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Government and Social Media: Baby Steps

April 24, 2014
Social Media Panel at GOVTalks

On Tuesday, about 45 state employees met to discuss social media in Georgia State Government. The theme of the workshop was "We Need to Talk." It's part of a regular series (called GOVTalks) that GeorgiaGov's team is conducting with agency webmasters to help improve their online presence.

We do need to talk - to you, the constituent, to other agencies and to employees within each agency. Social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter are ubiquitous now; even my mother has a Facebook and Twitter account.

And people are talking about everything, including government. The head of social media for Starbucks once said, "People out there are talking about you. Whether you want to be a part of that conversation is up to you."

About half of the 120 state agencies in Georgia have either a Twitter or Facebook account. Many just use it as another avenue to issue press releases, but some are venturing out into uncharted territory, at least for state government. Tuesday's session brought experts from the private and public sector to discuss how government can use social media to have a conversation with the public, find their niche and give their followers information that they are interested in.

We talked about how to produce content that not only informs, but sparks conversation and engagement with our constituents. We talked about which avenues may be best for us (Hint: Not every agency may need a Pinterest account). And we talked about how to learn from successes and failures in our social media strategy.

Here at GeorgiaGov, in addition to this blog, we have a Facebook account with about 3,600 followers, and a Twitter account with over 15,000 followers. We're trying lots of different things to find out what our followers are interested in; some work, and some don't. But many times our efforts lead to real results.

For example, a woman contacted us on Facebook telling us that her son, who had schizophrenia, was having trouble getting his benefits restored. We gave her a few resources and links to look through while we waited to hear back from the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. After several emails back and forth between us, the woman and DBHDD, she was finally able to get her son's benefits restored. 

Social media is still new for lots of people, and state government is taking baby steps to improve its presence and help realize Governor Deal's goal of a responsive state government that allows communities, individuals and businesses to prosper. Be patient with us; we'll catch up with you soon.

About the Author

Peter Lee is Editorial Director of GeorgiaGov Interactive, a division of the Georgia Technology Authority. He holds a master’s degree in communications and is a Certified Usability Analyst.