What Are the Challenges?
Social media’s environment is inherently competitive. To attract visitors, SAMHSA “tries to be as engaging and creative as possible;” said Deanna Stephens, a member of SAMHSA’s web and social media team in the Office of Communications. “But, we are competing with compelling raw video on YouTube and breaking news from around the world.”
According to Andrew Wilson, another member of SAMHSA’s social media team, the Federal Government’s rules for use of social media platforms create some challenges. He highlighted a few of these challenges at the CADCA conference in a SAMHSA session (with Ms. Stephens) on social media.
The challenges include:
Accessibility. All Federal agencies are required by law to make sure that the content they post on the Internet is accessible to individuals with disabilities. That includes individuals who are blind, are deaf, have cognitive disabilities, or have difficulties using a mouse. “When we post content to third-party sources such as Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube, we only have limited control and cannot guarantee that those platforms are entirely accessible,” Mr. Wilson said. “That means we need to provide other options for accessing the information we post on these sites. That’s one big challenge we face.”
Privacy. Social media is all about sharing. Unfortunately, some people are posting personal information that really should not be shared in a public setting—for example, their doctor’s name, their home address, or even the behavioral health history of family members. When this information is posted on social media sites that SAMHSA manages, such as its Facebook page, this adds to the challenges that SAMHSA has in responsibly engaging in social media.
Risk management. To use social media tools and to place your own personal information on the Internet in a public way does carry some risk. As individuals, this is an acceptable risk for many of us. Organizations, however, respond to risk differently, and it can take longer for organizations to figure out how to exist in this new, more social, world.
Service issues. The Government Services Administration (GSA) negotiates unique Terms of Service (TOS) agreements for SAMHSA’s and other HHS agencies’ use of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media platforms. For private citizens, to set up a personal social media account, we don’t think twice about checking a Terms of Service box. But there are clauses in those boilerplate TOS agreements that the Federal Government cannot accept or sign. “This complicates things,” Mr. Wilson said. “We are limited in what we can do.”