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4/24/2009
12:45 PM
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner
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How The Defense Department Should Use Social Media

The National Defense University recently released a report on how the Defense Department can benefit from social media. They did a really nice job of it too -- they're a good set of rules, not just for government, but for any organization.

The National Defense University recently released a report on how the Defense Department can benefit from social media. They did a really nice job of it too -- they're a good set of rules, not just for government, but for any organization.Social media is useful for sharing information internally, within organizations; externally, for coordinating with other organizations, and getting input from and sharing information with people not in government, according to an article about the report in Federal Computer Week.

However, before encouraging widespread adoption of the technology, DOD needs to coordinate an overall strategy.

The strategy must do more than identify specific applications for social media in DOD, according to the report. It must also foster organizational and cultural changes that would enable information to flow more freely. As part of that, DOD must educate its workforce on how to use the technology.

The authors said DOD should still encourage experimentation, but that a strategic approach was needed.

The NDU is under the direction of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and its main campus is in Washington, D.C.

Experimentation is particularly important at the early stages of using social media. You don't really know what you're doing yet, so try anything that looks interesting. Keep an eye on the results and ask yourself whether they serve the organizational objectives. For example, if you're a school district, you want to look for ways to use social media to do a better job educating and informing children, and keeping their parents involved in education. If you're a business, you're looking to make money by selling your product and services. Social media should serve those goals.

As you become more familiar with social media, your efforts should become more and more narrowly focused on serving the organization's goals. But leave a little wiggle room for experimentation too, or else you'll never learn to do things a new way. Your technology portfolio should be like your investment portfolio, mostly conservative and stable, but with a nice chunk set aside for risk-taking and speculation.

How do you balance the need to experiment with social media against staying on mission for your organization? Let us know.

InformationWeek will be highlighting innovative government IT organizations in an upcoming issue. Nominate your agency by submitting an essay on your most innovative IT initiative completed in the last year. Find out more, and nominate your organization by May 1.

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