Gov 2.0: 5 Reasons Social Media ISN’T Scary

100_0016Several great social media and Web 2.0 minds have influenced this post, including Steve Radick (“Why Social Media is Scary“), Craig Newmark (in discussion with Heather Krasna), Jeffrey Levy (commenting on a GovLoop post of mine), Emi Whittle (commenting on GovLoop members), and Mark Amtower (discussing the failure of traditional leaders to adapt to new networking models).

Others, too.

Hopefully, you’re back after a reading session in the great links above.

With these folks thoughts in mind, I’ve come up with some reasons I don’t think social media is scary in a Government 2.0 context.

1) People aren’t that bad.

Take it from Craig Newmark, who’s been dealing with baddies at Craigslist for 14 years. “You interact with thousands of people, you see, if you’re really paying attention, that you’ll have to handle a lot of negative situations. But you do see that people are overwhelmingly good. You do see that people normally want to give each other a break. In fact I see that people all over the country are pretty happy to help out.”

2) The public wants you to engage.

Here’s an example from Jeffrey Levy of the EPA: “Many years ago, I had the pleasure of speaking to a group of air conditioning technicians as the guy who was regulating the refrigerants they were going to use to replace freon … The room was packed and hot, and their mood was not friendly (to say the least). …  First thing I did was take off my jacket and invite them to take theirs off. They understood it was a joke, we all smiled, and as I rolled up my sleeves, I started talking about why we were doing what we were doing … Some of them still didn’t like what we were doing by the end, but they made a point of thanking me for coming out to talk to them, saying their impression of the gov’t had improved as a result.”

3) Social media helps you build a base of support in your communities of interest.

This one is personal, as Emi Whittle, a federal contractor, recently supported my online efforts, saying, “he seems so forthright and forthcoming… and very unafraid of the web-world. And very welcoming and encouraging… I must say, he is my very first ‘web-friend’ ever! And he is one of the reasons that I am “trusting” the web-world,… just a little more these days…”

4) You’ll make mistakes, but NOT making mistakes is more dangerous.

Social media consultant Steve Radick: “When a senior executive sees someone, especially if it’s one of their own employees taking the initiative to spend hours of their own time developing a briefing or writing a white paper developing something they truly believe in, they can see that. Above all else, be passionate about what you’re talking about, whether that’s social media or something else.  Believe in your ideas.  Believe in their potential.  And believe in yourself.”

Gov consultant, speaker and networker Mark Amtower: “… people are not simply not participating in social networks, but actively demean social networks and those who use them at every possible turn. This type of voluntary ignorance will result in the Darwinian elimination of these people as thought leaders.”

5) You’ll take control of your own online identity.

This one is mine, and it’s important. If you are doing much in this world other than hiding in your bedroom, you’re giving other people the opportunity to contribute to your online identity. You need to be out there actively shaping and building your own identity, online.

What do you think? Is social media scary? Are these five concepts helpful?

And how about a hand for my sources!

5 thoughts on “Gov 2.0: 5 Reasons Social Media ISN’T Scary

  1. Positive post, Adriel. Trust has got to start somewhere. Risk needs a midwife. Citizens want we gov people to be people.

    Let me add that especially lately, you’ve been the midwife to some bold theses. Good stuff!


  2. Thanks for the shout-out Adriel! I think that this post is an important partner post to my original one. Yes, social media can be scary, but at the same time, it can be an incredibly welcoming and friendly world too.

    Just as some people derive energy and enthusiasm from a conference room full of people, some people are terrified at this prospect. I remember when Andrew McAfee came to Booz Allen to talk about social media behind the firewall, and he said that for it to be successful, you’ve got to believe in “the theory of the good person.” That quote has always stuck with me, and I’ve found it to be overwhelmingly true, ESPECIALLY when working with public servants.

  3. People really aren’t that bad should be our mantra. Because they really aren’t. Rather than throw out the baby–participation and collaboration–with the bathwater, we need to work on policies that help the baby thrive.

    Good post, Adriel and collaborators!

  4. Yes on all points, Adriel! Very helpful post. 🙂

    And I agree with the other commenters: we have to trust our employees and build tools based on the assumption of good behavior by the public. Yes, we need to be ready to deal with bad actors, but the vast majority need to see us out there (“bad actor” means someone who just screams a lot; thoughtful criticism and praise both come from good actors).

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