Last week, I posted about the teen who snark-tweeted Governor Brownback of Kansas. While the story is interesting, what really got under my skin was the insinuation by a guest writer at CNN.com that monitoring social media was a waste of taxpayer money. Sure, I have a slight bias towards the effectiveness and value of monitoring (okay, a large bias). Although the suggestion that monitoring isn’t something a government entity should spend money on seems laughable to me, I thought–just in case there are others out there who feel as though this is a waste of taxpayer money–I’d point to some really good uses and reasons for government agencies to monitor social channels.
- Respond to constituencies: Just like companies, government has customers–a lot of them. Having trouble at your local DMV? Perhaps someone monitoring social channels at the main office will see your Tweet and propose some corrective action. Or at least improve the coffee.
- Monitor for citizen reports: The USGS did this for the earthquake in Virginia, asking people to tweet where they felt the earthquake.
- Report outages, accidents, and other trouble spots: The NHDOT has a Twitter feed that posts construction delays, accidents, and other notable issues on the highway. State Parks can use Twitter to notify residents when trails are closed, or other issues.
- Assist in getting people to the right agencies the first time: By monitoring (and responding) an agency can quickly assist a constituent by directing him or her to the right agency the first time.
- Proactively let people know there is a place to go for help: using effective keyword monitoring, an agency could reach out to constituents who might not even realize that there is an agency that could help them with an issue. This could prove invaluable to someone who needs assistance, but doesn’t know where to turn.
- Navigate the bureaucracy: This works for large corporations, and it can work for government too.
- Identify citizens to celebrate: When I worked as an intern in a congressional office, one of my jobs was to review the congressman’s local newspapers for birth announcements, and then generate a letter of congratulations from him to the parents. There are many local heroes who should be celebrated, and yes, it is important to recognize them. Social media does as good, if not a better job, of identifying these people–so monitoring social media makes sense.
I’m sure this list could be longer, but the bottom line is this: social media is here to stay, and is supplementing and in some ways replacing traditional media. Suggesting that it is a waste of taxpayer money to monitor is foolish. The federal government has embraced social media, in a big way, as have members of Congress and state governments.
If we are demanding that they all use social media, shouldn’t we expect them to monitor it too?