Social Media Glue: Helping Improved UC Stick

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Social media is being used in the federal government, and just about every agency has its Facebook, Twitter and YouTube sites. However, it’s fair to say that not every agency uses social media to communicate with its constituencies to the extent that it could, or that every agency really understands the true reach of social media.

The various studies about social media use in government also paint confusing pictures. A recent Government Accountability Office report found that 22 of 24 major agencies are using social media. A study by research firm Market Connections, however, found that government use of social media is still quite low, and that most agencies used it to connect with the public rather than for communication between agency employees.

Nearly 40 percent of the employees surveyed were not using social media either at work or in their personal lives.

But it’s likely that, in the future, they will. Once security issues have been ironed out, and agencies work through exactly what the returns will be for them investing more in social media, it will become a fixed part of their communication infrastructure. The Market Connections survey found that some 25 percent of decision makers in agencies thought social media important, versus just five percent or less in previous surveys.

MilSuite, for example, is a collection of social media tools that the DOD makes available to its employees for sharing information and collaboration. Dave Dejewski, head of customer relations for the DOD’s Business Transformation Agency, believes it will take time to make the use of social networking tools widespread in the military, but that once senior leaders start using them others will fall into line pretty quickly.

The question then becomes how social media will fit into agencies’ unified communications plans.

“Just as with your personal social media, where you have all of your friends listed, in the agency environment it would be colleagues, associates, partners, industry experts and so on, and I’d be able to see their profiles” said David Hawkins, unified communications practice director with Iron Bow Technologies. “With UC that would be made context aware, so that where I see certain communication threads I’m interested in I can click on a tag that would bring me into the communication.”

The presence capability available as part of the UC environment would show who is available to be contacted and even what preferences people have for the way they could communicate. A one-click capability would allow that social media user to shift the conversation with those people to richer media such as audio or video conferencing, as required.

For those agencies that have a lot of contact with the public it would involve how Twitter streams or Facebooks clicks are handled when they come into a government contact center, and how those social media interactions are automatically routed to the best available person.

As social media use in government expands and it becomes an integral part of the way agencies communicate and do business it will become another of the drivers pushing demand for UC.

Outside of the government, tools such as blogs, Twitter and other forms of social media are rapidly becoming the norm, according to Zeus Kerravala, a senior director at consulting firm Yankee Group. UC solutions can enhance the way people communicate with each other, “but they will need to include social media to deliver a complete collaborative experience.”

The combination of social media and UC could also create news ways for agencies to improve the way they do business. One of the things private industry is looking to use the UC infrastructure for, as an example, is to monitor social media chatter for what people are talking about, and what the the particular sentiment is on a particular issue.

UC would fit with that by, say, the person who is monitoring the social media and sees something that needs attention, automatically initiating a call to someone or tweeting them to see if they needed anymore help on an issue, asking if they were satisfied with the help they received, or simply getting feedback for later action.

Federal agencies are now starting to investigate how that kind of monitoring can be provided to them with unified communications, as a way to at least help them improve their customer relations.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer for 1105 Government Information Group’s Content Solutions unit. This Snapshot report was commissioned by the Content Solutions unit, an independent editorial arm of 1105 Government Information Group. Specific topics are chosen in response to interest from the vendor community; however, sponsors are not guaranteed content contribution or review of content before publication. For more information about 1105 Government Information Group Content Solutions, please email us at GIGCustomMedia@1105govinfo.com