Steve Monforto finally caught the ball! After attending Phillies
games since he was three years old, he caught the ball on September
15, 2009. He promptly gave the ball to his young daughter, Emily,
who was sitting next to him in the stands, and Emily immediately
threw it back to the infield. Montforto, at first startled and
caught off guard, hugged her for doing the right thing by returning
the ball to its owners.
All of this was caught on video, which immediately began to go
viral on YouTube. Fans loved the endearing and funny video, and it
moved rapidly through cyberspace. But when Major League Baseball
(MLB) lawyers called to tell YouTube that the video was
proprietary, the video was promptly pulled from the site.
At a time of declining revenues for MLB, a video that goes viral on
YouTube is an unexpected largessone that MLB, with its old,
stove-piped mindset, failed to recognize. Instead, MLB decided to
make fans visit its site and its site only, thus limiting the
number of times that the video of Monforto and his daughter would
be viewed and reducing MLBs free advertising and goodwill
Going viral can be a great thing for an organizations products and
services. In the current Web 2.0 environment, favorable electronic
communications that go viral give a big boost to the featured
organization. So, what would your organization do in circumstances
similar to those of MLB?
Consider a video that captures hurricane victims being rescued by
the Coast Guard or firefighters subduing a blaze in California.
Typically, the government cannot compel anyone to take down an
unclassified posting. However, does your agency recognize the
potential power of viral postings? Does it encourage its employees
to create communications that might go viral?
Generation Y, also called the Millennial Generation, understands
the importance of going viral. Bound by a hunger for IT, especially
social media and other Web 2.0 technologies, Gen Yers spend
enormous amounts of time, both professional and personal,
communicating electronically. Indeed, 96 percent of them belong to
Gen Yers write blogs that describe their work experiences and send
instant messages to cut through the fog of information overload and
reach out in real time. They use Twitter to update their friends
anywhere, anytime and Facebook and MySpace to share more detailed
information supported by pictures and videos.
For example, the viral spread of blogs, tweets, and posts in the
days following the recent Iranian presidential election and the
impact of these Web 2.0 technologies on international relations was
unprecedented. The protesters were eager to have their electronic
communications spread globally, and they knew exactly how to do it.
Consider what a viral video could do for the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention or for its parent organization, the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services. Each of these agencies has
a strong customer-focused mission, and yet the general public is
not well educated about their day-to-day activities.
Given research, which claims that 60 percent of learning is visual,
videos depicting scientists engaging in the prevention of a
pandemic or searching for a cure for cancer would not only educate
the public and inform the healthcare debate, they would engage
citizens appreciation of agencies that administer such programsand
of government in general.
Gen Yers have arrived: They are your 20-something workers. What
else do they get that your organization might use? Gen Y
understands the importance of jumping on the beta wagon.
The world today is dynamic and constantly changing, and strategy
and tactics cannot be perfected in the way that they could
throughout the 20th century. Industrial age organizations and their
environments were much more stable than current organizations. As a
result, they had the time and motivation to perfect their highly
The 21st century Information Age organization functions in a beta
world, where strategy is under constant revision to keep pace with
a changing environment. Gen Yers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan
know this intuitively. Theyre learning to fight wars and defend the
United States in real timeby sharing their experiences day-by-day
and minute-by-minute through social networks. Policy makers in the
Department of Defense are currently wrestling with developing a
social network policy. Hopefully, theyll jump on the beta wagon.
This means accepting uncertainty and ambiguity. It also means
conducting pilot projects, beta tests, and experiments. Think
Microsoft or Apple. These organizations practice creative
destruction, continually revising and recreating their products,
while retiring previous iterations. Feedback from customersboth
good and badis used to inform revisions and to gain competitive
Government agencies are not particularly effective at listening to
their customers. But ask a Gen Yer how to use a blog or a social
network or Twitter to collect customer satisfaction data, and
theyll provide you with a multitude of ideas. Indeed, this is how
Gen Yers collect data on organizations in which they want to work.
These younger workers also will be glad to explain to you that 78
percent of todays consumers trust peer recommendations, whereas
only 14 percent trust advertisements.
Learning how to go viral and how to jump on the beta wagon will be
much easier for your organization if you reach out and connect with
Gen Yers through the world of social media. Social networking tools
are how they communicate and connect, and they are how our
government organizations need to recruit and hire.
The federal government is expected to hire more than 600,000
workers in the next three years to help repair the financial
sector, fight two wars, address climate change, and fill positions
left by baby-boomer retirements. Who are you going to call? More
importantly, how are you going to call them?
When 80 percent of private sector companies use LinkedIn as their
primary tool to find employees, its clear that traditional models
of search companies are disappearing. The federal government still
uses multipage job announcements requiring GS-9 applicants to write
multipage narratives for 20-plus questionnaires.
Instead, the federal government needs to follow the trend of using
social networks to reach out and connectespecially if it plans to
attract the workforce that can help it succeed in a
hyper-connected, dynamic 21st century.
Hope Is On the Way
By the way, there is hope. Among those 55 years and older, 70
percent use social media tools monthly, while 26 percent use social
networks. In the six-month period ending June 30, 2009, there was a
staggering increase of 514 percent in the number of people in the
55-plus age group using Facebook.