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Own it

October 25, 2010

“Everyone’s on Facebook, so that’s where I need to be.”

It’s a common oversimplification and a clear sign that we need to step back and see that there is more to social media than a favorite few social media sites and platforms. A lot of people are on Facebook – over 500 million globally, in fact – but there is no guarantee your target community will want to interact with your content on Facebook. Any social media engagement that’s so narrowly focused it applies to just one site – and one that you don’t even own – needs a bit more thought.

Many companies and government organizations are effectively using Facebook pages and Twitter feeds to communicate. There is a power in going to where your audience already is, and it’s a key reason why in traditional media relations major national publications are targeted more often than small niche publications – reaching out to the masses is smart.

But I think sometimes we forget that we don’t own the content, or even our own presence, on any major social media site. This was a key argument we made when government agencies first embarked into social media. There are specific rules governing how information must be posted on an official government website – it must be 508 compliant (accessible to those with disabilities) and meet a myriad of other niche rules and regulations. The reason why we can engage on social media sites as government agencies and not follow those regulations is because we have a clear understanding that those sites aren’t official government websites – they’re an official presence on a site that remains owned by Facebook, Twitter, or whoever the social media company happens to be.

That’s good for avoiding cumbersome government policy, bad when it comes to establishing a sustainable campaign or outreach effort. Posting content to popular social networking sites is the equivalent of sending out a press release to the media – you’ve “released” your content and now it’s up to the writer, or the web, to tell the story. It’s a great practice if you’re looking to get conversation going on a topic, bad if it’s your only social engagement online.

Companies and especially government agencies need to take a look at their social media efforts and make establishing a social identity within their own websites – a space they own and control. Accomplishing this within most government IT infrastructures is easier said than done – and will require some major changes and an increasing partnership between IT and public affairs. It might even take policy changes, or re-evaluating existing contracts which are more focused on show and flash than collaboration and connection. We need to make corporate and government websites not just more creative but more social – by establishing real opportunities for community building, engagement, and collaboration on our official, public websites.

One example of what I’m talking about is Starbucks’ My Starbucks Idea – through a link at individuals can post their ideas and get feedback on those ideas from Starbucks. Starbucks is also very successful on popular social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, but they also make their own website conversational and know that when it comes to customer ideas – and especially complaints – its ideal to have a mechanism you own for filtering and responding to feedback.

It’s great to give stuff away (especially content). But sometimes you need to embrace it, own it, and empower your community to engage with you via official channels, not just unofficial external sites.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 26, 2010 1:44 pm

    Great article on social networking site. Its really helpful for those of us who are aspiring of becoming social networking sites’ owners.



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