I’ve been thinking off and on for a while now about what the logical “home” for social media in Government would be.
You see, I work in a corporate communications shop for a capital-D Department (it’s Industry Canada for those of you keeping score). It’s a place that’s used to speaking on behalf of the organization – in a language of key messages via well established vehicles like press releases and the like.
But I have my doubts that this “corporate” voice is of much use in social media — to be sure, it’s all well and good to have an organizational Twitter account or a corporate Facebook page, more or less acting as news feeds into those environments, but that’s not really doing social media is it? It’s just using the platforms as a vehicle to push more traditional messaging. (Tactically, it may be useful to do this, if only to show the doubters across the organization that the sky is not going to fall when the organization starts to have presences in the social web.)
Further, my org is a large and varied, with programs and services that cover a wide range of topics and activities — and working with diverse communities of stakeholders. Us corporate communicators might have a bird’s eye view, but we barely scratch the surface. We’re stretched too thin, trying to cover the organization as a whole.
Here’s an analogy: the government department is like the company, and its programs and services are like the family of product brands that the company owns. Think of the difference between General Mills and its brands: Betty Crocker, Cheerios, Yoplait, etc. Where’s the centre of gravity? I can envisage a community around the Cheerios product much more easily.
Anyhow, it seems like it’s going to be at the program level where most of the social media action is, at least for us. It’s a much more natural fit. It’s with government programs where “public service” for citizens becomes real. There’s a focus and depth that exists in a program area that we in the corporate communications shop just can’t get into.