The post is written by guest expert, Bill Greeves, Director of Communications & Information Technology (CIO) at County of Roanoke.
Government Technology recently posted an article about the rise of “Social Media Director” positions in government: “people are being hired to focus on how social media strategies and efforts can best be used by government to interact with the public.”
The article cites several examples of these new social media director positions–and how some organizations are centralizing the social media function to ensure coordination and consistency. However, I question if this trend will increase in today’s tight federal economic environment, and given the culture at some agencies.
There are dozens of examples in which governments have found a social media niche. However, many government organizations aren’t convinced that social media as a “solution” has gained enough ground to warrant a dedicated position just yet, unless you are a large organization or agency such as the White House or the City of Chicago.
While most agencies are likely to acknowledge that there is a need for social media coordination across the organization, governments today are focused on cost:
- Avoidance, and
New positions, particularly ones that do not clearly impact the bottom line in a quantitatively measureable fashion, aren’t very common. In fact, during the research we conducted for Social Media in the Public Sector Field Guide, Ines Mergel, Assistant Professor of Public Administration, Syracuse University, and I learned that many agencies have distributed the responsibility for social media management.
There are several issues to consider when finding a home for social media functions:
- It’s difficult for a single department to speak on behalf of all the business units of an organization.
- “Official” responses often require time and research.
- Central responses can result in formal language that does not fit the casual tone of social media.
Other agencies, such as the city of Oak Park, IL, (referenced in the article) convert or add duties to an existing position to fulfill social media responsibilities.
On the other hand, decentralizing might simply be the result of organizational inertia. Could it simply be a lack of knowledge about the true value of social media or a lack of good governance? It will be interesting to look back in a few years and see how this need plays out in the long term.
What do you think? Will social media direction become centralized or will social media use continue to evolve and become a distributed, albeit valuable, function across agencies?