Fascinating discussions around the office last week about incorporating social media in communications strategies.
Got me thinking about different tactics that government could adopt in terms of layers of engagement with the participatory web.
Each layer builds on the previous, or to put it another way, governments can’t engage at deeper layers without doing preceding ones also. Risk – and reward – is magnified as you pass from one layer to the next.
Here’s a quick, high-level sketch of how I’m starting to think of this:
1. Passive monitoring. Activities like following RSS feeds and using alerts to see what the world is saying about you online, to find out where (or if) the conversations about you are taking place. Passive because you are not participating in the online conversation about you, but merely watching as it unfolds. This layer of engagement is the lowest risk and requires the lightest workload, but is the base for all that follows. ROI: it’s market research, which is pretty valuable in its own right.
2. Reactive engagement. At this layer, you are commenting around the web – on others’ blog posts, news items, in forums. You are going to where the conversations are and engaging people there (thinking here of examples like Dell and how they used this approach to get past the Dell Hell thing). Big jump in workload here, requires sustained efforts. Needs agility to respond quickly, good judgement about what’s worth responding to and how to respond appropriately. ROI: helps build credibility and reputation over time. Shows that you are listening. Shows a government that is working at staying relevant to its citizenry. Risks: if done wrong or abandoned, will actually further weaken credibility.
3. Proactive community leadership: This layer entails hosting some form of community site, whether a blog or forum or (gasp!) social network. This entails bringing the conversation to you, allowing your critics onto your turf so to speak (thinking here of the US Transportation Security Administration blog as an example, and Dell is doing this also with it’s blogging efforts and its IdeaStorm community site). More importantly, the idea here is that you are beginning to lead in the creation of a community around your program or initiative. Highest workload at this point, as you need consistently good stream of fresh content on top of all the monitoring and reactive commenting that you are already doing. (And it all has to be translated if you are in the GoC. ) Not to mention time for moderating comments. ROI: allows you to be proactive in telling your story, can lead to enhanced reputation online (building as opposed to just protecting brand). & if you are successful in doing this, everybody will be in awe, since you are govt. :+) Risks: same as #2 but an order of magnitude higher due to increased visibility.