For the past couple of years, the Peace Corps has used online-based intercept surveys on peacecorps.gov to measure user satisfaction. The data captured over time has been interesting, but has not varied much month-to-month, which has made it difficult to translate insight into actionable enhancements on the website. In order to get more out of the user satisfaction data, we developed a framework that applies statistical models to the data collected that identify key performance indicators (KPIs) that have the greatest likelihood to increase overall user satisfaction.
What does Snapchat, the disappearing message-and-video platform most used by teenagers, have to do with government outreach and communications programs? Well, Snapchat has quickly become an incredibly effective digital storytelling medium, and content creators across multiple government agencies have adopted it as an important part of their programs. A recent New York Times article described how nearly 35 million users in the United States watched highlights and stories from the Summer Olympics on Snapchat.
I wanted to share our first dabble with data storytelling, a visualization supporting the Peace Corps Top Colleges initiative led by our awesome press team. Our goal was to enhance and expand the experience of the Top Colleges campaign and use of the data beyond the usual suspects like infographics, and other assets to show the reach of colleges and universities. We also wanted to connect all the earned media it receives to an overarching Peace Corps goal that is measurable (in this case lead generation) on the back end.
When Alex Snyder started working at Peace Corps a few years ago, he had an opportunity to explore a new platform for housing their digital assets. As a professional photographer himself, he saw the value in focusing on visual elements and making those more accessible. He focused on making the library about photos, video and graphics, and looked for a system that improved the photo submission process while displaying the decade’s worth of images the Peace Corps accrued.
Hispanics are one of fastest growing demographics in the U.S. But like any demographic, there are important nuances to consider when connecting with this audience. Insight into your audience’s motivations, behavior and preferences is key for anyone trying to engage with the public. We know every day that more and more Hispanics are on social media, but on which platforms?, Where are they participating? And more importantly, in what language?
At the Peace Corps, we continually try to find new ways to test, measure and optimize our marketing and communications initiatives. Recently, we embarked on a project to design a framework to test and optimize content on the social media platforms we use to engage our stakeholders. This process required us to reboot our expectations in terms of measurement and re-think our social goals, but in the end it has made our decision-making process much stronger.
What exactly does being “data-driven” mean for digital marketing and communications practitioners in the federal government? It is easy to be awed by the new shiny platforms and services that promise to change how things are done in government. Fundamentally, though, it is thinking about analytics not just from a descriptive mindset but one of experimentation, optimization and measurement. It is about culture change so it is not as glamorous, not as easy, but necessary if you really want to be data-driven.
Users have questions. Your content and website navigation can help them find answers, or potentially cause frustration. One tool for answering questions is up for debate: are FAQ sections still relevant in 2015, or are they a relic of bygone days? Nielsen Norman Group recently published two articles arguing for the continued use and usefulness of FAQs: FAQs Still Deliver Great Value and An FAQs User Experience. In response, a counter opinion was released by Gerry McGovern: FAQs Are the Dinosaurs of Web Navigation.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohmyOKPSGPg&w=600] Animated gifs are increasingly found throughout the digital experience of today’s users. They offer a dynamic presentation of information in a format that can be both more performance-effective and cost-effective than standard video or images, making them valuable for federal teams looking to bring their programs to the modern digital space and improve customer satisfaction. To find out how animated gifs can be developed to measurably improve public services, we hosted “Essentials of Animated Gifs for Gov” for almost 200 managers in the U.
Social media for public service is a diverse field that uses platforms and data from both the private and public sectors to improve citizen services, make them easier to access and deliver them more cost effectively. It is not just public affairs or communications, but spreads into customer service, resource development and more. Many of the best examples of social media in government can’t be seen on the surface of a tweet or post, but in how these collaborative, engaging strategies improve the processes of public services themselves.
Fighting malaria in Botswana with a group of high school students in D.C. Contributing to the Ebola response from the West Bank. These scenarios may not fit the typical image of humanitarian aid efforts, but technology has transformed the possibilities for public participation in international development. Crowdsourced mapping projects have become key contributors in relief efforts and highlight the collaborative work that can be done between government, non-profit organizations, and the public.
The new second draft of the U.S. Public Participation Playbook incorporates changes that were proposed from nearly 100 suggestions submitted after the first week of public comment, with more improvements to come. We still need your contributions for this groundbreaking new collaborative resource to measurably improve our participatory public services across government, and would like to take this opportunity to share what we have learned so far.
The Peace Corps just released a new dataset that lists all of the countries and regions Peace Corps volunteers serve. The API is RESTful and uses the JSON format. You have read in earlier columns about the different data formats for APIs and how to read the data presented by an API. As a refresher, I’ve created the following quiz based on the excellent documentation for the Peace Corps Countries and Regions API.
Today, refilling your medicine cabinet with bandages and over the counter medicine from your local drugstore may seem like a trivial task, but for Peace Corps volunteers working in remote villages around the world, this task can be much more challenging. As we take steps to forge a 21st century Peace Corps, such as dramatically reducing the time it takes to complete a volunteer application from eight hours to less than one hour, we are also looking into ways to tap the ingenuity of volunteer developers to support our Peace Corps volunteers abroad.
Over the last 6 months, 18F has embarked on a mission to transform the way the U.S. Government builds and buys digital services. We’re currently working with more than half a dozen agencies to help them deliver on their missions in a design-centric, agile, open, and data-driven way. How do we say yes to a project? We ask ourselves: Is there an opportunity to improve the interaction between government and the people it serves?
Once a federal agency releases an API, there are several ways they can be used in apps. The most common method is through hackathons. Hackathons are where an agency or agencies present the API(s) and invite developers to create prototype apps. The apps are then presented to subject matter experts for suggestions on creating the final app. There are many government hackathons on a variety of public issues. Visit Challenge.
The Web now contains over 1.51 billion pages of content, according to WorldWideWebSize.com. That’s a lot of reading material, and a lot of content competing with yours for attention. People won’t waste time (even a few seconds) on an article that doesn’t matter to them in some way—not when there are so many other interesting things to read on the Web. But what makes something “tweet-worthy?” What can you do to capture your audience’s attention and entice them to share broadly in their networks?
When you think about your community, you may think about your neighborhood, your city, your office or the organizations and activities you’re involved in. The Peace Corps has many of the characteristics of a community, however our reach spans the entire globe. Because we need to regularly connect with national and international audiences, Peace Corps actively explores new and cost-efficient tools to help us achieve communication goals. Fortunately for us, the digital age has given federal agencies the resources to do exactly that.
Some people think LinkedIn is only for active job seekers. Although many of LinkedIn’s 300,000,000+ registered members fit that profile, LinkedIn is also chock-full of passive job seekers—those who have a job but are interested in learning about a new opportunity. Either way, LinkedIn is a valuable tool that provides recruiters with a large database of qualified candidates. In 2012, Peace Corps recognized that long gone were the days of the rolodex and “post and pray” approach, and that it was time to reach job seekers on their preferred engagement platform.
You should be on this list—the current federal government participants in the National Day of Civic Hacking. There are 15 agencies participating in the event, primarily in and around the Washington, D.C., area. This is a fantastic compilation of what agencies are doing, but it is not enough. We need more widespread participation across the country. If your office has a regional presence and has data or ideas for technical and design projects they’d like to contribute, this is a prime opportunity to dip in and see what it is like to work with people outside of government.
On this Earth Day, federal social media managers are hard at work, sharing and promoting what government and citizens can do to protect the environment. We’ve compiled a sample of the activities that also show how different agencies are using different social media tools in support of a common goal. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been leading the way all month, hosting Twitter chats every Tuesday at 2pm EDT, with the hashtag #ActOnClimate.
If the silos and barriers that separated our programs are smashed, what could we do to realize the full potential of innovation in public service? Whether you’re a citizen who needs better access to services, an entrepreneur looking to spark innovation in the marketplace, or a public servant who wants to get your mission done more effectively and efficiently — there have never been more opportunities to achieve these through social media in government.