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Study: NASA, White House are social-media savvy

Armed forces, including the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines, also fared well in new study of public sector use of social media and the Web.

NASA and the White House are tops at using social media and the Web compared with a wide range of other public sector groups in the U.S., according to a study out today from the George Washington University School of Business and digital think tank L2.

Authored by George Washington University School of Business dean Doug Guthrie, New York University professor and L2 founder Scott Galloway, and experts from L2, the first annual Digital IQ Index for the Public Sector (PDF) measured the effectiveness of Web sites, digital marketing, social media, and mobile platform support among 100 different public sector groups.

Included were independent agencies, the executive branch, advocacy organizations, armed forces, political parties, industry associations, and multilateral organizations. Each group was given a digital IQ grade based on the strength of its online prowess.

In general, the study found that most groups in the public eye are taking advantage of digital technologies to spread their messages, but the majority are still stuck on old traditional media strategies. However, several organizations showed a savvy understanding and use of social media and the Web.


With a digital IQ score of 184, NASA came in first place, considered the clear leader among all public sector groups and innovative in every area covered in the study. Its Web site brings in more than 3 million people each month, while the agency boasts 600,000 Twitter followers and 150,000 Facebook fans, according to L2. NASA also takes advantage of the latest online technologies, using 3-D visualizations, streaming video, and integration with location-based social network Gowalla.

The White House came in second place with a score of 158. Pointing to online contests to help balance the budget and regular presidential addresses broadcast on YouTube, L2 cited the administration for its smart use of the Web. President Obama and members of his staff also tap into Facebook and Twitter, with several of them offering a personal touch to their postings and tweets.

The government scored big in another area. The Armed Forces category, which includes the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and other branches, captured a Digital IQ of 117, the highest of any overall category.

On the downside, 51 percent of the groups studied were branded as "challenged" or "feeble" by L2. Those in the "challenged" group included the Tea Party Patriots, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the National Endowment for the Arts. The "feeble" list included The Department of Commerce, the National Organization for Women, and the Anti-Defamation League, all cited for weak online and social media activities.

Going forward, the study suggests that the use of the Web and social media will have a strong effect on which groups have the greatest impact.

"The advent of the social Web has fundamentally changed our nation's public sector organizations," L2 founder Galloway said in a statement. "We're likely to see a transfer in power and influence from organizations that are digitally inept to those who are digitally deft."