DigitalGov rolls out 3 new social media toolkits in quest for ‘social government’

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As the federal SocialGov program enters its third year of existence, Alissa Johnson is ready to see the government’s social engagement take the next step.

“Year three is going to be bigger, it’s going to be badder, it’s going to be better, it’s going to be bolder,” Johnson, the White House’s deputy chief information officer, said Monday. “Next-generation government is social government.”

Johnson’s comments came as DigitalGov, the collaborative office within the General Services Administration that pushes federal agencies to embrace social networks, announced three new toolkits Monday aimed at helping the public sector evolve and improve its social strategies.

DigitalGov released a federal social media policy development guide, an updated version of the federal social media accessibility toolkit and a guide for social media advocacy in developing countries created by the U.S. Agency for International Development, all aimed at pulling in resources and solutions from digital engagement managers across federal agencies and the greater public.

Justin Herman, GSA’s federal socialgov community lead, outlined the motives for the guides during a webinar Monday hosted by DigitalGov. The social media policy document, which is now available on Hackpad, was crafted by a 10-agency working group and has more than 40 different line items constructed from agencies’ best social media practices.

“That’s what the socialgov community is all about — not dictating things, but finding the things that bind us, connect us and ensuring that we have the full resources available to us, whether it’s an agency that has dozens dedicated to digital engagement or you’re a one-deep shop. You’re never a one-deep shop in this community,” Herman said.

By posting the toolkit on Hackpad, it allows for collaboration outside of the federal government so that anyone who wants to shape federal social media policy will have a chance to weigh in.

“It’s not just the ability to check out and view the resources, but we’re inviting people from the community — not just from agencies, outside the federal government — to make sure it’s not one document we update once a year,” Herman said. “It is a living, breathing policy document that can change as necessity dictates.”

The accessibility toolkit is aimed at guiding social media managers to make sure all social engagement is accessible, including for those with disabilities.

“For people with disabilities, accessibility makes all the difference in the world,” said Mike Reardon, a policy supervisor with the Labor Department’s Office of Disability Employment Policy. “It’s the difference between being the great equalizer or the great barrier.”

Reardon said the revised toolkit started after 100 social media managers met 18 months ago and expressed their frustration over the complicated and expensive process necessary to make things more widely accessible. Since then, DigitalGov has helped create workarounds and solutions to make accessibility as easy as possible.

“We wanted to put together a series of regulations and guides so [social media managers] can see this isn’t necessarily rocket science,” Reardon said. “This isn’t going to blow up your office.”

The toolkit created in conjunction with USAID is aimed at educating NGOs on how social media can help spread their outreach. The document is broad in scope, covering security, analytics and tips on developing an overall social media policy.

“In many countries, we know social media is very popular, but to a degree, you have civil society organizations that don’t know much about it, aren’t engaged with it very much, so our goal with the guidebook is to grow that technical knowledge,” said Jill Moss, a USAID new media development and Internet freedom fellow.

With all of these tools now widely available, Herman said it’s up to the public to determine how far social government engagement can go.

“There are so many more ways that [you can] get involved,” Herman said, “but we need you to get involved.”

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Agencies, Alissa Johnson, Applications & Software, Department of Labor, Departments, General Services Administration (GSA), Government IT News, Justin Herman, Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, open government, Social Media, Tech, White House
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