03/26/2015 12:53 pm ET Updated May 26, 2015

Using Social Media for Your Federal Agency

Federal agencies first began using social media as a public-relations device to share news as well as organizational accomplishments, but many are increasingly using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and other channels to directly engage the public and provide better customer service.

One of my favorite stories is the Department of Education's use of social media to answer questions on a monthly basis from students and parents. Using the hashtag #AskFAFSA, the department is directly engaging citizens' questions on Twitter about student aid forms and other college financing processes. It then captures all of the questions and answers on Storify, for those who may not have participated on Twitter but want to read through the responses and educate themselves.

To communicate more directly with veterans and their family members about the benefits and services available to them, the Department of Veterans Affairs last year launched the #VetQ campaign. As part of the effort, the VA invites veterans' services organizations, including the American Legion, the Paralyzed Veterans of America and Women Veterans Connect, to answer questions and highlight their own services offered. Topics of #VetQ questions range from health and disability benefits to VA home loans, the GI Bill and educational benefits.

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This post was originally featured on The Washington Post's On Leadership site.