States find a friend (and a few concerns) in social media

NASCIO survey reveals increased adoption, though security and legal worries persist

When it comes to communicating via the Web, state governments are becoming a lot like the younger generation. They gravitate toward Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.

A new study released by the National Association of State CIOs’ Social Media Working Group surveyed IT officials in 43 states on their use of social media and found that states are increasingly moving to those applications because that’s where a lot of constituents are.

“Just as in that earlier time when many state IT departments suddenly found they had rogue servers put up by agencies independent of any oversight or standards, state CIOs may recently have found themselves unblocking YouTube to allow greetings from public officials or Flickr to mount photos of a bridge opening or to document some other important announcement,” states the report “Friends, Followers and Feeds.”

“CIOs may not have been immediately convinced of the business value of these tools as they entered the workplace,” the report continues, “but the fact is that this is how effective governments are communicating now, and this is not just a fad.”

Among the results, the survey found that Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were the most popular channels for communicating with the public. And state governments have something else in common with the young crowd: 98 percent of social media adoption involves free services.

But states' foray into social media is not worry-free. Respondents to the survey also expressed a number of concerns, most prominently about security, terms of service (that is, legal) issues and a lack of resources to monitor use.

Among the report’s key findings:

  • Social media adoption rates are broad across state governments, whether controlled by CIO offices or not.
  • Two-thirds of survey respondents say their enterprise lacks policies for addressing social media.
  • One-third of the respondents have enterprise policy frameworks, guidance and standards, and a sizable number of states are in the process of developing them.
  • Business drivers have most commonly been communications, citizen engagement and outreach, along with the low cost of entry — 98 percent use free social media tools.
  • Social media tools pose challenges to states in the areas of security, legal issues associated with terms of service, privacy, records management and acceptable use.
  • Thirty-five percent of responding states are not currently encouraging broader use of social media.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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