Archive for June, 2009

Quick! Help improve Pick 5 for the Environment!

On Earth Day, we (that is, my part of EPA) launched Pick 5 for the Environment. The basic idea was simple: ask people to commit to at least 5 of 10 actions we listed. The items were pretty common: use less electricity and water, be sun safe, commute cleaner, etc.

So far, we have about 1600 people who have committed and another 6700 or so have joined the mailing list. And another 900 are fans of our Facebook page.  But only 11 people have joined our Flickr group, contributing only 32 photos, and only 15 people have joined our YouTube group, contributing 1 video.

So now what?

Your challenge, should you choose to accept it: spend 30 seconds and leave as a comment an idea to improve the project. Help us:

  • create a groundswell of interest
  • get people to do something around this small but growing community (like cleaning up a park, not political activism, which EPA can’t be part of)
  • use the Pick 5 Flickr and YouTube groups
  • anything else to move from several thousand people so far toward several million (I mean, there are 300 million potential American participants alone)




Social media strategy in a nutshell: Mission! Tool! Metrics! Teach!

For a few months now, I’ve been repeating this mantra about how to approach social media projects: mission, tool, metrics, teach.  It was even one of the options for the day 1 camp song at Gov’t 2.0 Camp.

It came to me while walking home from the Metro one day. I was trying to come up with something punchy because people were regularly asking for help creating social media strategy for their agencies. I particularly wanted something that would be easy to remember and help me emphasize, esp. to managers, that it’s not about being cool: it’s about meeting the agency’s mission.

Tonight, I realized I’d never blogged about it. So heeeeeeere we gooooooo …


Everything we do in a gov’t agency needs to be about mission.  Sometimes the connection is a little looser than at other times, but it’s still there.  For example, I was talking to some folks at another agency, and they wanted to know why they should use social media.  I asked whether there was anything in their mission that would be easier to accomplish if the public knew some stuff.  I honestly didn’t know that such info existed;  I’ve never thought social media was appropriate for every agency.  But they immediately identified something relevant.  Sometimes, it just takes stepping back and thinking.

For example, at EPA, our mission is to protect human health and the environment.  It’s not “write and enforce regulations” or “conduct research.” Rather, those are efforts we undertake in order to protect human health and the environment.  And in both cases, working with the public through social media can improve how we do them.  The public can help us both write better regulations and tip us off about people breaking the law.  And they can help us set research agendas and tell us which fields of study matter most.  And another way we can accomplish our mission is to educate and inspire people so they directly protect the environment without us being involved.


Once we’ve identified the mission, we’re ready to identify some tools to help us get there.  Not all of them are social media, not by a long shot.  For example, email is still an important tool.  When we launched Pick 5 for the Environment, we sent an email to everyone on any of our news release and blog subscription lists, which was 98,000 people.  No other online tool available to us at that point could’ve put our invitation in front of so many people.  The point isn’t to use social media, but to find the right mix of tools to meet your mission (see below for my presentation on that point).

That said, of course, blogs, wikis, podcasts, and their ilk do offer exciting, new ways to engage the public.  But they always need to tie back to accomplishing the mission.

I will allow one loose connection: learning about the tools themselves.  I think it’s ok to try some things out that might not be quite so directly tied to mission as other options, as long as your long-term goal is to learn about the tools themselves and then use them more directly for the mission.


Once you’ve chosen a tool, how do you know whether it’s the right tool?  How do you know whether you should keep going?  How do you figure out what to do next?  Yep, you have to measure what you’re up to.  This is the area I’ll admit I’m the weakest on.  I have some ideas about how to measure our social media efforts, but I’m not happy yet with either the metrics we calculate or the strength of my convictions about the results.  For example, we sent that Pick 5 invite out to 98,000 people and about 1200 signed up on day 1.  Was that a lot?  Not many?  What could we have done differently?  I’m still not sure.


How does teaching serve your mission?  Well, maybe it doesn’t, at least not directly.  I guess you do serve your mission indirectly, because if no one ever makes the behind-the-scenes stuff easier to find, then everyone has a harder time learning.

But this is more my attempt to inspire people to give back to the community.  If you’ve learned anything from me, please teach others.  If you’ve ever sat in a seminar or webinar and left knowing more than you knew going in, pay it forward by sharing with others.  Basically, we’re all learning how all this stuff works, and it’s still new enough that there are vast areas left to explore.  At a minimum, write up your lessons learned and share them in the Social Media Subcouncil’s wiki.  But I’d encourage you to do more, by speaking at conferences and hosting your own webinars, writing blogs, or just talking to other folks at lunch.

No matter who you are, you have something to teach others. Remember: an expert is just someone who knows one thing more than you do about a subject.

In that vein, here’s the presentation I give about how we mix Web 1.0 and 2.0 tools together for Earth Month:

Yes, We’ll Make Mistakes

When it comes to using social media, there’s no question we’ll make mistakes, and there are plenty of people ready to point them all out in glorious detail.

But if we never try anything new for fear of being criticized, we’ll also never learn, and I think the public understands that.  I’ve seen plenty of comments in a variety of forums saying something like “yes, the gov’t goofed on this one example, but I’m very glad to see them trying out social media tools.”

On that note, I offer an aphorism, two quotations, and a blog post.

A ship in harbor is safe, but that’s not why we build ships.

1) Teddy Roosevelt:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the
strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them
better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,
whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly;
who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort
without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the
deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends
himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph
of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails
while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold
and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

2) Eric Hoffer (An American author):
In times of profound change, the learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.

Finally, I try to reread a great blog post by Chris Brogan on a regular basis, titled “You’re Doing it Wrong.”

So be brave, my friends, and sail beyond sight of the shore.

I’m on Twitter @levyj413