Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Guest speaker: Bill Greeves, Social media policies

Our guest speaker on Monday, February 27th, will be Bill Greeves.

Greeves is the Director of Communications & Information Technology for the County of Roanoke, Virginia, where he oversees the organization’s Information Technology and Emergency Communication efforts. In the fall of 2008, Greeves co-founded MuniGov2.0 – a coalition of governments focused on exploring the use and principles of Web 2.0 in an effort to improve citizen services and communication via technology. The organization continues to grow and gain international recognition and praise for demonstrated leadership in the area of government social media. Prior to Roanoke County, the Virginia-native was the Director of Information Technology for the City of Hampton, VA and held positions in the City of Virginia Beach. He has been working in municipal government since 2000.Greeves is the co-author of the forthcoming book Social Media in the Public Sector Field Guide: Designing and Implementing Strategies and Policies from Jossey-Bass. He is also a frequent public speaker and a nationally recognized resource on the topics of government social media, collaboration, consolidation and cloud computing. His work has appeared in several periodicals including Public CIO magazine, Government Technology magazine, Emergency Management magazine, The General Services Administration’s Government by Collaboration newsletter, Governing magazine, The Alliance for Innovation’s Ideas Quarterly Report, the GSA’s dotgovbuzz newsletter, StateTech and Kommune21. Government Technology magazine included him in their list of Top 25 Doers, Dreamers and Drivers in 2010.

Follow Bill's technology in government blog and his Twitter updates via @bgreeves.


  1. HI Bill,

    I read your blog and personally connected to the Jan 25 post about Pinterest. I'm very much fascinated by the variety of social media tools out there for individuals and government agencies to pick from, and I understand that it is imperative for government agencies to be where the people are in order to regulate the information that circulates about them and collaborate to improve provision of government services. However, I can't get over the perception that not all social media tools are appropriate for government agencies. I can understand how Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Flickr and Blogs tie into a government agency's strategy for delivering social services and interacting with the people, but I don't see how Pinterest fulfills the same purpose as the former class. Am I missing something? As government agencies design their strategies for engaging the public, is there a risk of adopting all kinds of social media tools because they are the new fad, yet not finding much use for them? Is there a risk of distraction from other responsibilities of government to focus on pinning up pictures of nice quotes, recipes and army uniforms? Can't the same uses that an agency might find for Pinterest be satisfied on other social media sites? I don't intend to pick on Pinterest, but I'm suspecting that there'll be an exponential increase in social media tools in the near future which might lead to undue multiplicity of efforts on several social media sites instead of focusing on an effective few.

    Thank you for your insights.

    1. Yes, there is always a risk when you choose to be an innovator. You are taking a risk. You must ask yourself is the potential reward worth the risk? Fortunately, most social media tools are inexpensive and very easy to set-up. To that degree, they are disposable. So you don’t have to take a big risk in that sense. But specific tools are really just a small portion of an overall social strategy. If you can successfully implement a social strategy at the organizational level, trials and experiments will become a common (but small) portion of your social media use. If you are risk adverse in this regard, don’t be an early adopter – let others identify the benefits of a particular tool. And once they’ve done so, you can weigh those uses against the specific business needs of your organization.

  2. Bill - Read many postings on your blog and was particularly interested in the information about FEMA and CDC. In my learning thus far, it has seemed to me that disaster/emergency applications of social media at every level of government can be extremely valuable. This is true especially when traditional methods of communication may be disrupted. However, doesn't the effective use of this require the use of smartphones and social media accounts? Even though many have access to these, there are still many people who don't or don't use consistently. Many had privacy/security concerns. What would be your strategy to increase access to and use of these? I saw the CDC's zombie preparedness kit idea,but are there other ones like maybe contests or ways to use more traditional media to encourage many to take the plunge.
    Emily Garrett

    1. We are a long way off from social media replacing traditional media resources. However, users of social media and mobile communications are a segment of the population that is growing at a massively exponential rate. The use of social media in emergencies does not seek to replace more traditional methods, but rather to compliment it with methods that assist in reaching segments of the population who are not tuned in to traditional methods (TV, radio, newspaper). Additionally, the real-time nature of social media also helps to gather situational details from people who are in the thick of things (underscoring the value of that two-way communication channel). Mobile technologies and smartphones are coming down in price and increasing in functionality and we would do well to integrate them into our methods now, rather than waiting until they become the primary source of communication.

  3. Hello Mr. Greeves,

    I am interested in encouraginhg social media use to increase collaboration across different organizations, especially in creating collaborative social media platforms for information and communications(ICT)technology standards development communities in South Korea.
    ICT technology standards development communities are divided by specific technology areas and each community consists of experts from industry, research institutions, academia, and government agencies.
    Currently, social media use for collaboration among different organizations and forums is not so active. The collaboration among them is usually through people with liason roles with formal documentation to avoid any duplication and overlap of efforts.
    As one of participants in these communities, how government agencies can create collaborative social media platforms and encourage participation of all experts?
    I think social media tools can increase collaboration on various levels, such as exchanging information and ideas about new emerging areas across technology sectors, identifying existing efforts to avoid duplication, and sharing knowlegde about efficient working methods.


    1. One of the best social media tools to document and debate standards and participation from different groups would be to create a group wiki. The wiki can be created to structure and document standards and details in an environment where multiple authors can contribute, comment, edit and delete materials to create a comprehensive body of content that can be continuously updated to ensure that it is always reflective of the needs of the contributors.

  4. Hi Bill,

    My questions are more general:

    1. Being in the Gov 2.0 course while pursuing an MPA degree seems the most obvious way for me to educate the next generation of government managers on the power of social media. However, this is not prevalent in schools across the US and definitely not in many countries around the world (I am stating this from my experience and not with any corroborating data). How do we showcase ROI for education institutions to equip the next generation of government managers with the necessary Gov 2.0 skills?

    2. What is your personal social media strategy? Is it a personal interest that has turned into a career or a career that became a personal interest?

    Look forward to hearing from you tomorrow.



    1. I have personally seen a growing increase in social media skills development in MPA programs. I believe it will continue to grow in the years to come. The core curriculum is already there – citizen engagement, participatory government, etc. Social media is simply a way to achieve these goals via new technologies. But as with any technology, these tools are constantly evolving, so having standard, structured courses devoted to tools is somewhat counterproductive. Instead, the programs should focus more on the value proposition of these tools and the way they enhance established practices.
      Personally, I firmly believe in the power of social media in government. I think there are a lot of trivial aspects of social media that don’t do much us in our missions. However, I do think that if we use it properly, it will help us develop a government that is more reflective of the needs and desires of its people. Although it is only one aspect of my career as a technology leader in government, it is definitely one of the most exciting aspects and one that I think will continue to grow in the future.

  5. Hello, Mr. Greeves

    I visited your blog and read many of your posts. I'm glad I could share your idea on this new tech. I'm particularly interested in the forms and management guidelines of this social media in the public sector. I mean, although we know that almost every governmental agency has its own social media websites to catch up on this new trend of public interactions, whenever I visit those social media websites, I feel that many of them aren't maintained well. For example, when I went to the FBI's facebook, what impressed me most was "view comments" part in the Wall. Most of the comments looked like either bunch of childish mischiefs or some meaningless words by the insane. And yet, it seems that the agency just leaves them alone, which surely makes its facebook be degraded and look ugly, a lot. However, we also know that punishment for posting those comments is not available nor desirable for the agency's purpose of having this social media. Then, what would be the best strategy or response to this unexpected output?

    Thank you


    1. As I mentioned earlier, it is crucial to have a policy in place for dealing with interactions via social media. Offering people the ability to comment on your updates does not mean that you give up your agency’s rights to civil discourse and productive conversation. Establish reasonable ground rules from the beginning, and be sure to include the process and tools necessary to enforce these rules. Additionally, you should never start a social media presence if you are not willing and able to monitor and respond to inquiries, questions and feedback on a regular basis.

  6. Thank you all for the great questions and conversation today. Good luck with your studies!

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