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!