive) in many jurisdictions.

I was particularly happy to see attendees from all across the spectrum when it comes to social media expertise — including some delegates representing agencies who are still in the planning stages.

2. Innovation and bold experimentation is only increasing.

For me, one of the conference's highlights was celebrating many of the best usages of social media in government during the first-in-nation Golden Post awards for state and local social media excellence. Presented jointly by GSM, ArchiveSocial and Government Technology, the awards program honored winners from a pool of over 170 nominees — with 6,000 participants partaking in the crowdsourced voting.

From the city of West Hollywood’s edgy public service announcement disguised as a music video to the city of Roanoke’s elaborate prank on its own citizens, it’s clear that government should continue to embrace bold, creative ideas rather than shy away from them. Of course, agencies still need to cover their bases when it comes to policies and legal requirements, and should to look to “Comprehensive Social Media Policy” winner Palm Beach County, Fla., as a great example.

3. Social media policy is still a challenge.

Speaking of social media policy, questions remain as to how agencies should correctly establish and enforce social media usage. I was most surprised to discover that many agencies still do not have a comprehensive policy in place. (If that’s you, this free template might help.)

Furthermore, there are important issues such as public records and security that agencies need to continue to explore. Are you utilizing two-factor authentication to protect your sites? How are you archiving your social media to comply with public records laws? Do you know how to get your social media sites officially verified by Twitter and Facebook? These were just a few of the questions that furthered conversation at the conference.

Ultimately, GSMCON demonstrated that there is an enormous need for more forums where ideas, experiences and questions can be shared in relation to social media in government. The GovTech Social newsletter and the newly launched GovTech Social site are two such forums. We're also recapping the many lessons from GSMCON during the debut of the GovTech webcast and podcast.  You can listen to it here, as well as see the show notes.  As with all things social media related: Let’s keep the conversation going!
  

Anil Chawla
Anil Chawla is the founder and CEO of ArchiveSocial, a civic tech company that specializes in risk mitigation and open records management of government social media. The parent company of Government Technology is an investor in ArchiveSocial through e.Republic Ventures.