Mark Madsen is the founder of Third Nature, a research and consulting firm focused on emerging technology and practices in analytics, business intelligence and information management.
Nearly all large federal agencies are now using social media tools, according to a recent survey by the Government Accountability Office, and many have had great success. For instance, NASA has effectively used several channels to keep the public informed about its missions, and the State Department has 145,000 followers on its Facebook fan page.
Social media clearly promises many benefits to government agencies, but too many organizations — in the public and private sectors — have jumped into this brave new world without knowing what they want to achieve.
Such technology exuberance, as I like to call it, is akin to having no strategy at all, and it can be costly. Organizations without an upfront plan are likely to waste time and financial resources. They could even end up sending messages that run counter to their policies without knowing what damage they might be doing to their organizations. In those situations, it is impossible to quantify the benefits from using social media.
For all its glitter, social media is first and foremost a tool, and it needs to be treated like any other strategy or investment that is monitored, measured and analyzed.
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