Appendix F. How Agencies are Using Social Media
Social media is another opportunity for government to be transparent and engage the public. The feedback you get from social media can provide incredible insight into what your customers want and how we can deliver it. Many social media sites offer search functions that you can use to stay ahead of the curve and anticipate public ideas and needs.
Here are a few examples of other federal agencies stepping into social media.
Library of Congress on Flickr — The Library of Congress uses social media to deliver content in ways that the public expects and appreciates, and to enlist the public in the critical mission of examining and cataloguing that content for future generations. In January 2008, the Library of Congress used the popular photo-sharing service Flickr to put thousands of public-domain, copyright-free photos online so everyone could share and explore them. It also used Flickr's social tagging features to let the public sort the photos by person, place, topic and other key dimensions.
National Library of Medicine's Pillbox — Pillbox is a Web application created by the National Library of Medicine that lets visitors rapidly identify an unknown pill by describing its shape, color and markings, and searching against government data for a match. Pillbox is an example of how the Internet can transform previously hard-to-access government data into vital information at your fingertips.
The TSA Blog — Blogging has represented a major shift in how we share and discuss information in real time. In January 2008, the Transportation Security Administration recognized the potential value of this shift by launching a blog to provide "a forum for a lively, open discussion of TSA issues." Since then, TSA has received thousands of posts and comments, and has become a model of how federal government can use blogs to engage authentically with the public. The blog has also been used to provide travel tips and clarify controversial incidents involving airport security, all the while building TSA's reputation for engaging in an honest and straightforward way with the public.
Challenge.gov — Government agencies post challenges on this GSA-managed site, and the public can post submissions to these challenges. A challenge is exactly what the name suggests: It is a challenge by one party (a “seeker”) to a third party or parties (a “solver”) to identify a solution to a particular problem or reward contestants for accomplishing a particular goal. Prizes (monetary or nonmonetary) often accompany challenges and contests. Challenges can range from fairly simple (idea suggestions, creation of logos, videos, digital games and mobile applications) to proofs of concept, designs or finished products that solve the grand challenges of the 21st century.
Smithsonian’s Use of Facebook — A team of fish specialists, called ichthyologists and sponsored by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, performed the first survey of the fish diversity in the Cuyuni River of Guyana in 2011. Upon their return, they needed to identify the more than 5,000 specimens they had collected in less than a week’s time to obtain an export permit. Faced with insufficient time and inadequate library resources to tackle the problem on their own, they instead posted a catalog of specimen images to Facebook and turned to their network of colleagues for help. In less than 24 hours, this approach identified approximately 90 percent of the posted specimens to at least the level of genus, revealed the presence of at least two likely undescribed species, indicated two new records for Guyana and generated several loan requests.
If you have a great idea and aren't sure about where to take it, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.