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From Competition to Coordination on Social Media

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HHS has almost 150 Twitter accounts. That may sound impressive, but it is not something we are necessarily proud of. HHS is a huge department–its mission spans many service areas–and with this size comes communications and coordination challenges.

We have multiple accounts for online social media networks—such as Twitter and Facebook—that support offices, Op Divs, campaigns, and individuals. Many of these accounts target the same audiences and publish information on similar topics. Why would we want citizens to subscribe to multiple sources from several different government programs on the same topic to get information? The Digital Government Strategy is confronting this issue as it applies to websites. But we need to consider how it applies to our social networking efforts as well.

When we compete with ourselves, we not only dilute our messages and confuse people, we also create more work for ourselves. Every time we create a new account, its audience begins at zero, and it must build a following to be an effective communication channel. This takes time and effort. Imagine if we could partner with existing accounts that already have the ears and eyes of our prospective audience, saving us time and energy to focus on providing quality content.

The HHS New Media Database is trying to make that collaboration a little easier. When a program is considering starting a new account in support of a campaign or initiative, we encourage them to look through the database for other accounts that cover similar topics or reach the same audience. We can identify a point of contact for any account an inquirer wishes to partner with to connect the two groups. This encourages them to work together in a combined effort to effectively reach their audience.

Consider this example:

The new site BeTobaccoFree.gov does not have a unique Twitter account, but rather leverages the previously established audiences of other Twitter accounts from across the Department focused on reducing tobacco use. BeTobaccoFree.gov has consolidated those existing accounts into one Twitter Fall on the Say It, Share It page, which displays all mentions of the #BeTobaccoFree Exit Disclaimer hashtag. Further cross promotion is done with the @HHSGov Exit Disclaimer Twitter (which reaches over 200K followers) and list serves that deliver messages on behalf of BeTobaccoFree from time to time.

 

How can HHS better engage the public using social media?

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