Survey Results of Federal and State Use of Social Media

Two different organizations recently surveyed State and Federal Government employees and contractors in order to determine adoption, application, expectation and challenges regarding the implementation of social media.  Market Connections, Inc. released a report entitled Social Media in the Federal Community. The other report, entitled Friends, Followers, and Feeds, was written by the National Association of State CIOs Social Media Working group (NASCIO).

NASCIO’s survey had a high participation rate with 79% of states’ CIOs responding. The biggest challenges the states listed with regard to implementing social media included security, liability, privacy, records maintenance/management and terms of acceptable use. On a personal note, visiting with local Emergency Management Agencies I also find these concerns to be the biggest impediments. Legal concerns are troubling to Emergency Management Agencies in particular since they could potentially involve a life-threatening scenario. For example, if someone was unable to dial 911 due to lack of connectivity, but had enough of a signal to send a tweet or a text, would emergency services be liable if they did not respond? (If you know the answer please comment.)

Another interesting finding from NASCIO were the responses regarding “next steps”. Not surprisingly, a large number of respondents acknowledged the need to integrate mobile social media into their communications strategy.

  • “The growth of online government in the future will increasingly be in the mobile environment (emphasis added), and it is expected that state governments will be exploiting this extensively through social media channels. A growing number of end-users already look at their governments almost exclusively through the three and a half inch screens of their smartphones, and this trend will only continue. States will be expected to know how they look and perform through that lens.” [picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=mobile+technology&iid=9485675″ src=”″ width=”380″ height=”586″ /]
  • “Utah state government has moved quickly in the areas of integration and aggregation and incorporated social media and other Web 2.0 technologies prominently in the major website design of in 2009. (Go see their site, it’s very nice!) Their page offers mobile applications and geo-IP location-aware technology to personalize each user’s experience, and dozens of interactive services are provided to make more convenient for Utah citizens and businesses.”

The survey of Federal Agencies and Federal Contractors was conducted by Market Connections, Inc.. They also found security concerns to be the top challenge regarding adoption.  Government contractors, on the other hand, seemed to understand how social media can help  with “building the company’s brand” with 86% percents seeing this as the main benefit of increasing their SM presence. Sixty-one percent of contractor respondents indicated that they plan to increase their budget for SM in the next 12-18 months. This can be compared to the Federal responses where only 22% indicated they plan to increase their use of social media in the next 12-18 months. It seems contractors are starting to see SM as a necessary part of their business plan while some federal employees still seem to view the entire endeavor with suspicion.

A large portion of respondents in all the surveys indicated that one of the challenges to adoption is a “lack of resources to maintain presence”. Anecdotally, I have also found this to be true at the local level: more often than not there is no staff position called “social media guru”. This may change in the future, but for a lot of offices one “lucky” person gets to do the job in addition to their normal duties.

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