Participation in social media is not a mandate for success in the federal government. However, if you are part of a team charged with achieving an agency’s goals in the area of information technology, it would be prudent to be apprised of such tools as LinkedIn. Before you make an off-the-hand dismissal, please look at it from a new perspective.
LinkedIn is not a scoreboard with a prize going to the person with the most contacts. If the Washington Nationals score 100 runs in a game, they do not win the World Series. A hundred contacts will not give you eternal bliss. In fact, from the perspective of a federal employee, there may not be much value to amassing great numbers of contacts. Instead of quantity, a better approach is to use LinkedIn in a targeted manner. Reverting to the baseball analogy, rather than wasting all your home runs in one meaningless game, structure your time to connect to the right groups, manage your team and learn from thought leaders.
Let’s take a timely tech topic and see how LinkedIn can give a manager insight. Most sentient beings in federal IT know that the Office of Management and Budget is encouraging release of data sets for general consumption. Dozens of articles and blog posts have been written about the May 13 executive order. Strategically, if a federal IT professional is tasked with exposing data sets, one can consider starting with a repository of that information, developing a strategic way to engage citizens, and starting the conversation with innovators. You can use LinkedIn to get insight in each of these aspects:
Groups. You can read updates in specific groups to understand how to use new technology. When White House Chief Technology Officer Todd Park was interviewed on Federal News Radio, he mentioned “github.” If you are new to this term, you can join the discussion to see what problems others have overcome with github. Joining the github social coding group is a discreet way to get opinions of issues and technical conflicts if it comes up in your plans to expose data.
Announcements. After lurking around a few technical groups, you may decide to start your own group. It only takes a few minutes and it gives you a great way to manage a small, targeted set of people. They can be colleagues or a group of people whose opinions you respect. You can send out a direct, targeted message to the people in your specific group and then read the comments from your trusted circle. For example: Georgetown University’s mascot is a feisty bulldog. In a lighthearted manner, I set up a LinkedIn group called “Big Dog Data” for my students to share information on social media. I can inform them of guest speakers, remind them of project due dates, and look for comments on presentations. From a purely educational perspective, they can demonstrate the use of shorteners and blog post best practices. The group is locked out to everyone except those unfortunate souls who have enrolled in my class on social media.
Following thought leaders. After 300 interviews on Federal News Radio, I am convinced that the federal government has a wide range of technical talent. To come back to the baseball analogy, there is a deep bench in many agencies. A person in a similar capacity as yours may have a way to solve a targeted, federal IT problem. It is possible that someone who has just left federal service may be more open to sharing frustrations than a current employee. LinkedIn gives the possibility of following pre-govies, govies and post-govies to seek out innovative solutions.
There are more than 200,000 social media networks in the world today. You can choose which ones will help you complete your personal and professional goals. LinkedIn is one method that millions have found to be productive; it may help you creatively solve technical problems in the new world of reduced budgets and increased responsibility.
John Gilroy is director of business development for ARMATURE Corphttp://armaturecorp.com/ in Dulles, Va,. and hosts the weekly program “Federal Tech Talk with John Gilroy” on Federal News Radio. He also teaches social media in the Technology Management graduate program at Georgetown University.