State puts social networking to diplomatic use

Among the public services that State uses are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube for video and Flickr for photos

State Department
State Department
  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • Flickr
  • Twitter
  • Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds
  • Flash

(Disclaimer: Use of any products does not imply endorsement on the part of the agency.)

Want to know where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is right now? A section of the State Department’s Web site has details about where she is in the world (not surprisingly, she's often out of the country), where she has been recently and where she's off to next — all highlighted on a Google map for easy viewing. At the time of this writing, she was traveling in India and Thailand, having just gotten back from Canada, Egypt and Iraq.

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Great dot-gov Web sites

Her travel itinerary is only one of a number of multimedia features on the department’s home page. It has an active feel, with videos, maps and news releases detailing officials’ latest work. And those diplomatic professionals certainly have caught on to how to build good relationships in the era of Web 2.0: The agency's Web management team understands that it is not enough to keep up your own Web site, you must also maintain a presence on a wide range of social-networking sites.

Among the public services that State uses are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube for video and Flickr for photos. The department also publishes a blog of daily events, called DipNote. Using all those tools helps the agency get the word out about its activities.

"State has been doing a good job of exploring social media," said Larry Freed, president and chief executive officer of ForeSee Results, the organization that compiles the quarterly American Customer Satisfaction Index. That ongoing opt-in survey quizzes users about how satisfied they are with the sites they visit. State routinely tests near the top of the heap of government Web sites.

State’s use of social media is not focused on employee self-expression but rather on publicizing the Web site’s resources. "They really use it as distribution outreach so people can more easily get the information they are interested in," Freed said.

Of course, by posting material on a Web service outside its management, such as YouTube or Twitter, the agency loses control of how State-generated material is used. But the additional exposure is worth the price.

"At the end of the day, they will touch more people with the information on their Web site through social media," Freed said.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.


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