Sharing Social Media Strategies: The National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace Program Office

A security dashboard with social media icons indicating that hacking has been detected in a password protected area, and showing a scan of an authorized fingerprint in another panel.

Creating a tweet, posting a photo, or updating a status may take mere seconds. However, a well-thought-out social media strategy is needed for long-term success.

In fact, the recently released U.S. Public Participation Playbook mentions strategy in its very first play: clearly define and communicate your objectives. Knowing what you hope to accomplish and how you want to get there is imperative, and social media is no exception.

The National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC) National Program Office (NPO) is a White House initiative that relies heavily on social media to share information with stakeholders across the globe. Creating, following, and revising their social media strategy has allowed the NPO team to strengthen ties with their stakeholders, increase their reach, and more effectively market their programs and services.

The Office: NSTIC NPO

The NSTIC vision is for individuals and organizations to utilize secure, efficient, easy-to-use, and interoperable identity solutions to access online services in a manner that promotes confidence, privacy, choice, and innovation.

The NPO has three key initiatives:

  • Pilot projects: organizations with innovative identity projects that receive grant funding.
  • Connect.gov: a service that connects people to government services and applications online using specific digital credentials that they may already have. A recent DigitalGov article featured the Connect.gov service and how it enables trusted interactions.
  • The Identity Ecosystem Steering Group (IDESG): a private sector-led organization that leads the crafting of a framework that can replace passwords, allowing individuals to prove online that they are who they claim to be and enhancing privacy.

The NPO is designed to work collaboratively with the private sector, academia, advocacy groups, public sector agencies, and other organizations. To reach this diverse audience, the NPO maintains a blog and Twitter account, @NSTICNPO. The NPO staff actively refines their social media strategy based on metrics and goals. Kristina Rigopoulos, lead communication strategist at NSTIC’s NPO, outlined three social media strategy lessons her team has learned.

Planning for the Future

Rigopoulos and her team create communication plans centered specifically around social media. She said it helps keep her team focused on creating consistent messaging and motivates people to track metrics.

“Because we always have a plan set in motion, we usually exceed our goals,” Rigopoulos said. “We create internal quarterly social media reports to get an understanding for the blogs and tweets which had the most impact and made the biggest impression—so we can learn from the past and understand what works best for the future.”

One example of a metrics-based decision was the NPO’s 2015 pilot funding announcement process. After seeing the number of abbreviated pilot applications decrease (from 63 applications received in FY2013 to 40 applications in FY2014), the team responded to the downward shift by reaching out to entrepreneurs through social media channels, particularly on Twitter. Their approach paid off: they received 58 abbreviated applications in FY2015—a 45% increase from the prior year.

The team also added their blog URL and Twitter handle to paper and email marketing campaigns, so readers would get accustomed to checking their social media accounts for real-time updates. The efforts have paid off in increased pageviews.

“Our pilot funding announcement blog in 2014 received 348 views—but our pilot announcement blog in 2015 received 1,562 views, which shows a major increase in interest based on our marketing,” Rigopoulos said. “So far in 2015, we have a total of 2,922 blog views and we are still early into the year—so we are on track to majorly surpass our numbers from last year (6,755 total pageviews).”

The NPO team prepares potential messaging in advance in order to ensure the timely release of information. As a group, they brainstorm and discuss blog posts and tweets to coincide with upcoming events and projected progress. Rigopoulos said this planning helps her team release blogs or tweets at “just the right moment.”

Increasing Awareness and Building Trust

When appropriate, Rigopoulos and her team directly involve pilot project participants in message refinement.

“If we decide to write a blog post highlighting the progress made by one of our pilot funding recipients, we often give them an opportunity to get involved,” Rigopoulos said. “We recently wrote a blog post about NSTIC pilot participants Daon and AARP—so we first decided to interview pilot stakeholders to ensure we captured successes they were most proud of.”

The NPO team has received positive feedback from the pilot recipients who have been involved in crafting content.

Reflecting on the Past

Looking back can help offices prepare for future success, and Rigopoulos said the team sets aside specific time during weekly all-hands meetings to determine what has worked and what hasn’t.

“We review our goals regularly and have NPO-wide meetings to debrief about our progress, accomplishments, and ideas for future improvement,” Rigopoulos said. “This process allows us to work together as an office to consistently improve our social media reach. We talk about ideas big and small; as a team, we discuss everything from engaging venture capitalists for our multimillion dollar pilot projects to keeping our tweets interesting (e.g., our collective idea to occasionally tweet in haiku form).”

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