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Even the Government is Getting Into Social Networking

A social networking site has been launched that is targeting the tech employees of the federal government to help them communicate on how they can use technology to improve their agencies. Did you hear that? The government -- not known for its nimbleness or flexibility -- is jumping on the Web 2.0 bandwagon. Smaller businesses, it's time.The social networking site is called NextGov and in the inaugural column from its executive editor, Allan Holmes, it is clear that smaller businesses have something to learn from the government, both in the way it is implementing Web 2.0 and in the way it views technology:

"Unlike traditional media, which feature one-way conversations from journalists and editors to readers, we're opening the site to everyone involved in the process of procuring, managing and benefiting from IT systems -- federal IT managers, contractors, consultants and nontechnical program managers."

In addition to creating a community, the site is also meant to foster IT/business alignment  the bane of many a smaller business. Holmes writes: "A founding principle behind Nextgov (and why its partnership with is so vital) is to bring IT out of the IT shop and into the government "board room," where information technology can inform and direct major public policy decisions and help set agency mission strategies."

As Holmes notes, Nextgov is taking "advantage of the Web's ability to open up discussions among thousands, if not millions, of individuals. The Forum is an online community where you can join conversations on any IT subject. You can comment on the latest issues, ask a question of your colleagues or answer one. Want to find someone who may be able to solve that nagging technical problem? Post a question. Need advice on your career? Post a question. Puzzled by project management? Post a question. Then help others find answers to their tough problems. By doing so, you'll tap into the depth of experience and talent across government and the private sector."

Another feature of NextGov, according to a press release, is Tech Insider, "a group blog on federal technology. Tech Insider will feature frequently posted insights from a panel of expert bloggers -- including former CIOs and other senior agency leaders -- from across the federal IT community."

This isn't about your employees wasting time on Facebook: This is about utilizing the same features to help management and the IT guys get on the same page, or share tech tips and insights, or get your customers engaged and involved. There are lots of ways for smaller businesses to start taking advantage of what social networking can do for their companies.

It's not often you can look to the federal government for ideas to help your IT department, but this time they're getting it right.