Today, we're happy to announce the Federal Social Media Index, a living dashboard that measures the activity of 125 federal departments and agencies on Twitter. Powered by ThinkUp, it's updated weekly without human intervention or editorial review, an unbiased look at how well agencies are engaging their followers.
While it's obvious the federal government's embraced social media on Twitter and Facebook, each organization uses them in different ways and it's tricky to tell who's doing it well. Some use it for press releases alone, while others are soliciting opinions from the public and replying constantly.
Our hope is that the FSMI helps bring the people behind these accounts together, helping them learn from each other's efforts, as well as informing any future agencies getting ready to make the plunge.
What We've Learned
For us, it's surfacing interesting material that would go unnoticed and underappreciated, like the Marines asking which military ready-to-eat meals they'd choose on Thanksgiving or the USGS playing a geology alphabet game with their followers.
And a huge congratulations to the State Department for taking the first Top Agency of the Week crown!
We hope there's something for everybody here:
- Federal agency leaders. Learn how your organization is performing relative to others.
- Social media managers. See what's working for yourself and others like you.
- Organizers. See where government is open to feedback and use those entry points to create change.
- Citizens. Find new ways to connect with your government and see who's listening.
- Journalists. Track federal technology efforts and find trending conversations.
This is a first initial release focused mostly on questions and answers asked on Twitter, but expect it to evolve rapidly.
(Note that we're excluding the White House's Twitter account, at least for now. With over 2.5M followers on their main account, they're a juggernaut. We were interested in surfacing other agencies, and it didn't seem fair to put them on the same playing field to start.)
How We Made It
We started with this index of over 450 U.S. government departments and agencies. After removing duplicates and individual states, we paid the anonymous workforce at Amazon Mechanical Turk to track down the Twitter account for each agency.
To get more accurate results, we asked three people to find each account. We accepted their answers when two or more workers agreed, and hand-checked the rest. The result was this database, downloadable as a comma-separated text file or Excel document. (If we missed any, please let us know!)
After that, we used ThinkUp to archive every historical tweet from each account and every new message that mentions them. So far, we've indexed over 18,000 tweets posted by those 125 users, and nearly 900,000 mentions.
Unfortunately, the Twitter Search API doesn't tell us which of those mentions are actually replies, or the post they're replying to, so a separate process retrieves each mention individually to find the original tweet. In the last two weeks, we've collected nearly 4,000 verified replies and growing constantly.
As the dataset grows, we're looking forward to adding weekly data to see how this activity trends over time.
This is just the start, and we need your help to make this better. If we missed any departments or agencies on Twitter, or you have ideas to make the FSMI better, we'd love to hear them. We're adding new stuff constantly, and any feedback is welcome. Feel free to comment here or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.