Social Media for the Public Sector

One opportunity that unemployment affords me is the ability to check out events when I would otherwise be chained to a desk.  Yesterday, I attended Rutgers University’s “Social Media Primer for the Public Sector” seminar.  While I’m not a public sector or not-for-profit employee, I was interested in seeing who in this area was doing social media well.  I also hoped to pick up a few tips and some new networking contacts.

The speakers were well-informed, but the curriculum was a little more basic than I expected.  Whereas I have generally found myself investigating luxury or technological brands who adopted social media strategies early, I saw that much of the public sector hasn’t embraced these channels to the same extent.  I will commend the speakers for giving an excellent introduction to using Twitter and Facebook Fan Pages.  My fellow participants learned in a few minutes what it took me days of trial and error to figure out!

I happened to sit next to and have some good conversations with Kristin Weinstein, the Communications Manager from the Special Olympics of New Jersey, which turned out to be the subject of a brief case study.  The group was singled out for having a clear gateway to their social media offerings on their web site, as well as making good use of channels like Twitter.  They’re definitely worth a follow, both in terms of the good social media work and, of course, for their good deeds!

I also had the chance to meet Eva Abreu in person, which was kind of a milestone for me: she’s the first person that I’ve met only after following on Twitter and connecting on LinkedIn.  I feel like there should be some kind of social media badge for that.  In addition to being one of the speakers at the event, she runs the NJ Social Media blog and has been kind enough to link to freedmarketer.com.  She’s also interested in leveraging social media to help people find jobs, so our paths will be crossing more in the future.

The part of the event that was the most interesting was the introduction of a social network with which I had been unfamiliar until yesterday.  Steve Ressler, the founder of GovLoop, was on hand to talk about the network, the so-called “Facebook for government.  GovLoop is a Ning- and WordPress-based site that allows government employees and contractors to interact with one another in an informal network.  I was also impressed how they use industry partners instead of ads.  I feel better about using a software discussion forum sponsored by Microsoft than seeing a bunch of “Meet Local Singles!” ads on the side of my Facebook Wall.  Once my membership is approved, I’ll be sure to explore the network in greater detail, and I will see what kind of marketing applications it’s well-suited.

While the seminar’s material was a lot more basic than the kind I get at ones like those run by the Luxury Lab (whose Generation Next Forum is going to be the next event that I review), I salute the focus on encouraging public sector social media adoption.  It’s often critical that government agencies can reach the population, and until they can include the Emergency Broadcast System on our iTunes and internet radio, this is a way for them to keep up with the changes in how we view the media as technology evolves.

I want to share one video that was shown that I think does a great job of showcasing why social media is so critical to this field.  The following is from Erik Qualman’s “Socialnomics”, but works well with or without context:

  • WL

    Hey Kevin,

    Thanks for reviewing this event. It’s precisely the kind of event I wish my bosses (in Trenton, where policy is made) would attend. At work, we’re still stuck with the idea that social media is nothing more than employees goofing off on taxpayers’ dime when in reality, if used correctly, it could make the whole process of what we do less opaque and more relevant to ordinary people.

© 2009-2011 the freedmarketer. All rights reserved.