The debate over the place of social media in the US federal government has been heavily debated over the last decade. As social media further cements itself into the lives of everyday Americans, it can no longer be ignored by the government.


Critics claim that social media leaves the government too open criticism suggesting that the government would be compelled spend resources to respond to such comments.[1] But this reliance on old methods of communication will lead deepening the chasm between government and constituents. The volume of Americans who daily use Facebook and Twitter cannot be ignored by a government that wishes to inform its public. There are government agencies already using Twitter to inform those they serve. Two excellent examples are @DeptVetAffairs and @CDCgov. Personally as a mid-twenties US Citizen, I believe that the use of social media could keep me and my peers engaged in the movements of our governing body. I follow the President of the United States @BarackObama, because I care what the executive branch of the government is focusing on.


The ways in which social media is appropriate for government has been left to each individual agency to define. For obvious reasons the DoD has one of the tightest set of guidelines, which are likely to become more restrictive this year when the current set expires on March 1.[2] Other agencies like the Department of Veterans Affairs uses twitter to reach the service men and women they serve with messages that remind them of deadlines and updates how they can best use the benefits they earned through their service. For ideas in how to implement social media policy, The Collabortation Project has one of the most complete guides.[3]


One of the greatest challenges that agencies must still face is the preservation of social media records. Even tweets are subject to the same laws about documentation.[4] How the federal agencies will tackle this ever growing problem remains to be seen and Patricia Franks of San Jose State University believes agencies will not be able to maintain the records without help.[5]


And perhaps the analysts are correct. Social media may not have quantifiable business value, but I believe that the potential social benefit could prove essential to communication with constituents. And if this is not the purpose of government, what is?




[1] Andrea Di Maio, “Could Facebook or Twitter Have No Business Value for Government?” Gartner,, Posted on 14 January 2011.

[2] Amber Corrin, “DoD Social Media Policy Set to Return to Limbo,” Federal Computer Week,, Posted on 14 January 2011.

[3] Center for Technology in Government State Universiyt of New York at Albany, “ Designing Social Media Policy for Government: Eight Essential Elements,” The Collaboration Project,,0 .

[4] Alice Lipowicz, “Social Media Records Prove Tough to Preserve,” Federal Computer Week,, Posted on 21 December 2010.

[5] Ibid.