My post-conference blogging reports usually provide a summary of the presentations. I report this way so that I have a record of my conference notes in digital form that I can access at any time.
This time, I want to pick up a theme that developed during the course of the day at the Gov. 3.0 conference – how social media can be used in organisational settings to provide positive outcomes.
The two presentations that were of most interest to me were the ones from Mike Handes (IBM) and Jeffrey Levy (Environmental Protection Agency – USA).
Mike’s presentation (I think he used prezi) demonstrated how social media is applicable for both business and government. He gave some examples; the most interesting for me was the use of the IBM Connections in his own workplace and professional life. The product is a more systematic and comprehensive platform to Yammer. The key message was that content revolves around people. Social media in all its different forms allows people to get connected, at varying levels of intensity. Despite all the talk about the semantic web, I still believe it is people who derive meaning from information and turn that into knowledge. Using tools like Yammer and IBM Connections, it is possible to enhance people-to-people contact, facilitate information sharing and problem solving, allow meaningful search, and have these exchanges recorded for others to participate and learn from. Best of all, such systems allow for an organisation’s human and social capital to be effectively utilised. How I wish for a Yammer-style solution to my own workplace staff directory for example, or as a replacement for email-based thematic networks.
One interesting titbit of information from IBM was the observation that every week, 5.3 hours were lost by workers due to inefficient processes. Having completed my own study on information seeking behaviour, I can vouch for the fact that people are losing valuable time and getting frustrated by their inability to locate the right information at the right time.
Jeffrey Levy spoke about the use of web 2.0 as a major form of communication in times of crisis. Web 2.0 is both immediate and accessible. The example he gave was the Japanese nuclear disaster earlier this year. Naturally, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) was following developments and what impact the disaster might have on citizens and the environment in the USA. The EPA monitored and sampled radiation data over the USA. There was a daily report of information on the website. In addition, the web page was divided vertically in two – text (news) on the left and data on the right. Most people wanted to know what was going on so the daily news was adequate, but there were others looking for the data.
The data was provided, including a “heat map” of the USA which showed where the greatest number of hits on the EPA page were coming from. Naturally, the west coast of the USA was a flash point, as was the Boston-New York area on the east coast (shades of Three Mile Island?). People could click into the map and get state and localised information. There were also links to Twitter and Facebook.
The EPA created a Facebook page solely for this particular disaster. Information was delivered through this channel. The EPA also responded on Facebook to posts challenging or critical of the EPA message. It was important for the EPA to maintain credibility and to enhance confidence in the information provided. Facebook posts would be repeated so that the message was regular and relatively immediate to people as they logged into Facebook during the course of a day.
The success of the crisis management communication delivery was in the way the EPA used the different communication channels to broadcast, and respond to, the information needs of the citizenry.
The take-home is that social media can deliver a positive and effective outcome for both your internal and external audiences.