Social media proves effective for government work

As Barb Iverson, president of Weber Shandwick’s Financial Services Practice Group, recently posted, clients regularly ask for evidence before moving forward with social media initiatives. Understandably, government organizations are particularly interested in successful case studies before investing the time, money and other resources needed to sustain a successful social media program. An article from Federal Computer Week on Wednesday does just that.

The article, “CDC, other agencies find social media an elixir for healthier public relations,” discusses the success of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s social media activities, including that users of its social media sites were 5 percent more likely to be satisfied with its Web presence. Ann Aikin, the CDC’s social media team leader, points out that this translates into users who are more likely to return to the Web site and recommend it to others.

“We also found that providing information in multiple formats, such as through widgets and Twitter, actually helps increase trust among our customers,” she said.

Consumer expectations are high. In fact, one could easily argue that an organization’s absence from social media speaks just as loudly as if it were participating. Providing information in multiple formats lets users search using tools they are familiar with and prefer. And now, because social media sites like Twitter and Facebook routinely rank high in search engine results, it makes them an increasingly turned-to source for information. The proof is in the numbers.

As the public comes to trust information coming from agencies’ social media outlets, federal organizations should be prepared for interest to grow quickly. For example, the CDC had about 2,500 followers on Twitter before the outbreak of H1N1 swine flu. Since then, CDC’s Twitter following swelled to 1.25 million, Aikin said.

Done right, an organization’s participation in social media is an important aspect of any Inline strategy. As government organizations work to communicate more effectively and transparently with individuals, case studies like that of the CDC’s demonstrate the importance and influence social media initiatives have.

Weber Shandwick has worked closely with the U.S. Army on part of its digital communication efforts, primarily on its use of social media as a recruitment marketing tool. A recent story from MSNBC highlights the Army’s shift to embracing digital communications and fully engaging in social media. In the story, LTG Benjamin Freakley, CG of Accessions Command, discuss how the Army uses social media to reach potential recruits and allows fellow soldiers to stay connected to family and friends via ArmyStrongStories.com. The story points out that the Army has more than 250,000 friends and followers across social media networks. That number continues to grow.

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