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Which Way Is The Wind Blowing Again? 15 Social Media Trends Govies Need To Know

Many people think that social media is sort of easy, like, just send a Tweet out or write a blog and it's done.

The fact is it's so much more complicated than that. What works for one audience does not work for another. For example after five years I decided that I liked Facebook. My youngest kid, who introduced me to it, has now decided she hates it and uses other tools where the kids talk to each other and the parents cannot find them. No, not even Snapchat. There are these Q&A boards, and kids register, and then other kids can ask them anything they want.

It's complicated!

So how do we effectively reach and engage with our audiences using social media? Now, and in five years from now?

A presentation now on Slideshare has excellent information about the current trends. These are things I sort of vaguely knew about, but Eric T. Tung really has put them together in a neat and useful way.

Reviewing the 78 (yes, 78) slides, a lot of it is more pertinent to a private sector marketers, so I've modified/adapted/expanded on the slides so that the information is pertinent to government.

Note: Actual implementation would require careful coordination to make sure all applicable laws, regulations and policies are adhered to.

Reading through this list I realize that more than a few are "old hat" to people who have been doing social media for awhile. But there is a big difference between knowing something conceptually, and implementing it in practice. These trends reinforce that the need to change our mindset is very real.

1. The average Facebook user age is 42, not 21. This is not to say that Facebook is dead, only that you should have the information before you do a Facebook campaign.

2. We already know that print media are dying (no more newspapers soon) but did you know that regular TV is dying too? More and more it's about 1 source of information: The Internet.

3. Going forward, web-based email will likely decline in importance
as a communication tool. For everyone except people age 55+, use of web-based email decreased between Dec. 2009-Dec. 2010. It may work now; it won't work forever.

4. Social media only amplifies word of mouth, which has existed since forever and is the best marketing tool you can imagine (a little editorializing there). The concept now is "word of mouse." When you write content, it should be shareable. But more importantly, the place you put it should facilitate sharing too. With a single click, on many platforms.

5. Twitter for customer service: It is not an official CRM system. But it works because it shows responsiveness and generates good PR.

6. Set up live events so that people can hold up their iPads and smartphones and record what's going on. Do not restrict this activity.

7. People appreciate services that enable them to connect without actually having to interact. This is not new, but there is a need to go beyond the same old same old in this respect - to connect hyper-specialized interest groups over social media.

8. Forget about controlling the message. Focus on finding out where your audience lives in the social media world. Then find a way to reach and engage them there. Also not new, but are we really going where the Agency audiences are, finding out what their consumption habits are, and providing engaging content in a way that is not "astroturfing," that respects the culture, and so on?

9. The tech giants are gobbling up social media channels.
The main impact is cross-posting. This means that every piece of content you post should be shareable across many platforms. Little is big.

10. It is important to gather up the little bits of data from social streams to find out what people are saying about you. There are automated tools that do that. It's not just about a Twitter search anymore, a news clip search, or a quick review of the top blogs.

11. Crowdsourcing is a way of solving problems by getting help from the public in little bits. It is huge and only going to grow in importance. Everything you do, can be crowdsourced - designing a logo is just the start.

12. We are entering the age of the sharing economy. If before it was agriculture, then manufacturing, then service, and now experience, the future will be about helping others and getting help yourself. (Not just information, but literally opening your home to guests or sharing your car.) What physical things might we share? What services?

13. Big data, metrics and analytics cannot be overestimated in their importance. It is critical to understand who exactly you are dealing with and what their preferences are. The right tools can help you go through a sea of content and drill down to what really matters at the finest level of detail.

14. The quantified self: People are becoming obsessed with tracking their health and other information using connected devices -- this is way beyond the pedometer. Can we offer them a way to connect with "their" government services on a credit card - almost like a store credit card?

15. This one is not mentioned, but it is worth bringing in - "the internet of things." How can "smart" devices interact with social media to deliver access to desired records in a way that is easy, seamless, and even fun?

When you work in social media it is easy to get stuck in the day to day. But the real fun, and productivity, lies in looking 5-10 years down the road, and making that reality a part of your actual work world. 

In the government, where money is tighter than ever, such innovation is essential.

* Originally posted by me in an internal blog at my agency. References to the agency have been removed. Government produced work is public domain. So are all of my personal blog posts.

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