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Government's Embrace of Social Networking

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PBS' MediaShift has an interesting post by Mark Drapeau where he makes a compelling argument for how government could and should use social media tools to transform how it engages and relates with the public. Couldn't agree more with Mark about the need of government to embrace the spirit of creativity and trial-and-error characteristics of the social software community. Mark writes:

"Social software has numerous government applications, including information-sharing within and between agencies; collaborating with outside partners like humanitarian workers; public outreach and crowdsourcing; and empowering people with inexpensive, simple, mobile technology. In addition, as hostile entities become more adept at using social media for propaganda, it is imperative that governments familiarize themselves with social technologies."

He links to an insightful memo produced last month by the Federal Web Managers Council that looks at the perceived and real barriers within the federal government regarding the use of social media tools. The memo also proposes solutions to the barriers. Interestingly enough, the memo's authors write that social media in government has become the number one topic of discussion within their government Web manager community over the past year. This memo and the promises for use of technology  from the incoming Obama Administration give me renewed hope that the federal government will finally get it.

As Mark writes, government's adoption of social technology "can make networking and engagement with the public simple and powerful, make research faster, identify influencers in useful micro-niches, provide mechanisms for combating negative publicity, and measure public sentiment to help inform public policy." All levels of government, whether it's on Capitol Hill or in state houses, from court house squares to city halls, would benefit greatly once they start using these invaluable social networking tools and the "indirect, intimate influence it propagates."