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Feds Roll Out Social Media Metrics, API

New metrics will help agencies assess their social media performance, while API will let news organizations pull real-time data from FEMA and other agencies.

American Red Cross Social Media Command Center
American Red Cross Social Media Command Center
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
The General Services Administration has launched two initiatives to help federal agencies improve their use of social media. One involves the use of metrics to track social media performance. The other is an API that provides access to the social media accounts of government agencies.

The metrics, developed by the Federal Social Media Community of Practice, provide a framework for measuring the impact of social media on agency programs. They measure seven categories of social media performance: breadth, depth, direct engagement, loyalty, customer experience, campaigns and strategic outcomes.

"With the new recommended metrics, agencies now have access to a broader and deeper set of measures that can help them truly assess whether their efforts are achieving the results they want. Ultimately, this will lead to better-informed decision making and a better use of taxpayer dollars," said Justin Herman, the lead for social media in the GSA Center for Excellence in Digital Government, in blog post.

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The GSA also released an API to the Federal Social Media Registry, a service that keeps an inventory of agencies' social media accounts on more than 20 platforms, including Facebook and Twitter. The API makes it possible to tap into those social media accounts to access content, create mash ups and conduct searches. The GSA envisions news organizations using the API during regional or national emergencies to pull real-time data from the social media accounts of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other government organizations.

The announcements were made at an event dubbed Social Media Week in Washington, where several agencies provided updates on their social media strategies. The U.S. Geological Survey discussed its use of Twitter to distribute alerts for earthquakes with magnitudes of 5.5 and above. The agency's Twitter Earthquake Dispatch application includes a citizen response component where people are able to tweet about what they feel on the ground during an earthquake.

NASA sent its first tweet from space in 2009, about the same time it started integrating social media into NASA.gov. NASA's Curiosity rover has been sending regular Twitter updates on its Mars mission. The space agency also regularly engages with the public via Google+ Hangouts. On Friday, Feb. 22, NASA will host its first Google+ Hangout from the International Space Station.

At the Department of Defense, the Marine Corps has the largest social media footprint. It communicates directly with its main demographic, the so-called Millennials, via social media outlets such as The Whiskey Locker, a Web show that is published on Twitter and YouTube.

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