Wrestling Government Social Media Data Into Knowledge

This week the SocialGov Community took the step of recruiting a Digital Engagement Knowledge Manager, and I am excited to join the team through the innovative new Open Opportunities Program. At this point, though, you may be asking—is there really so much information out there that it needs to be managed?

Yes! The truth is that the same challenges pop up all across government, and the same questions are asked over and over. The federal agencies using social media need to fulfill our unique missions in the government and find the best ways to connect citizens with services.

The good news is the answers are already out there and the pieces we need exist. We just need to find them and put the puzzle together.

According to Rachel Thompson at Mind Tools, there is “data,” “information,” and “knowledge” and the words are often used interchangeably.

She defines the three terms as follows:

  • Data is a specific fact or figure, without any context. For example, the number 1,000 is a piece of data, as is the name Tom Smith. Without anything else to define them, these two items of data are meaningless.

  • Information is data that’s organized. Pieces of information are “Tom Smith is a CEO” and “1,000 widgets.” We have more details, so now the data makes more sense to us.

  • Knowledge then builds on the information to give us context. Knowledge is “Tom Smith is the CEO of our company’s biggest competitor, and his company ships 1,000 widgets every hour.”

In other words, data and information are useless without context. We’ve already proven that it’s possible to take the best data and information from our community and transform it into usable knowledge. The SocialGov Community, for example, is busy perfecting toolkits in priority areas which soon will be released on Github:

  • We’ve seen The Social Media Accessibility Working Group, spearheaded by the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, lead the charge for accessibility in social media for citizens with disabilities with a soon-to-be-updated Federal Social Media Accessibility toolkit.

  • According to Justin Herman of GSA, “Social media in government requires accurate, targeted performance analysis to ensure we’re taking full advantage of these tools to deliver better service and engage with our customers.” We developed the first Federal Social Media Performance Analysis toolkit so we can do just that.

  • More than 20 federal agencies have banded together to create the first Social Media Policy Development toolkit that can be used by anyone to ensure their governance policies effectively guide meaningful, cost-effective engagement programs.

What’s next for the SocialGov Community?

We are over 600 strong with representation from all across government—and growing every day. While this means there are lots of great things out there, the sheer number can make it hard to sift through and find them. We need to continue to harness the power of this valuable group.

Working together, we can pull out the most valuable pieces of data and information and transform it into concrete knowledge that can be shared and used.

Let’s continue the discussion here. What can Digital Knowledge Managers do to make your jobs easier? What are your biggest challenges? Whether you are part of a large social media team or a one-person dynamo armed with a Twitter handle, we want to hear from you!Alison Lemon is a Knowledge Manager for the SocialGov Community and a Senior Analyst for Social Media with the FDA’s Office of Women’s Health. You can follow their work @FDAWomen.

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