Can the Federal Government Stay Relevant If It Blocks Social Media Sites?

I had to ask myself this question after reading an article by Hilary Brandt on GovExec this week about how important it is to meet citizens where they are. As citizens increasingly use social media to access information and interact, it is the government’s job to get on there and share. Some have embraced this reality. Listen to this podcast GovExec did with NASA for example. EPA is another leader. But other agencies restrict or outright block multiple social media sites. There are legitimate concerns about privacy, security, and people wasting time, but none of these can stand up against the urgent need for government to remain relevant. Social media can’t just be the realm of the few in public affairs who have approved accounts. In fact even public affairs needs the flexibility to move quickly. Requiring multiple levels of approval before a Tweet goes out is a guarantee it won’t be relevant. Sharing and interacting over social media is becoming an increasingly essential part of everyone’s job description. It isn’t just crucial for citizen engagement; federal employees need access to social media to do their jobs more effectively. Restricting access will hamper federal employees’ ability to learn and stay on top of trends. We are in a time when short clips on YouTube are becoming the default way to access “how to” information.

In many cases, this is a generational issue and a time issue. Government doesn’t respond quickly to new trends and, as I mentioned above, there are legitimate concerns that need to be addressed. But the change will come. The only question is how long will it take and what will be the cost of delay?

What do you think about your agency’s or client’s social media policies? Are they moving in the right direction?