Social Media is fast becoming the go-to source for up-to-the minute information on public figures and on the local and national events that affect both our lives and our businesses. Because of this, even the U.S. Government has taken to using social media to disseminate official information on a variety of topics.
In a perfect world, that would simply make it easier to interact with our government. Unfortunately, in our world it means we need to take extra care to make sure that “official” communications are actually official, and that they are indeed from a trusted government source.
The “.gov” and “.mil” domains are reserved for official government use, and if you see a web page with one of those domains you can be reasonably certain it is official. There are no such controls for social media accounts, so it is very difficult to know whether a purportedly “government” Facebook page, Twitter feed or YouTube channel is actually managed by the U.S. Government.
While some “fake” feeds are done for satirical purposes, such as the military satire Twitter Feed from The Duffel Blog (http://twitter.com/TheDuffelBlog), others are done to confuse, disparage, or steal.
To combat this problem, the USA.gov (yes really a government site), created the Verify U.S. Federal Government Social Media Accounts tool. Simply enter a social media URL into the tool (i.e. https://twitter.com/SBAgov), and click “verify.” The response will tell you whether the account entered is managed by the U.S. Government. (It is.)
The tool currently covers 22 social media services, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. It will “verify” social media accounts from official U.S. government agencies, organizations, or programs, as well as accounts managed by federal agencies, elected, members of the President’s cabinet and heads of agencies. For example, the official SBA YouTube feed (http://www.youtube.com/user/sba) is verified, but the private YouTube feed for a Google-SBA partnership (http://www.youtube.com/user/SBAPartnership) is not.
So the next time you see a Tweet regarding SBA loans, a YouTube video on government assistance for small businesses, or any type of “government” social media communication, check it out on the Verify U.S. Federal Government Social Media Accounts tool before taking any action.
Extra Tip: The U.S. Government isn’t the only one being impersonated on social media sites. Businesses have also become targets for their disgruntled customers and/or their unscrupulous competitors. If your business falls victim, this TechWyse post provides tips for how to take down (literally) the imposters.