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Social media has evolved into the preferred method to reach and engage with the masses, culminating in exponential amplification. Individuals, businesses and celebrities have harnessed its power, yet the government has been slow to maximize social media as an outreach tool. Why has the government been slow to adopt?

Over time, the federal government has been behind the curve as it pertains to effective use of social media. The government traditionally used its social platforms as a way to provide static information via direct hyperlinks or to provide applicable updates on agencies. As social media has evolved, the government is viewing it more as a tool rather than a mandated “e-government” initiative for public service delivery. These accounts provide for input (e.g. signing up for updates), which helps the agency identify and understand its followers and track their sentiment.

In the past, an agency’s social media account was a standalone tool, as there was no integration with other technology solutions. The Department of Homeland Security was an early adopter by rolling out the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, which is a new approach to the nationwide alert and warning system coordinated via ready.gov.

Ultimately, the government is still behind on the perceived value of its social media accounts. For example, according to social analytics data from HYPR, the FEMA Twitter account had only 634,000 followers (0.2% of the U.S. population) in advance of hurricane season. By comparison, Kim Kardashian had 54.8 million followers – a stark difference that illustrates FEMA has not articulated with citizens the capabilities of its Twitter account. FEMA has incorporated an integrated sign-up via its social channels that provides critical information via Twitter alerts in a time of crisis.

Homeland Security Foundation of America Chairman Eric Brown recently stressed the importance of leveraging all available platforms for emergency communications.

“Our job is to help bridge the gap between the government and the public,” Brown said to me. “We have to do that on all fronts. Shifting our thinking to an 'all devices' approach is more than just a good idea. Communicating with the public via social media can be an effective way to disseminate safety information to keep people informed before, during and after emergencies.”

Brown reported HSFA is leveraging social media in this year’s public safety outreach campaign to help raise awareness about what citizens can do to save lives during an active shooter emergency. Slowly but surely, the government and its stakeholders are integrating innovative technology solutions into their once stagnant social media platforms.

In fact, President Donald Trump has used Twitter in ways the office of the president has not in the past, as he is communicating directly with the people. While some of Trump’s tweets are controversial, there’s something to be said for cutting out the White House communications middleman to get his message across. This strategy is catching on across the political spectrum as more prefer to tweet, making social media an essential tool for political candidates. Social media platforms present a major revolution in the way people interact and consume their news.

Political appointees within federal agencies should take notice of Trump’s ability to leverage social media and implement a more targeted social media strategy to get out their agency’s specific message. Trump has gained dramatically as a social media influencer since becoming president with an increase in engagement, amplification and reach. Toward that end, FEMA has the ability to communicate its message the same way and build a similar social media profile with similar advanced metrics.

Diving into social analytics, before announcing his candidacy in 2015 Trump had 2.9 million Twitter followers. As president, his follower count is now 38.2 million (19.2 million U.S.-based, per HYPR's platform). A deeper dive into the analytics tells a compelling story. From March to August, Trump’s reach and amplification remained constant at 90%, but his engagement dropped from 100% to 90%. This illustrates that more people followed him to read his tweets and gather information, using his account as a way to monitor statements with no intention of engaging.

The reach, engagement and amplification achieved by Trump are what FEMA should strive to attain. Ultimately, FEMA has a way to go with its current reach of 40%, engagement of 60%, and amplification of 20%. This example is one of many, but it’s important because FEMA provides information that can save lives.

During, before and after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, FEMA was the face of preparedness/emergency response and also provided information on how to apply for disaster relief and download the FEMA app. Both hurricanes impacted millions, yet FEMA's Twitter account only rose from 635,000 to 675,000 (as of mid-September). FEMA is improving but needs to do a better job of communicating the importance of its Twitter feed as a resource to all citizens.

Toward this end, agencies should focus more on social listening to track online discussions using social media tools, such as Twitter, to understand the pulse of citizens. Social media’s value is in people and understanding what those people are saying is of utmost importance. Once one understands the landscape more clearly, they can activate their outreach via social intelligence as a way to manage and analyze citizen data from social sources to activate their programs effectively.

By employing social intelligence, the federal government can assess the reach of its programs and how it is leveraging the data. This will ultimately define the effectiveness of its overall campaigns and allow the government to communicate its resources to citizens by micro-targeting those they need to reach, which will drive up an agency’s Twitter following. With over 67 million U.S. Twitter accounts, FEMA and other agencies have a captive audience – but they need to engage.

An effective social media platform can serve as a robust outreach tool to disseminate information to those who need to consume it. Building a large follower base to engage and amplify a message is something the government must do better. It’s imperative, as it provides valuable information and insight into the services provided to citizens. This information can ultimately help save lives -- it’s incumbent upon the federal government to articulate the benefits of social media platforms to create a virtual uprising that will lead to larger adoption.

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Autor(en)/Author(s): Matt Anthes

Quelle/Source: Forbes, 02.10.2017

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