U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

EERE Communication Standards & Guidelines

Social Media: What's Available and What You Can Do (Text Version)

Below is the text version for the fifth podcast in the Introduction to Standards Podcast, Social Media: What's Available and What You Can Do.

Welcome to the Introduction to Standards Podcast. I'm Elizabeth Spencer, and today I'll be talking about the social media tools that are available on EERE. You can read more on the site in the Web Project Management Guidelines, under "Social Media."

I thought I'd start out with a little of the history! It'll help explain why things work the way they do.

Social media are kind of special because they're pretty much all tools created by outside companies. So, originally, we weren't allowed to use most of them. Outside companies develop their own "terms of service" for their own programs. In their raw form, the federal government isn't allowed to sign up for these programs because the federal government can never be subject to an individual state's laws. So, for the last few years, DOE and the federal government have been working to make special agreements with these companies so we can use them.

While these were made, DOE made its own rules for how to target its use of social media. Consequentially, some of these tools are only available on the DOE level. Some are only available on the EERE Corporate level. And some any Program can make for themselves. So let's get into the nitty-gritty details!

First off, if you want to use ANY of these tools, or you want to submit content to DOE or EERE to distribute over social media, send all your questions to Drew Bittner at the Department of Energy.

Now, on to what we have!

AddThis is a tool that helps people share your Web pages. You can do everything from e-mailing a page to your friends to sending the page automatically to Facebook. You can also make use of dozens of other programs. AddThis is a standard part of the new EERE template, so as soon as you get your site refaced, this will be on every page. So that's easy to do!

Blogs are also pretty easy. Any Program can have its own blog. You just need a plan. EERE has its own blog charter. I'll cover the details of starting a blog in our next podcast. But in general, as long as you have a plan and someone who can write regularly, you can blog.

Bulletin Boards are new for EERE. Again, it's pretty straightforward. If you have someone who can be a moderator and have a large group that you expect to interact a lot, then you can have a board.

Facebook is slightly restricted. To avoid having dozens of accounts, individual Programs are NOT allowed to start their own Facebook profiles for their programs or projects. Instead, EERE has two top-level Facebook pages: An EERE Facebook Page for Program news, and an Energy Savers Facebook for consumer information, and news. You can submit your content to either of these profiles.

If you feel you really need your own FaceBook account because you have a massive partnership project that needs it, contact Drew Bittner and explain your case.

Flickr is restricted to the DOE level. This means we don't even have an EERE account—all pictures go to DOE. Again, Programs and projects should never have their own Flickr accounts. But if you think your project is big enough to require one, contact Drew.

MySpace is not a very popular option anymore, but it's occasionally mentioned. In general, we discourage starting a MySpace account unless you're absolutely sure the people you want to reach are there and can't be reached any other way. If you are sure you need one, send in a request to Drew.

RSS Feeds are all over EERE. All of our newsletters have RSS feeds, so when we add new stories, people who are following those feeds with their RSS readers know that something has been added. There's no restriction on RSS feeds, and programs are encouraged to make feeds when they would be useful to your readers.

Twitter is a way of announcing short, 150-character or less announcements. Right now, it's also limited to the DOE level. So there are no EERE accounts at this time—but you can submit content to the DOE feed if you'd like.

Widgets are little bits of code. If a user pastes it on their Web site, they automatically pull in content from our site. So Programs on EERE have done a lot of things with widgets, like making boxes with regularly updated tips, graphs, or other things people can host on their own sites. Make a widget and people can put that content on their sites! Anyone can make widgets, so make them whenever you're sure you can maintain them and update them regularly. And tell Allison Casey when you make them, so we can add it to the Social Media page on EERE.

And now, I'm going to end with the two video hosting sites we use: Vimeo and YouTube.

Vimeo is an alternative to YouTube, but it works the same way—it lets you host videos. Videos are a little complex, and we'll talk about video standards in a later podcast. But in general, if you need to post a video you can post it on the DOE Vimeo Channel. Again, you can't start your own. Any video can go on DOE's Vimeo Channel.

If you post to Vimeo, though, make sure EERE has a copy of your original video somewhere. Keep a copy for your own records, and send a copy to Drew Bittner.

YouTube is another tool limited to the DOE level. Neither EERE or its Programs or anything else can make its own YouTube channel without special permission. Also, the DOE YouTube channel is very restrictive—nothing can be posted there unless it's designed for a general audience. It needs to be professional and easy to understand. Basically, it has to be the best of EERE's public content.

So if you want to post a video but it isn't for a general audience, YouTube isn't for you. If your video does meet these requirements, feel free to submit it to YouTube.

Remember that all videos have to meet our video standards, so you always have to have a text version and captioning, even if it's on YouTube or Vimeo. And EERE always has to have a copy of any video hosted offsite, so keep a copy for your records and send another to Drew Bittner. Social media doesn't get you around the obligation to meet Section 508 requirements, after all.

These are all of the types of social media available to us right now. If you're interested in another type of social media site, please contact Drew Bittner. If it's useful, DOE may need to agree to a special terms of service with that company before we can work with them.

In general, check in before starting a social media project. We want to make sure we don't duplicate efforts, and that we keep the number of profiles we open to a minimum. So, like any project, be prepared to plan in advance.

In our next podcast, we'll be talking about blogs—how you can start your own EERE blog, and what sort of things you need to think about when building and writing one. So see you next time!