By Stephanie Wasko
Special to Federal News Radio
Government agencies have hopped on the social media bandwagon, but they can be doing more to evaluate and leverage their posts, comments and tweets, according to a new report. “It is necessary to create a strategic vision of social media’s implementation in the form of a social media strategy that focuses on mission and fits into the existing e-government processes and communication strategy,” said Ines Mergel, an associate professor at Syracuse University and author of the IBM Center for the Business of Government report released this month. “Social media policies then regulate both employee and citizen behavior when they are interacting online with government.”
The report offers agencies ideas on how to better collect, analyze and interpret social media data to understand citizens’ responses to their actions.
“One social media director told me, ‘What we do is, we are testing, with social media, some of the policies that are in the draft state,'” Mergel said in an interview on Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Emily Kopp. “They are saying, ‘We are thinking about these changes. What do you think?’ Actively pulling in what citizens might be thinking, what the impact might be, and that goes far beyond the policy analyst’s research that is contributing to the final policy document.”
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The report explores five measures that could help managers make better business decisions: breadth, depth, loyalty, deriving sentiments through qualitative insights and combining offline and online data.
“I believe sentiment analysis is one of the most critical points,” Mergel said, “You still need that human aspect, a human component, to go through and get anecdotes of the data that go beyond the numerical data you receive.”
As agencies begin better evaluating their social media data, Mergel said it is important for them to use social media to build trust with citizens. She said this trust would be crucial in emergency situations when citizens need to be alerted and to act.
“An open government, a government that communicates with its constituents, is going to be a more effective government,” one agency social media director quoted in the report said. “I think our government recognizes that and this is how people communicate now. If we want to communicate with people, this is where we have to be.”
Stephanie Wasko is an intern with Federal News Radio.