Social Media Marketing for the U.S. Government

A friend connected me to his blog post about the U.S. Air Force's "Web Posting Response Assessment" late last week. Basically, it's this awesome flow chart - seriously, who doesn't love flow charts? - that documents the different kinds of blog posts regarding the U.S. Air Force that somebody could come across and the appropriate responses for each. In other words, it's a social media marketing objective to combat negative word of mouth and reinforce positive word of mouth.

Apparently, some people think this is a "sketchy" move on the USAF's part. The U.S. military participating on the blogs of private citizens in an attempt to defend against attacks on its integrity? Perish the thought! Among other things, the USAF flow chart stresses timeliness (don't rush the response - think before you type), tone, and transparency as necessities when responding to a post. If this was a secret initiative leaked out across the internet in which USAF marketers were planning to pose as private citizens when responding to negative comments, that would definitely qualify as "sketchy," but so long as they truly disclose in all of their comments, I don't see a problem. But then I thought that maybe I was just misunderstanding the sentiment - do the naysayers just feel that all of these social media initiatives are sketchy?

But according to my friend @TLinDC,

Should U.S. government offices be held to separate regulations or standards when it comes to their own marketing as opposed to that of a private (or public) company/brand? I personally always figured that everyone has a right to defend themselves. Sure, the issue is clouded by the entity's power and resources relative to those with less - and the government should, arguably, have a greater amount of power and resources available to it by default - but can't the same be said for any large corporation? Clearly Microsoft is better equipped in terms of power and finances to use (or create) resources for defending its reputation than a small business. From an ethical standpoint, in response to the question, "is it right for an office of the U.S. government to actively combat negative opinions in the blogosphere?," I would have to say that I honestly think it's just fine, so long as they do exercise full disclosure and provide links to public information as sources for their arguments. Frankly, I think it's smart.

Maybe I should become an unscrupulous lobbyist?

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