The 3 phases of social media acceptance

It starts with surprise, but agencies are reaching the third phase, Microsoft official says

Social media and other Web 2.0 tools are beginning to make major inroads into the federal government. But like any new technology, there are always rough spots when new capabilities are implemented.

As Web 2.0 tools move into widespread government use, federal space itself is beginning to change. According to Mark Drapeau, director of innovative social engagement at Microsoft’s U.S. Public Sector division, there are three phases to shifting to what he calls government 2.0.

The first phase is surprise. Drapeau said many leaders were surprised that social media and other Web 2.0 tools were relevant. The second phase involved experimentation.

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After President Barack Obama was elected, federal agencies set up Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, established blogs and social networks as public outreach tools. While some of these experiments were more successful than others, this period involved more experimentation than problem solving, he said.

Drapeau said he now believes government is moving into a solution phase, in which agencies are seeking out stable, cyber-secure, interoperable solutions to solve problems.

Drapeau explained that many social media applications are similar to Microsoft SharePoint, which is used with many federal organizations. There are also many companies such as NewsGator that are making SharePoint very social. NewsGator allows users to tweet and share messages through SharePoint. This also provides additional security because it has been vetted by a federal organization.

Such vetting lets certain users subscribe to communications streams. For example, a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff could be tweeting, but other users in the Defense Department might not be allowed to log into Twitter. However, users could subscribe to a general’s tweets, which would be filtered through SharePoint and appear on a SharePoint home page as one of the streams. Other streams could include any postings with a specific service’s hash tag.

Drapeau said that this is one example of the ongoing trend towards solutions rather than experiments. Although applications such as Facebook and Twitter are important, they are not in and of themselves solutions to problems.

Another Microsoft-based capability is an open-source application named Town Hall, which is being used by NASA and Republican members of the House. As an open-source tool, users can customize it and put it in a cloud environment. It can also interact with a number of wireless devices such as iPads, iPhones, Andriod phones and Facebook.

“It’s taking advantage of social tools and companies, but it’s a stable, secure, members-only, customizable solution that they own to solve the problem that they had,” Drapeau said.

Drapeau said he sees a trend in which large companies and organizations are trying to understand how to take advantage of the social software ecosystem while building stable and reliable solutions for their customers. Besides meeting their business cases, these firms must also understand that some of these tools are free and open source.

“It’s not entirely about social software any more,” he said. Instead, there is a growing trend towards a mixture of capabilities, such as social media combined with open-source software operating in the cloud. All of these new capabilities rely on each other to operate and now do not really exist as stand-alone applications, he said.



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