Government Agency Social Media and Website Development Resources

This post is for all Government Agencies to use as a resource when developing or re-designing their Agency website presence. These resources are all free to use except when noted. Keep in mind that many of these are best practices for all website development not just for Government Agencies.

More Americans are turning to government agencies websites for information, according to new research from Pew Internet & American Life Project. Some 40 percent of Internet users have gone online for raw data about government spending and activities. Online activities related to the government include:

  • *23% of Internet users have gone online to see how federal stimulus money is being spent
  • *22% have read or downloaded the text of legislation
  • *16% have visited a site such as that provides access to government data
  • *14% have gone online to see who is contributing to the campaigns of elected officials

“Government interactions in the information age are often fueled by data,” said Aaron Smith, a research specialist at Pew and author of the report. ”Online citizens can-and often do-’go to the source’ in their efforts to monitor government activities, evaluate the impacts of new legislation, and track the flow of their tax dollars.”

The report also found 31 percent of online adults have used social media such as blogs, social networking sites, and online video as well as email and text alerts to keep up to date about government activities.

Minorities are just as likely as whites to use social media to keep up with the government, and are more likely to agree that government outreach using these channels make government more accessible and helps people be more informed about what government agencies are doing.

“Just as social media and just-in-time applications have changed the way Americans get information about current events or health information, they are now changing how citizens interact with elected officials and government agencies,” said Smith.

“People are not only getting involved with government in new and interesting ways, they are also using these tools to share their views with others and contribute to the broader debate around government policies.”

Government Website Development Standards

Coding & Styling:

  1. Use valid, standard web programming code.
  2. Use appropriate markup to convey document structure.
  3. Use style sheets for formatting whenever possible.

Text and Images:

  1. Avoid using images to display text.
  2. Avoid using absolute sizes for fonts.
  3. Specify the language of text and offer translation.
  4. Provide alternate text (ALT) for all images.
  5. Provide full descriptions for graphs, diagrams, and other meaningful images.

Audio & Multimedia:

  1. Do not convey information with sound alone.
  2. Provide text transcripts for audio containing speech.
  3. Provide synchronized captions for multimedia containing speech.
  4. Provide audio descriptions for multimedia with significant video.

Scripts and Plug-Ins:

  1. Make sure that significant interactions can be performed with both keyboard and mouse.
  2. Make sure that essential content and functionality are available when client-side scripts are not fully supported.
  3. Avoid plug-ins if possible, but when necessary use accessible applets or plug-ins.
  4. If an inaccessible applet or plug-in must be used, provide an accessible alternative that includes the same content and functionality.

Downloadable Documents, including PDF Document Policy:

  1. Provide accessible HTML or text versions of downloadable documents whenever possible.
  2. If a downloadable document cannot be provided in an accessible electronic format, provide information on how to request an alternate format.

Social Media Apps for Government Agencies

Social media apps make it easier to create and distribute content and discuss the things we care about and help you get the job done. Social media includes various online technology tools that enable people to communicate easily and share information.

Social media includes text, audio, video, images, podcasts, and other multimedia communications. Please contact me of refer to my social media services page if you need more in-depth strategy utilizing these tools for your next social media marketing campaign.

Analytics and Search Tools
Tools that help improve the volume or quality of traffic to a web site.

  • Survey Analytics: Survey Analytics offers an enterprise grade research platform for collecting feedback to enable businesses, governments and consumers to participate and learn from each other.
  • Google Analytics: Google Analytics is an enterprise-class web analytics solution that provides actionable insights into website traffic and marketing effectiveness.
  • OpenCalais: The OpenCalais Web Service automatically creates rich semantic metadata for the content you submit in well under a second. Using natural language processing (NLP), machine learning and other methods, Calais analyzes your document and finds the entities within it. But, Calais goes well beyond classic entity identification and returns the facts and events hidden within your text as well.
  • My.ComMetrics: My.ComMetrics is a tool to benchmark social media – particularly blogs – in turn, you can measure the impact your blog has on the Internet compared to other blogs.

Blogs and microblogs
Post regular entries of commentary or other material such as graphics or video and have your readers leave comments in an interactive format.

  • Socialtext: Integrated collaboration, communication and knowledge sharing platform made up of activity streams, microblogging, social networking, weblogs, widgets and wikis.
  • WordPress: WordPress is a blog publishing application and content management system. (what this website runs on)
  • Yammer: Yammer is a real-time communication platform specifically used for microblogging and collaboration. Only employees with a verified email address can join. Information is never shared with third parties and privacy is based on email domain. Yammer enables employees to create a feed in one central location enabling co-workers to ask questions, discuss ideas, post news, and share links. Users can create internal public or private groups, but can also create external communities for inter-agency or citizen communication. Yammer also serves as an employee directory with social profiles and a knowledge base where past conversations can be easily accessed and referenced.

Store, organize, search, and manage bookmarks of web pages on the Internet with the help of metadata, typically in the form of tags.

  • AddThis: AddThis helps website publishers and bloggers spread their content across the web. AddThis makes it easy for visitors to bookmark and share content to their favorite social destinations. AddThis does the heavy lifting for you — optimizing service selection, optimizing service icon sizes, maximizing speed while minimizing space, and providing industrial strength analytics. And now with the AddThis Toolbox, you can customize your own sharing menu and still enjoy the benefits of using the AddThis platform.
  • Socialtwist: Socialtwist/TAF4Free – Increase word of mouth referrals by making it easy for your visitors to spread the word.

Challenges, Contests, and Prizes
Applications that help agencies conduct a challenge, contest or prize to solve a problem, to engage the creative community, or to catalyze innovation and invention. Learn more about challenges, contests, and prizes here.

  • is available for federal agencies to use at no-cost. It was built by GSA and ChallengePost. Agencies do not need to sign their own Terms of Service agreements as is now managed by GSA, and GSA has signed a Terms of Service agreement.

Document Sharing on Websites
Publish and share documents on the web.

  • SlideShare: SlideShare is a presentation sharing website where users can upload, view and share presentation files. SlideShare is the best way to get your slides out there on the web, so your ideas can be found and shared by a wide audience.
  • Scribd: Scribd is a document-sharing website which allows users to post documents of various formats, and embed them into a web page using its iPaper format.
  • allows users to share pictures, video, audio, documents, and other files on the web at easy URLs. It is a platform for distributing rich media to the public, or for private collaboration.

Idea Generation/General Discussion
Feedback communities, voting, comments on ideas and more.

  • UserVoice: UserVoice now offers a free Government Civic Engagement Plan, which provides a Gold account to government engagement projects that face citizens. With this new program government agencies can create citizen engagement sites without worrying about budget. These sites are a completely free version of the UserVoice Gold package, which includes multiple filters, moderation, and custom design, as long as the site is open to the public.
  • IdeaScale: IdeaScale is a unique website where companies can start their own research group; referred to as crowdsourcing.
  • Google Moderator: Google Moderator lets citizens submit and prioritize ideas, questions and feedback in a transparent, democratic way.

RSS and Other Syndicated Feeds
Making web feeds and news available from your site in order to provide other people with a summary of the website’s recently added content.

  • FeedBurner: Google FeedBurner is a web based service for managing, distributing, and receiving analytics on syndicated content (RSS and Atom feeds).

Social Networks
Social Networks are a set of internet tools that enable shared community experiences. A community, in this context, is a group of people with common interests who connect with one another to learn, work, organize and socialize. Social media tools make it easier to create and distribute content and discuss the things we care about. Social media includes various online technology tools that enable people to communicate easily via the internet to share information and resources. Social media can include text, audio, video, images, podcasts, and other multimedia communications.

  • Facebook: Facebook is a free-access social networking website mission that gives people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. Facebook makes it easy to stay up-to-date with your favorite public figures and organizations. Most recent post on Why we Like Brands on Facebook.
  • FriendFeed: FriendFeed is a real-time feed aggregator that consolidates the updates from social media and social networking websites, social bookmarking websites, blogs and micro-blogging updates, as well as any other type of RSS/Atom feed.
  • LinkedIn: LinkedIn is an interconnected network of experienced professionals from around the world, representing 170 industries and 200 countries. You can find, be introduced to, and collaborate with qualified professionals that you need to work with to accomplish your goals.

Video, Photo, Audio Hosting/Sharing
Software apps that allow you to post and share and store photos, videos and more.

  • YouTube: YouTube is a video sharing website on which users can upload and share videos. YouTube provides a free online video streaming service that allows anyone to view and share videos that have been uploaded by our members.
  • TubeMogul: TubeMogul is an online video analytics and distribution company serving publishers large and small who need independent information about video performance on the internet and automated upload to the web’s top video sharing sites.
  • Flickr: Flickr is an online photo management and sharing application. With Flickr, you get image and video hosting, a web services suite, and an online community platform.
  • Ustream: Ustream is a free live interactive video platform that allows anyone across the globe to broadcast live to an audience of unlimited size.

For more Resources visit these websites:

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