I was interviewed recently by Public CIO magazine for an article on the use of social media by public-sector CIOs. I’ve followed social media progress, and kept up with some of the more prolific CIOs, social media-wise.
One of the key questions I was asked:
"Why is maintaining a social media presence important, and how does this activity benefit your organization and your career?"
This is the focus of the article. For public sector CIOs, why is it important to be a social media practitioner? Three reasons come to mind.
Because it is where the citizens are …
In the public sector, we need to remember it really is all about the citizen. Our services should revolve around the citizen and meet them on their terms. Being "citizen centric" when we engage with citizens means we adapt to them, not the other way around. If we want true citizen engagement, we will get out of our government comfort zones and get into the comfort zones of the citizens. Depending on which survey you believe, social media is used regularly by more than half of our citizens. The hardest citizen demographics to reach, the young and the elderly, are eagerly adopting social media. For example, it is widely thought that more people use Facebook than regularly read the newspaper.
Because you cannot “lead” if you cannot “do”...
CIOs need to lead the effort to focus our communications on the outlets the citizens use. We are uniquely qualified for this because of our focus on leadership, communications and technology. No other role in government presents the same nexus. If CIOs don't lead in this area, who will? But before we can lead in this effort, we must be practitioners. You will never convince a reluctant city manager to start a blog unless you can talk about it with first hand experience.
Because you will be left behind in many ways if you don’t …
One of my favorite quotes, used in each and every presentation I have given since becoming a public sector CIO:
"When the pace of change outside an organization becomes greater than the pace of change inside the organization, the end is near." - John R. Walter, President of AT&T.
The public CIO needs to keep pace with technology outside the organization, so they can ensure government outreach and services remain relevant to the citizen! Senior municipal officials and elected officials expect CIOs to understand technology shifts, the advantages and the risks. Consequently there is little job security or opportunity to be found by CIOs that ignore technology trends. Ignore the pace of change, and your career may be what comes to an end. Social media is but one of a myriad of technologies that public CIOs need to keep pace with, but it is one that is vital to citizen centricity and citizen engagement.