Thursday, March 5, 2015

Pictures at the heart of @DOI social media strategy

In social Media, everything comes though the eyes

The United States of America has great landscapes, and what a better way of sharing its wonderful natural resources than through astonishing photos of them. This has been the main piece of the digital outreach strategy of the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI). With the intention to reach more audiences and sharing what the DOI does for transparency and visibility purposes, the digital outreach strategy started in 2010 with Twitter.

Now, through Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, Flickr, and Tumblr, the DOI is in constant interaction with its audiences (the general public, as well as stakeholders and funders) sharing beautiful pictures of the America’s outdoors to remind the U.S. citizens of its great natural resources.

Unlike other countries, the mission of the DOI in the United States is
“to protect America’s natural resources and heritage, honors our cultures and tribal communities, and supplies the energy to power our future[1]”. The social media strategy of DOI, is consistent with its mission as it engages the citizens with the natural resources and the need to protect them.

Tim Fullerton, Director of Digital Strategy at U.S. Department of the Interior, explained that the use of social media at the DOI started with Twitter and they realized very quickly that the impact of the photos was very important in social media.

With a team of six professionals (Director, Social Media Strategist, Digital Media Strategist, Videographer, Staff Photographer, and Content Specialist) that belong to the Communications department, the DOI is able to post daily in every social media that they use. Complementary to that, contests inviting the audiences to share their pictures and live Q&As events have been some of the resources that have allowed the DOI to get 102,604 followers in Facebook, 6795 followers in Instagram, and 279,000 followers in Twitter.

Photos as windows to America’s natural resources and heritage 
Everyone likes watching amazing pictures, but when these images are difficult to get by a citizen, like the view of the obelisk in D.C. from above, the photo sharing gives even more value to the audiences. Tim Fullerton explained that the sources of the pictures were a paid photographer, as well as pictures contests for American citizens, mainly the “Share the Experience Photo Contest” presented by

DOI mainly shares photos and even when tweeting, they accompany every tweet with pictures.

Regarding archiving, DOI does not have a records management and archiving policy but they follow the archiving guidelines of the National Archives.

Live streaming and digital-virtual activities
One successful interactive tactic that the DOI has been using is live streaming sessions of Q&As. This allows the audience to ask the DOI official and share their concerns and experiences.

Measuring the impact
The DOI is using a professional program named "SproutSocial". Additionally they analyze the visitor interactions (# of RTs), increases in number of followers (300/day) to measure their success.

External services, privacy and other issues
When asked about hiring external services for the social media strategy, Fullerton said that there are some trade offs of doing so. “if you do it your self you have all the control and if you get some external help you might earn time to do some other things”, he held.

Finally, to distinguish between official and non-official use of social media, Mr. Fullerton suggested to follow the Social Media Guidelines and be thoughtful to never comment on government policy either from government account or personal account.

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