My Two Cents: balancing the”me” in social media and Government

What is the place of social media in Government?

Is there one?

The use of individual-centric mediums can serve a purpose for Government Departments and similar formal institutions (I.e. the Police); but it is a more complex exercise than your average business.

Why use social media?Social media is an avenue of communication through which organisations can access thousands, potentially millions of stakeholders and target audiences; for a very low cost.

Using social media is a fine balance of risk and reward for any organisation. It is also two-way, uncensored avenue of communication where users can provide unsolicited feedback.

Some of the risks:

    • Humans: accounts are managed by an individual on behalf of an organisation. Any posts, erratic behaviours, intentional mishaps or accidents are the responsibility of that individual, but impact the organisation.
    • Content: Over time, all information posted on social media becomes associated with the organisation, in the mind of consumer, so content must be carefully managed.
    • Lack of Strategy: forward-thinking is a must. Over time, social media feeds will become a timeline through which organisations can track their development and reactions;it also becomes a platform to assess organisational performance and ‘customer service’.
    • Micro-focus: Although focusing on the finer details of customer service and ‘stakeholder management’ via social media is convenient; it is important not to get consumed by it. Social media is just one medium of feedback which can potentially assist in future (long-term) policy development. Social media is just one cog which is part of the greater machine!

Some of the rewards:

      • Organisational awareness: increases knowledge of an organisation to a large number of people at a minimal cost. For some of the general public, they may not have known the organisation existed, or that a specific accessible process or service was provided by your organisation.
      • Organisational Voice: gives a platform for an organisation to reveal its ‘voice’ to discuss projects, interact with stakeholders and become more approachable.
      • Information dissemination: social media enables two-way communication, so an organisation can create  and post original content (graphics, text, links to a website or report). Moreover,attention can be drawn to specific items for marketing purposes through mediums such a sponsored posts.

Three reasons why should Government Institutions/Departments bother with social media:

        • Externally, because it is a contemporary medium for them to deliver authentic information to the largest number of people/businesses in the most accessible way.
        • Internally, Blogs and Discussion forums can be useful for policy development; in-depth consultation and collaborative document authoring.
        • Moreover, A medium like Skype can enable face to face meetings and teleconferences, regardless of distance.

Also worth considering:

Whether you’re a Government Department or startup, whether social media platforms can be appropriately managed and used by your organisation is a necessary consideration. It makes the quality of a good PR strategy (and PR officer) essential!

Politicians with social media can incur significant benefits and liabilities if they choose to use social media. A single post or tweet can ‘make’ a news story in this day and age – positively or negatively!

The ‘tsunami of free speech’ created by social media can be a liability, but it can create fantastic opportunities for those who can ‘ride the wave’ in the right way.

Hope you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed writing!

A x

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