This Week’s 2.0 Company Happenings: The Good, The Bad and The What?

I don’t normally spend much time focusing on the corporate structure behind the tentpole companies of today’s social media movement.  But the recent announcements from Linden Labs and Twitter both seemed to be worth a little review, particularly from the Government perspective.

First – The What?

This week Twitter announced that they are “looking for an experienced, entrepreneurial person to make Twitter better for policymakers, political organizations, and government officials and agencies.”  The position is intended to be housed in Washington, DC  and apparently is supposed to focus on being a liaison between all areas of Twitter as a company…and all areas of government.  According to the announcement, “responsibilities will include:

  • Provide excellent support of government and political use of Twitter.
  • Advocate for government and political users within Twitter.
  • Increase political use of Twitter.
  • Develop best practices and other educational material.
  • Do outreach to better understand government needs.”

Wow – good luck with that!  That’s a pretty tall order.  In my observation, there are dozens of PR and communication firms inside and outside the beltway who focus on each of those bullets individually already. And what about the rest of us who don’t operate in DC?  Local governments and state governments have proven that Twitter use can be an integral part of our communications and outreach strategy, but our support needs are very different than those on the federal level.  And the politicians too?  Very, very different needs.  Truth be told, this probably would’ve been more effective if it had been in place a couple years ago when tweeting first started.  I know it would’ve saved a lot of us govies the trouble of trying to figure it out ourselves.  But now it seems a little late since so many govts are already doing it, and doing it well I might add.

Don’t get me wrong, I applaud Twitter for looking at us in government with enough interest to appoint somebody to liaison with us. But that job described above, in today’s 2.0 environment, is going to be hard to do as a one-person show in my opinion.  So far, from one what I’ve review online, most of the people who’ve thrown their hat in the ring are not actually in government.  Even so,  some of the nominations are certainly worth reviewing. I hope that whomever they select doesn’t stay inside the beltway all the time.  Don’t forget the 50 states and the hundreds of counties and cities out here who are also being innovative and would welcome an opportunity for a little face time as well!

We shall see what happens…

Second – The Bad?

This week also brought what most are considering to be bad news to the 2.0 realm. Linden Labs announced “a strategic restructuring to increase focus on the company’s consumer business including investments intended to enhance ease of use and participation in its virtual goods marketplace through browser-based and mobile applications.”  Unfortunately, that also translates to a cut of about 30% of their workforce, including our government liaison. This comes on the heels of the recent release of their drastically redesigned client interface, which has had consistently mixed reviews from the user community.  Additionally, the prices for Linden land are steep, which makes it difficult for governments to participate in SecondLife, particularly when they are much less expensive alternatives available. Is this a downward spiral for Linden Labs when it comes to government? IMHO, this is still TBD.

On a positive note, the news release also promises a stronger focus on the company’s primary long-term goal: “to create a browser-based virtual world experience, eliminating the need to download software.” This could potential be a huge step forward in the government sector.  Information security concerns and the steep learning curve have made it difficult for many organizations to get in-world long enough to see the infinite possibilities available.  Technologically speaking, this is becoming much closer to a reality and if LL truly does focus on this goal, it could mean a second (larger) wave of acceptance and popularity as tool, both in general and specifically in government. So, as with the Head Gov Twit appointment above, I am conflicted and will have to wait and see…

Third – The Good!

And finally, the last job related note from me this week.  This one, although it has received much less fanfare and notoriety than the first two above, is nonetheless to me the most positive. AmericaSpeaks.org has posted a help wanted ad for a newly-created position called Director of Online Engagement & Participation. According to Susanna Haas Lyons from America Speaks, “the position is unique in the way that it draws on three distinct skill sets – digital tools, business development, and citizen participation – and correspondingly offers a leading opportunity to advance the voice of citizens in governance while changing the way agencies at all levels of government use technology to achieve their mandate.” Social media as a platform and citizen participation as a focus? Now that is truly an innovative opportunity. The person in this spot is going to have all kinds of fun with the tools and the practice of engagement!

Also this week, the Big Apple posted a new job – Chief Digital Officer. The new position is designed to “develop forward-thinking policies on social media, digital communications, Web 2.0 initiatives and other tools to better serve the public.” Very similar to the America Speaks position in some ways, albeit more focused on the NYC’s well-publicized digital channels.

If you’ve got the tech chops and the communications experience, I’d suggest you toss your hat in the ring early ’cause my guess is that both of these are going to be very busy!  Meanwhile, I will be over here festering in jealously, waiting to hear more about the lucky souls who gets to fill those spots.

Social Media Policies: Leading Without Bleeding

As I continue to discuss government 2.0 with peers across the globe, I am happy to report that progress is being made! Specifically, I have noticed that the content of the dialog is changing.  For most of the past year, when I was asked to do a presentation on 2.0 for conferences or webinars, the vast majority of conference organizers asked me to focused on the “what” and the “why” of Web 2.0 in government:

“Please explain Twitter, tell me how to set up a blog,” etc.  I was happy to oblige because in order to understand the value offered by these toolsets, you have to have at least a basic knowledge of their general purpose and capabilities.

But in the last few months, I’ve noticed that the focus has shifted to the bigger picture of governance.  Now the conference/webinar organizers are saying “Okay, everybody gets it – Facebook has some viability for us in government.  But how do you control it? Who manages it? Who can post?” Last week, I participated (remotely via SecondLife) as a guest speaker at a conference organized by the Florida Institute in Government. The conference was focused on the challenges of social media in government. When planning the content of my presentation, the organizer asked me to focus specifically on policy development.  How did we work through the process here in Roanoke County? What were the essential components?  How did I “sell” the value of it to my administration and elected officials? And she was dead-on with this line of thinking: the session ran long with questions from the audience, the majority of which were focused on policy versus the specifics of a given technology. Next week, I am scheduled to speak (remotely via videoconference) to a Public Adminsitration graduate class at Syracuse University. Throughout the planning the content for the session, the professor has asked me to focus on “New media policies in the public sector…hoping that you could walk us through your county’s strategy, main elements, how you came up with the different elements, what potential implementation problems might be and adoption constraints that you might have encountered (security, cultural issues, identity management, public record creation, records management, etc.).”  She asked me to participate not just because of my MuniGov affiliation, but because I am just one example of how government are putting their money where their mouth is…not just talking the 2.0 talk but walking the walk.

Collectively, we’ve moved beyond the “what” and the “why” of govt 2.0 and into the stickier realm of “how”. I call it stickier because how we do this stuff – the controls, the process, the procedures – are a sign that we’ve moved beyond the R&D and into the acceptable use realm.  This means accountability, stakeholders and policies that have to be created and <gulp> approved.

macgyver1

Your Social Media Policy can do it all, just like my man Macgyver!

However, social media policies should not be feared.  Believe it or not, they are not that difficult to construct. I’ll grant you that although it can be an arduous process to get them fully vetted, when they are done, they can be used as a shield, a megaphone and a flashlight! They’re like the MacGyver of policies.

Now, my humble apologies here dear reader, but I am afraid that I won’t be able to tell you exactly how your policy should look.  There are too many variables involved (i.e. state laws, political climate, organizational size and culture, etc.) to develop a foolproof checklist for every organization.  However, I have discovered some common elements that seem to be inherent in the successful social media/2.0 policies that I’ve seen in government organizations. Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  • If you are still in the “justification” mode, don’t start with a policy.  You need to do some controlled experiments and test the waters first.  Policy development before establishing value will be a death knell for 2.0 in your organization.  Start with some hands-on value development.  (See my earlier post “Incorporating Web2.0 in Your Organization Part 1 – MIX IT UP! ” for some suggestions on how to do this).
  • Once you are ready to start on a policy, be sure to think high level. Do not focus your policy on specific technologies or procedures.  One of the biggest values of 2.0 is its nimbleness.  If you tie a document with the weight that a policy holds to a specific tool, you will never be able to keep up with the technology times.  Yes, Youtube might be ideal for your organization now, but you might find something more effective in the future.  Use your policy as a general “big picture” guide to the sanctioned use of 2.0 in general – leave the specifics of use to a separate procedure.  For example, here in Roanoke County we do not mention Twitter at all in our policy.  Yet we have separate procedures that dictate the details like background images, whom we will “Follow”, and our avatar design requirements. Keep it high-level – avoid acronyms, specific technology names or processes used for only a single purpose. Make your policy flexible.  It is not intended to be an engraved headstone but rather a dry-erase board. Expect – heck, plan ahead – to make changes to it on at least an annual basis to keep up with the times and the “organizational acceptance” of it all.
  • From the beginning of policy development, you need to involve your organization’s key players.  At a minimum, every policy should govern a workflow process that includes public information/marketing, information technology and legal counsel.  These are the three legs of the 2.0 stool that have to be rock solid for it all to truly work.  Anything new you want to implement on a permanent basis should be approved by these departments.  I know that my colleagues have at times considered me (IT) to be a bottleneck. But IT, like the others mentioned above are here to support and protect you and your organization from harm. So my advice is to get them on board early.  It may take some gentle cattle-prodding to get them to focus on it. Provide them with information.  Answer their questions promptly.  And I have found that providing doughnuts and/or cookies at meetings often helps to grease the skids as well!
  • The policy itself is simply a document.  Don’t let it sit on a shelf in a dusty binder.  Exercise the policy by developing a cross-departmental workgroup to keep things moving along.  Start with the three legs mentioned above, but add representatives from your departments that have a direct connection to your citizens (Libraries, Parks and Recreation, Public Safety, Human Resources, etc.)  There are typically folks within these departments that get this stuff, that want to be operating in this space.  A policy, coupled with this workgroup will ensure a balance of governance and innovation within your organization…a true key to success and longevity for your govt 2.0 efforts.
  • Next, dress that policy up and take it out on the town!  Don’t let your policy get bored.  Use it as tool of advocacy. By promoting a social media plan that is backed up with the quintessential “big guns” of policy approval, you’ve got a much better chance of making things work across your organization.  The policy is the firm foundation from which you can launch a comprehensive communications plan.  Use it to help you tell your organization, your elected officials and your constituents that “this stuff is here, we are using it (the right way) and it is a good thing!”

I hope these thoughts above give you a jumpstart on your own policy development.  Below are a few examples of social media policies for government organizations that may help even more.  By no means is this a comprehensive list of governments that have policies in place. This is just a sampling to show you that organizations engaged in social media come in all shapes and sizes. Please feel free to shoot me a message and let me know if I’ve missed one you’ve found particularly helpful.

Arlington County, VA Social Media Policy and Guidelines

Arvada, CO Social Media Policy

Chandler AZ Social Media/Social Networking Administrative Regulation

Fairfax County, VA Social Media Policy

Hampton, VA Social Media Policy

Roanoke County, VA Social Media Policy

Suwanee, GA Social Media Policy

State of Delaware Social Media Policy

State of Utah Social Media Guidelines

Virtually Yours,

Greever

Tapping N 2 Totally Terrific Teen 2.0 Talent

 

Recently I had the opportunity to present on Web2.0 at the National Parks and Recreation Assocation‘s Legislative Forum in Washington DC.  Specifically, my session was a primer on how the NRPA’s membership could use these new technology methods as advocacy tools to help further their missions.  During my research in advance of the session, I had a very enlightening “duh” moment that I thought might be helpful to those struggling to find the resources needed to dive into 2.0.
 

Parks and Recreation, Libraries and other direct service departments develop programs and provide services focused on very specific segments of the population – summer camps for school-aged children, themed travel opportunities for seniors, storytimes for preschoolers, etc.  These types of departments are often some of the early adopters of Web2.0 tools, but frequently they face issues of limited resources and more recently, shrinking budgets for non-essential services.  However, these agencies have a leg-up when it comes to providing new services via Web2.0.  These departments frequently have very active teen programs aimed at giving teens safe and productive recreation and social opportunities.  We need to be capitalizing on the talent and the volunteer opportunities that are right on our doorstep with these teens!  
 

I recently had dinner with a fellow govt 2.0 evangelist and her 21-year-old daughter.  We were prepping for a presentation on 2.0 and I asked her daughter what she thought about all the tools we were discussing and whether or not she used them.  Never in my 36 years did I feel more ancient than when she said my beloved Twitter was for “old people”.  No wait, that’s not true. When American Idol recently had the theme of Songs from the Year You Were Born and they were singing songs from my early high-school days I got that same kick-to-the-gut feeling.  You know – the one where you can actually feel your hair graying? Bah!
 

The point is, these teens and early twentysomethings are already doing social networks, instant messaging and the like.  The tools we struggle to understand are “so yesterday” to them.  We’ve got to remember that our digital natives (8-28 year olds) grew up with technology as a given.  As these digital natives enter the workforce, the cultures of organizations shift and there is a massive blur between work and leisure.  Connectedness and instant search and communication capabilities are assumed.  The technology becomes consumable and distributed content administration becomes sanctioned and preferred. They live and breathe in a culture that we are still trying to comprehend.
 

So why not tap into their skills and their subject matter interest in order to help us with our organization’s migration to 2.0?  Try some experimental efforts focused around a cause, an initiative or a program that the teens can get behind because they care about the outcome.  We can cultivate our very own cool communications cadre who are passionate about their subject matter.  They get the tools AND they get the message!  The simple formula goes something like this: give them a little bit of guidance, a few parameters and then get the H-E-DOUBLE HOCKEY STICKS outta the way and let them go to town!  

 

Sounds like a win, win, win situation to me.  You put their interests to work, you get a 2.0 initiative underway and they get experience in a real-life work environment that will look great on a resume or college application. And don’t forget that getting them to participate in these projects will give your message much more street cred and viral marketing capability than it would if it was just some sad, sterile govspeak propaganda coming down from “the man”.  
 

Below are just a few real world examples to ponder and perhaps emulate.  These projects were all either created directly by teens or teens feedback and involvement has helped shape their current value and form. Check ‘em out and let the creative juices flow!
 

Teens take to YouTube to spread their municipal message

 

Homer Glen Teen Picks

The public library in Homer Glen, IL works with its Teen Advisory Group to set up an del.icio.us account where teens can collect and share web sites of interest as well as web sites to assist with completing homework assignments. Teens hone reading, web searching and critical thinking skills as they evaluate which sites to include on their del.icio.us account
 

Hampton Youth Council

Hampton, VA has a dedicated Web site focused on teen activities and services at www.areyouinthegame.com.  Additionally, they have augmented their online presence with a Facebook page that is maintained by teen volunteers under direction of their Youth Coordinator.
 

Overland Park, KS: Camp Inferno

According to their Myspace page, “Camp Inferno is a week-long camp where young women, ages 15-19, get to experience the physical and mental rush it takes to be a firefighter.” The page is coordinated via the Overland Park FD, but a visit to the page reveals that a community has sprung up amongst former camp attendees. By getting into MySpace, OPFD has clearly recognized and bridged the gap between the bureaucracy of a typical government Website and today’s teens.

 

MuniGov Milestones Merrily Met!

Less than 5 short months ago,  a dream was born.  After several months of solo exploration on the potential of Web2.0 in government, I met up with a kindred spirit in Pam Broviak, a Public Works Director in Illinois.  After a few conversations whining about the lack of good resources for governments interested in 2.0, we decided to put our money where our mouths were and build one ourselves.  So we built a collaboration portal and an office in the virtual world, Second Life.  Our goals were simple, straightforward, albeit perhaps somewhat lofty given our lack of resources and time:

  • Become a Recognized, Powerful and Dynamic Resource for Governments Implementing and Innovating Via Web 2.0
  • Establish a Strong Set of Virtual-World Resources for Government Agencies
  • Coalesce into a Large, Active and Innovative User Community
  • Have a Little Fun Along the Way
The MuniGovers pause for a quick picture before a recent virtual meeting.
The MuniGovers pause for a quick picture before a recent virtual meeting.

Looking back now, I can’t help but be proud of the work we have accomplished to date towards these goals.  This week, we hit two milestones that underscore the success and value MuniGov2.0 is bringing to the government sector.  We surpassed our 300th member mark.  Little did I realize setting up our membership form a few months ago would it get such a workout!  What started with just Pam and I has, literally, gone global with members around the world, at every level of government, and from a dozen different disciplines.  We are now over 300 strong from technology, engineering, libraries, marketing, human resources and many more.  This size and diversity lends itself well to having valued discussions both in real time during our weekly virtual meetings and via our active list serv.  In addition to our growing numbers, we have also been able to move past the general “wouldn’t-it-be-cool-if” discussions into providing tangible, valuable (and free!) resources to our members.  Last week, we released the details and registration information for our first virtual conference, to be held in April in Second Life.  Although this is a virtual conference, the planning and effort required to pull it off rival that of a real world conference.  And I am happy to say that the MuniGov group members eagerly rose to the challenge and are focused on all of the details that will make this conference successful: logistics, appropriate venue and facilities, dynamic speakers, effective marketing, etc.  The diversity of our membership and its belief in the value of 2.0 has already made this conference a success, long before we actually have virtual butts in the virtual seats!

We are using a virtual world to meet and plan the conference.  One on one planning discussions occur via Skype.  We have a collaboration site to share info and conference registration.  We are using Twitter, blogs and social networks to help us get the word out.  We will be recording and posting the conference sessions online via YouTube.  We are developing a wiki to help us keep track of all the important details covered in each weekly meeting.  The MuniGov group to me is the epitome of why Web2.0 is a good thing.  We are living proof that the tools are valuable, easy to use, effective and they are proof that you can do a great deal of good for your organization without spending money.

I am very proud to get in on the ground floor of such an exciting and adventurous endeavor.  We’re already getting good results and yet as Karen Carpenter would say, “we’ve only just begun!”

Virtually Yours,
Greever

Confessions of a Government Twit

twitterread.jpgOkay, technically in the hyper-jargon that has emerged surrounding Twitter, the alpha male of the micro-blogging world, I am considered to be a Tweeter.  But for some reason, twit just seems to work better for me.  I get a lot of ilTwitterate people asking me why I consider Twitter to be so valuable.  Granted, I don’t really care so much to hear that you are currently picking belly button lint (yours or someone else’s).  Nor do I need to read your tweet railing against the driver next to you who is texting while driving. (The nerve of some people, eh?)  I do, however, need to find an easy way to keep up with some of the news that affects my world – government, technology, Web2.0, life here in western VA, etc.  Who has the time to keep up with all that is going on in the world around us today?  How many good articles and links have you had to pass up simply because it was the only way to keep your Inbox from a massive melt down?  As much as I like to think I am not chained to my job, the truth is, I’ve got the shackles on and if the cage door was ever left open, I think I’d probably shut it myself, just to keep the other freaks out.  Bottom line, I do not have enough time in the day to keep up with all that I should or would like to.  So, I turn to the Twitosphere and rely on my Tweeters to keep me informed.

There are three crucial parts to an effective Twitter engagement:  the Followers, the Following and the Posts. 

First – the Followers: I welcome any and all followers (except for those rare yet mega-annoying Tweetspammers).  I welcome followers not because I am vain (I mean come on – look at the photo I chose for the header of this column!)  Nope, tis not vanity at all!  I welcome followers because it is an opportunity to build community, albeit a community that speaks in 140 characters or less in a sometimes cryptic language of abbreviations and tinyurls.   But, those tiny posts can often speak volumes and lead me off in new directions of information sharing and news from the world around me.  It can change my thinking and I certainly meet new and dynamic people who are in no obvious ways akin to me.  Honestly, I love it when I see that new people are following me.  I presume it means that they dug in a little bit and saw that I had something relevant to say to them.  Perhaps it was a topic I posted or a question I posed.  Perhaps it was simply that I said the right thing, at the right time, in the right way that answered a burning question they had.  Then again, perhaps they were just drunk-tweeting and clicked on me by accident.  Regardless, the point is, I see it as a sign of interest in the work I am doing and any connection is an opportunity to expand on the group symbiosis I gain from Twitter.

So that brings me to my Following list.   I’ve had to cultivate the list of people I follow.  I do not automatically add someone just because they choose to follow me.  I do not mean offense by this, but with the overwhelming amount of information out there, I have to be a little picky lest I get overwhelmed with updates that don’t do much for me personally and what I am trying to get our of Twitter.  So until I see the Binford Do-It-Yourself Cloning Kit on the shelves at the local Walmart or learn how to manipulate the time-space continuum, I have to try to line up the most applicable, prolific and accurate Tweeters I can find.   I’ll generally do a quick scan for a few key words of the updates and make sure they seem to erupt on a fairly regular basis and somehow fit into one of my loose info categories and with the click of a Follow button, a new tributary to the Greever Tweetstream is born!

Finally, in order to get some real value out of the Twitterverse, you need to be sure that there is a communal send-and-receive habit within your own personalized galaxy.  Invest some time and energy in following those links.  Answer the questions that are posed by those in your stream – if you can help out, do so and in return you can expect the same treatment next time you are stuck! Also, keep it real. Say something if you think it needs to be said, but be mindful of the context and that you are still a representative of your organization (unless of course you are doing this on your own time with no reference to your day job).  Try to be useful.  Trust me – it is much harder than it sounds when you only have 140 characters in which to hurl some useful info chunks at your Tweet tribe.  As with all 2.0 tools, there is no harm in checking this out.  I personally never have made any promise that my Tweets will be interesting, informative or even coherent.  I was a fly on the wall for a while, started making some comments and my own posts about the work I was doing in the 2.0 and slowly it became for me an invaluable tool to learn, educate, inform and communicate.  Every day new tools are emerging that make Twitter a more valuable and effective tool, but the true burden and the value of the tool relies on you and what you want to get out of it.  Like Luke Skywalker rocketing down that trench on the Death Star, you are in complete control of whether or not the tool works for you.  You don’t need the computer to do it for you.  Use the force to…okay, you get the point.

So, for those of you visual learners out there, here’s a sampler platter of the loose categories of people I choose to follow on Twitter. Given the amount of people on Twitter these days, I am confident you can find your own peeps and get your very own Tweetstream flowing in no time!

Web2.0 in Action (Shout-Outs to: pbroviak, sarahintampa, GovDelivery, govloop,)

Information Security & Technology
(Shout-Outs to:  govtechnews, Bwoolley, vcuinfosec)

Government/Education Leaders
(Shout-Outs to:  Bill Schrier, ujdmc, bashley, egvick, webgoddess)

Govts on Twitter  (Shout-Outs to: RoanokeCountyDowningStreet, LAFD, Blacksburg_Gov)

Insight & Generally Thought Provoking
(Shout-Outs to: LPT, lewisshepherd, careerdiva, queenofpith)

Star Wars Humor
(Shout-Out to: DarthVader - his twitticisms are as funny as his soul is dark)

Virtually Yours,
Greever

Need to Boost Your Web2.0 System? Consider a Dose of Vitamin CCC!

So hopefully by now, we all at least get the meaning of Web2.0, or at least some flavor of it!  I have found in my own net travels that Web2.0 can mean a whole bunch of things depending on whom you ask, and when you ask him or her.  But basically, for the purposes of this blog, let’s define it as a group of services and principles that elevate us beyond the basic producer/consumer roles of the first generation of the Web. 

vitaminccc.jpgFunny thing is, at the core, Web2.0 is not really about technology.  The key to Web2.0 is more about the culture of an organization and how it chooses to interact with its diverse audiences.  Technologies are the buzz words surrounding 2.0, but those technologies are the just the vehicle…you need the keys to make it work!  Much like my freshman year of college, my definition of Web2.0 rests solidly on a foundation of three “C”s.  (The other three grades were “A”s, thank you very much!)  Web2.0 is about collaboration.  It is about communication.  And it is about community.  Take any one of them out and you do not have true Web 2.0. Instead, you’ve got some hybrid approach that will probably move your organization forward in some way, but not with the thoroughness and meaningful value you’ll get out of fully embracing 2.0. 

Web 2.0 relies on the simple concept that, via collaboration, we can create a better product than we ever could have on our own.  Sound familiar?  The open source code community has been doing this for years!  Ask and they’ll tell you all about the tremendous value inherent in sharing from concept to completion – always able to tweak and improve and benefit from the experience and point of view of a new voice.  So, why not take that to the next level?  Take it out the code base and start talking in business terms.  Break the static mold of serving up stuff to be consumed (documents to download, pages to read, taxes to be paid) and compliment it with the tools that get people in touch with your organization on their terms.  This connection can take many forms and those forms are constantly evolving based on consumer demand, bandwidth availability and good ole usability.  Think of collaboration as your framework and your guiding principle moving forward.

Communication is a very over-used word in our sector of the world.  Every one agrees that communication is valuable and nary shall ye find someone who claims to do a lousy job at it.  But the sad truth is, we all fail at it sometime.  Central to effective communication is a solid understanding your audience, AKA your community.  Too often we make assumptions about how people want to get info from and interact with us.  We jump to conclusions based on our personal frame of reference and then we build grandiose info silos on terms that make little sense to our community.  So, how do we fix it?  Simple!  We go out amongst our peeps and take a stroll through what works for them.  Web2.0 didn’t evolve as business tools…it evolved out of that stuff that turns people on – common interests, friendships, family videos and the like.  People became interested and familiar with these tools because they WANTED to, not because they HAD to.  So, the trick is, move beyond our traditional govt space and get out to where the fun stuff is happening.  Learn to integrate our messages, our tools and our services into the media and forums that people are already accustomed to and use by choice.  Communicate on their terms, using their tools, in their time frames.

And the final tentpole of the Web2.0 effort is Community.  Community is an essential part of creating a meaningful and valued government “of the people”.  Community is your audience.  Without it, your message and your methods are all wasted.  As with communication, you find your community by evaluating and implementing the methodologies that are used by your audience.   Post your info in the proper forums and methods, and your community will find you.   As an example, here in Roanoke County we launched a Twitter stream so quietly last month that you could actually hear us thinking about dropping the proverbial pin.  No press release, no announcements, no fanfare, just a simple link on our Web site.  As of this writing, we’re about to break the big five-oh.  Not too bad considering this is a totally voluntary communication channel.  As with our Twitter experience, you can develop your own following of people who sought you out and found your stuff to be useful to them.  And then that community can potentially evolve into new ideas and new innovations…sounds very collaborative, eh? 

To be clear, I am not talking about starting some three-ring “no holds barred” circus act at your service counters.  I am talking about taking an innovative yet measured approach to adopting these three principles, your daily dose of Vitamin CCC.  Most local government organizations will be leery of the Web2.0 world at first glance, and rightfully so.  As stewards of the public dollar, we do not want to ever be accused of “goofing off on Facebook” on a taxpayer’s dime.  And we’ve all got those global fears of security, privacy, eDiscovery and how to ensure new services comply with regulations regarding public forums and records management.   Sure, there is work involved, but that is to be expected, particularly in the public sector.  But hey, none of us signed for this govt job for the fame, glory and the paycheck!  (If you did, I have some very, very bad news for you my friend.  Please see me after class).

If your organization can have an honest, open-minded discussion about how communication is evolving and how we can keep up, I think the naysayers and the fence-sitters will be willing to come together to solve those problems for the greater value that 2.0 brings to the organization.  Next week I’ll cover some solutions on setting up an internal Web2.0 group and some of the key members and processes you’ll want to establish for success. 

Virtually Yours,
Greever