Social Media Use In Govenment Institutions

Craig Simons | @craigasimons Typical social media users visit the platforms for news, cool places to go and checking in on their favorite brands.  Obviously, businesses and organizations are also using all forms of social media to spread their message and word about their businesses.  But, have you given thought about checking what's going on with your local police department or fire department on Twitter or Facbook?  How about other government agencies such as the U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. Department of State?

Social media usage among these agencies has been picking up steam but many small to medium agencies haven't even started, and if they have, many of the posts are about traffic or upcoming events. But, how about true interaction with the citizens they serve?

Many departments are making strides in utilizing social media sites. Though it has long been used for garnering intelligence to solve crimes, it has only recently been used to reach out to the community. Some departments now have dedicated social media officers, but they don't always do it right. The Seattle Police Department was guilty of over tweeting to the point where they lost followers. They did have one innovative idea though, a "tweet-along". In August 2011, two Seattle PD bicycle officers tweeted about what went on during their shift.

Denton, TX has eight Facebook pages, seven Twitter accounts and a YouTube account. There is even a website strictly dedicated to interaction with citizens on how to make the city better.

Many Federal Government agencies also do well on social media. Most recently, The White House and President Barack Obama have conducted many social media campaigns with the country. Days leading up to the 2012 State of the Union address, there was a red phone on the upper left hand corner where anyone with a YouTube account could pose questions to The President. President Obama hosted a Google+ hangout interview post State of the Union.

Twitter and Facebook use is as easy as access to a computer and an internet connection. The trick is knowing how to use social media once your department is on it. It is always good to receive traffic reports and crime alerts but interaction is what social media is all about. Developing a social media strategy is key in a department's successful use of social media on any level; whether it be local, state or federal level. Then implementing it using community interaction as they key goal. Transparency among government institutions is what most citizens want to see, no matter what country they live in. The more positive interaction, the more citizens are likely to trust them.