Building in momentum over the past few months, the topic of utilizing social media to provide government transparency and enhance public safety is popping up on a regular basis. Utilizing services such as Twitter and Facebook, along with technologies such as RSS and email, agencies are beginning to inform citizens of important or sometimes critical information using a variety of methods.
For example, an article on the Nebraska government site discusses how the Los Angeles Fire Department uses Twitter to “update..bulletins about structural fires, the number of responding firefighters , and injuries and casualties.” And an article in the Orlando Sentinel discusses the options of Facebook and Twitter being offered as a means of notifying students in the event of a crisis.
Outside of the notification arena, citizens can subscribe to feeds relating to congressional activities on sites such as www.govtrack.us; and many agencies are now blogging on a regular basis, particularly with regards to the use of stimulus funding. Speaking of the stimulus, the Obama administration just concluded a social networking “open forum” period for citizens to provide feedback through the web regarding making funding information more transparent and useful. Clearly, social media tools are here to stay with regards to government operations.
So what does this mean for vendors? First, while many of you have embraced these technologies, many more are still behind the curve. It is imperative that vendors, while perhaps not committing to every form of social media, must at least learn about these emerging trends.
Second, vendors need to embrace the underlying philosophy of social media. The days of information silos and backroom deals are waning, being replaced by openness and widespread participation through a variety of stakeholders. The speed at which information is disseminated through a social media network is staggering, and both agencies and vendors must be prepared to react to situations quickly.
Third, vendors may find that social media is not simply a burden to be carried, but instead a differentiator that drives business. Vendors who can actively participate in social media will potentially build a stronger brand overall while illustrating leadership in an area of increasing importance.