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Tech Tuesday

Social Media Gets More Serious

Government offices turn to the power of Twitter and YouTube to connect with the public.

There's growing interest in this thing called "social media." In Tech Talk we've covered Facebook and Twitter in the past and how folks are using these tools to better connect to specific audiences. Facebook alone has the potential to provide enhanced opportunities for farmers and the landowners with whom they work. Now the government is turning to these tools in a big way.

Last week the Government Accountability Office has established a new presence on YouTube and Twitter. The GAO issues a wide range of reports in its role as the investigative arm of Congress, and many have an impact on agriculture. The organization already has e-mail feeds of its reports every day that allow users to follow critical issues, now you can follow them even closer with these tools.

On YouTube, you can check out an extensive library of videos from the GAO that offer you insight into the workings of Congress from a different perspective. They're pretty highly produced and would make for interesting watching if there's a topic you hear about that you want to understand better. You can check it out atwww.youtube.com/user/usgao.

If you're seeking more immediate information, perhaps on new GAO reports as they're released, the agency stands ready with its new Twitter account. Twitter, the public texting service that uses 140-character messages to communicate, offers quick-blast information from the GAO you can use.

The GAO, in fact, has two feeds. The first, for reports and testimony can be found at twitter.com/usgao. The second Twitter feed announces the organization's legal products and can be found at twitter.com/usgaolegal. You can follow either without having a Twitter account yourself simply by visiting these sites. Or you can create a free twitter account and follow them in a single location - pretty simple really.

Tweets from the "People's Garden." While visiting Washington DC in April, I got a glimpse of a lot of people at work on building the People's Garden outside of USDA. The former parking lot will eventually become an organic garden that will help extol the virtues of raising your own food, or buying locally. While it's easy to scoff at the project if you're ideas about organic food vary, understanding the project may be a little easier thanks to the new Twitter feed that USDA has fired up.

The idea is to provide followers with real-time information on events, workshops, plantings and harvests from the garden. The role of the garden includes helping consumers "learn about leading land conservation efforts that are creating more environmentally friendly, sustainable landscapes." You can follow the program through Twitter at twitter.com/peoplesgarden.

Check out the feeds to see what the buzz is about. You might find that social media offers you new opportunities. Already CNN has carried a feature about Nebraska farmer Steve Tucker who likes to tweet as he does field work, keeping friends, family and followers posted on what's going on in his operation. You can follow him at twitter.com/tykerman1.

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