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Federal Agencies Take a Liking to Social Media

With many companies and individuals using social media these days to become more in-tune with the world and further business opportunities, it should not come as a surprise that more and more federal agencies are doing likewise.

According to a recent Social Media in the Public Sector survey from Market Connections, LinkedIn saw the most traffic over the last year from federal agencies, topping Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in the process.

Among the highlights from the survey of some 900 public sector participants:

  • Approximately 70 percent of federal survey respondents now use Linked In on the job, compared to 32 percent of respondents in same survey a year ago;
  • More federal agencies are removing restrictions on access to social networking sites on the job;
  • Only 19 percent of agencies prohibit access to some or all social networking sites on the job. The number was 55 percent only a year earlier

Social Site with Biggest Uptake in Usage

In further breaking down the study, while LinkedIn saw the biggest uptick in usage, Twitter grew from 30 percent in 2010 to 55 percent in 2011, with Facebook seeing a jump from 72 percent in 2010 to 86 percent this year.

Government-specific social networking sites also recorded an increase in federal participation, with 35 percent of federal workers and 55 percent of contractors reporting they used GovLoop, with 30 percent of both government and contractor employees using Gov Twit.

Meantime, 37 percent of federal respondents report they are allowed to utilize social media while representing their agencies, as opposed to just 9 percent a year ago.

According to federal respondents, social media was most helpful with:

  • Informing decision making (100 percent);
  • Communicating externally with citizens and other agencies (81 percent);
  • Communicating with colleagues (78 percent);
  • Doing research (64 percent);
  • Promotion/marketing (61 percent).

Even more interesting is the fact that federal agencies seem to be growing more comfortable with their employees using social media on the job in less controlled environments.

While 92 percent of federal respondents report they use social media at home, 74 percent note using it at work, with 70 percent using it via mobile devices.

While more and more federal employees are utilizing social media and enjoying the many benefits it has, there are still some challenges facing them.

Among the biggest challenges are:

  • Including internal governance and legal issues (41 percent);
  • Aligning a social media strategy with agency mission (40 percent);
  • Measuring return on investment (31 percent).

Another big challenge for federal agencies using social media is security.

A report earlier this year from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) points out that less than one third of federal agencies using social media have formed safeguards against hackers seeking to exploit their accounts to produce cyber-attacks against federal networks.

While some agencies have put in place security measures for social media, the majority of them did not have documented analysis of the security risks that social media can pose to federal information or systems.

According to testimony earlier this year from the Director of National Intelligence, the amount of malicious software targeting U.S. computers and networks has more than tripled in just the last two years.

While challenges still persist for federal agencies using social media, the most recent survey numbers show more and more federal agencies are turning away from being anti-social.

828482dfa045227e1a61ad34b8070ed3 64 Federal Agencies Take a Liking to Social Media

Dave Thomas

Dave Thomas covers consumer and small business topics for various websites, including Reputation.com.

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