Gadi Ben-Yehuda, the social media director for the IBM Center for the Business of Government, is leading the course, which begins in February.
He said the course will help federal social media practitioners understand how to develop a social media strategy and how this strategy can strengthen the agency mission.
Ben-Yehuda said one of his goals in the class is to show people that “social media isn’t this monolith,” he said in an interview with In Depth with Francis Rose.
“You have social networks like Facebook. You have what I call information networks, which is really more what Twitter is … Then you have ideation platforms, like the President’s SAVE Award, where you submit an idea and vote it up and down,” he said.
Many people now think of social media as “that place where I go to tell people what I had for breakfast … I think the hard thing is overcoming some of those misperceptions,” he said.
Agencies are already using social media beyond something they’re simply expected to do, Ben-Yehuda said. For example, NASA has used Twitter meet-ups or “tweet-ups” to increase participation at in-person events, and the State Department has held a press conference on Facebook and Twitter by taking the public’s questions, he said.
Students will get both “the 30,000-foot view as well as the five-foot view” of social media, Ben-Yehuda said. Guest speakers will discuss how to put out better content, use incentives like in video games to design a social media campaign and how to use the individual tools, such as setting up a wiki.
One question Ben-Yehuda said arises in discussions about social media is whether one person at an office is assigned to oversee social media or whether social media part of someone’s responsibilities?
“I kind of compare it to having a general counsel,” he said. “I think agencies need a general counsel. That’s isn’t to say not everyone needs to know what the laws are.”
Everyone in the office should know how to use the different tools, he said.
“One goal of the course is to inculcate students so thoroughly in social media and at the same time to help them form their own communities of social media practitioners,” Ben-Yehuda said.