Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Social Media is Customer Service

By Joe Flood, communications manager, National Weather Service

Social media is more than just sharing news. Social media is social. That means engaging with the public and answering their questions. Social media is customer service.

That was one of the interesting points brought up in the recent FCN forum, “Social Media: What’s the Right Strategy for Your Agency?” Social media managers from the VA, USGS, CIA and ICE discussed the challenges and opportunities of this medium in a panel discussion at the Partnership for Public Service.

Federal communicators probably never imagined that they would one day be in customer service. But, if you’re on Facebook or Twitter, then you’ve received questions from the public that need answering. How do agencies respond to this never-ending stream of inquiries?

Megan Moloney, Director of Digital Media Engagement, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, highlighted the work her agency has done with #VetQ/Veteran Question, a hashtag where veterans can get their questions answered on Twitter.  To get answers, all veterans need to do is tweet their question with the hashtag #VetQ.

And it’s not just the VA that responds. Other organizations such as Women Vets Connect respond to questions, typically on the same day. As one commenter stated, “The Vetwitter-verse out there can help!”

In addition, these questions are captured in Storify pages on frequently asked subjects such as benefits, jobs and insurance coverage. This web archive serves as a useful reference for veterans who aren’t on Twitter.

The U.S. Geological Service has a sense of humor, according to Scott Horvath, Bureau Lead for Social Media. He stressed the importance of having a human voice in social media (they make jokes about rocks) and employing a customer service team to answer questions from the public. Social media is not a one-person job. Nor is it a 9-5 occupation – he is on call 24/7 in case of emergencies (like an earthquake).

The moderator of the panel, GSA’s Justin Herman, pointed out that doing social media correctly could mean less traffic to your website – a good thing. Answering questions on Twitter (or, even better, having other organizations do it for you) means fewer calls and emails to your agency.

In summary, while you may not view your mission as customer service, you’re going to get questions from the public on social media.  Have a plan in place to answer them. Identify people in your agency who can help – or enlist your partners, like the VA does. Speak in a human voice, like USGS. Increase engagement and support for your agency by responding to the public.

Friday, February 20, 2015

FCN and Partnership for Public Services' Social Media Training Event Yesterday!

By Lisa Chesnel, writer/editor, Peace Corps Office of Inspector General

Thanks to all who participated in yesterday’s free training event (either in person on via the web) on social media, which was co-hosted by FCN and the Partnership for Public Service. The topic was Social Media: What’s the Right Strategy for Your Agency?

The panelists pictured below (l-r): Justin Herman (GSA), Carolyn Reams (CIA), Megan Moloney (VA), Kevin Downey (ICE), and Scott Horvath (U.S. Geological Survey). We’re incredibly thankful to the government’s best moderator, Justin Herman, whose thought provoking questions and dad jokes were worth braving the cold for.

The panelists answered questions about when their agencies decided to step into the online world, how they chose their social media, and why it was the right move. We also learned how they use their various outlets, including mistakes they’ve made, clever ideas for engaging with the online community, and what the future holds for their agencies in terms of social media.

If you enjoyed yesterday's event—spread the word! FCN and the Partnership for Public Service will be hosting another free training event in May, also at the Partnership for Public Service.

Stay warm.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Announcing the 2015 FCN Leadership Team and This Year’s First Free Training (where you can meet the team!)

By: Lisa Chesnel, writer/editor, Peace Corps Office of Inspector General

Hey folks. In December you elected me to the FCN leadership team! I wanted to thank you and let you know that I’m the new blogger for the team and I’d love your input–please contact me if you’d like to be a guest blogger! FCN posts are 500 words or less, on non-commercial topics of broad interest.

I also wanted to take the opportunity to let you know who else was elected and what role they’ve taken on:

  • Cori Bassett (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and Deb Harris (Defense Finance and Accounting Services), co-chairs 
  • Suki Baz (National Park Service), secretary/administration coordinator 
  • Latasha Blackmond (Citizenship and Immigration Services), social media coordinator 
  • Lisa Chesnel (Peace Corps), blogger 
  • Britt Ehrhardt (National Institutes of Health), membership development coordinator 
  • Aubrey McMahan (U.S. Geological Survey), training/workshop coordinator 
  • Bernetta Reese (Department of Agriculture), events and outreach coordinator 

We all hope to see you at the event below--

Social Media: What’s the right strategy for your agency?

Please join the Partnership for Public Service and FCN at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, February 19 for a conversation on finding the right social media strategy for your agency.


From Twitter and Facebook to Instagram and Tumblr, there are a wide-variety of social media tools available to help agencies communicate their missions and make their content more accessible. However, developing the right digital strategy for your organization is key. Hear from a panel of agency communicators who have launched and led successful social media efforts on how they chose their agencies’ online platforms, how they are using these tools and why developing a social media strategy for their agency was the right move.


Thursday, February 19
8:30 a.m. Networking and continental breakfast
9:00-10:30 a.m. Panel discussion and audience Q&A

Partnership for Public Service
1100 New York Avenue NW, Suite 200 East
Washington, DC 20005

Guest Speakers

Kevin Downey
Web Content Manager
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Justin Herman (Moderator)
Federal SocialGov Community Lead
General Services Administration

Scott Horvath
Bureau Lead for Social Media
U.S. Geological Survey

Megan Moloney
Director of Digital Media Engagement
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Carolyn Reams
Web Content Manager and Social Media Lead
Central Intelligence Agency