Social Media is pervasive of all industries and sectors in today’s information age. It is only imperative that the government and its agencies too, must make use of this medium to disseminate information and build a positive image about itself. In fact a lot of them on an international and domestic scale have already created a presence on the social platforms and beginning to get it right.
This article aims at looking at how various governments and agencies are setting the pace for others to follow in the new world. While some of them are already at it at various stages of governance, we reckon there’s a lot more to be done. Let’s take a look how:
Government (Political Parties) pre and post election:
The use of Social Media during the election stage has exploded since the early adapters started using the medium to connect with the larger audience and in the process attempt to convert them into voters. Politicians across the world have been running their electoral campaigns, fundraising programs, disseminating information about party ideologies etc. on social media with hopes of striking gold.
The presence on platforms like Facebook and Twitter primarily along with a shot in the arm, YouTube, is often used to predict the outcome of the election. More often than not, they turn out to be true. Even though fans do not engage all the time, timely doling out of information on the page helps cement an individual/party’s commitment towards serving their goals.
While Facebook is being used to share information, engage prospective voters and voice concerns and opinions, Twitter is mostly used as a real-time progress report that lets followers know about the individual’s agenda through the process.
The US and the UK are at the forefront of using Social Media extensively for their run-up to elections and showcasing campaign objectives. A recent example closer home is that of the recent elections held for the state of Uttar Pradesh in India. Akhilesh Yadav, the candidate for Samajwadi party was heavily promoted through the party’s Facebook page and a number of blog posts were made to highlight Akhilesh’s 800 odd rallies and his efforts to reach out to the people of the state. Sure enough, it generated a humongous buzz and Samajwasi Party won the election leaving the opposition to bite the dust.
Government Agencies going social to alter public perceptions:
The immediacy of the response is one of the biggest tools to measure public awareness and investigate matters important to public eye. Social Media has particularly been a boon to various government agencies such as law enforcement, disaster management, weather et al to take a preventive measure against any mishap and in case of an untoward incident, provide justice, comfort and instill hope to the public.
In 2009, during the PRIDE parade in Toronto, the Toronto Police encouraged the use of #PrideTO hastag on twitter to keep tabs on crime control during the LGBT event. This also spawned a dedicated page for PRIDE Toronto to communicate various event related news and info that the Police can keep tabs on.
In 2010, the chief detective of the West Midlands Police in the UK used TweetDeck to keep an eye on the demonstrations involving two controversial and politically opposed groups. He also checked out Facebook rumours of stabbings and vandalism and posted on Twitter when the information was found out to be false. A real groundbreaking policing that most would agree with.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) along with a group of researchers from the City University London and Britain’s National Health Service are gearing up ahead of the 2012 London Olympics to develop strategy to tackle epidemics via Twitter.
On the home ground, Ministry of External Affairs, India, has an official presence of Facebook which has its fair share of gradually increasing fan base. Although less on interaction and exploiting the timeline feature, the page documents various happenings through the years in form of pictures, videos and links. It also provides timely information on developments from the inside. With a little deeper focus and interaction the page can really go places.
In the recent past, the Prime Minister’s Office, India had also launched the official twitter handle. With close to 95,000 followers, this is a prime information decimation point for the Government of India. It is now also a tool for PMO to directly engage with the public, a task which was till now not so easy to do.
Indian Air force is the air arm of the Indian armed forces under the government of India. Its Facebook page has a current fan base of a staggering 313k. The page is exemplary in engaging the audience and keeping them looking for more. The IAF page on Facebook gives out news regarding developments in the defense sector and provides photos and videos of fleet acquired along with various feathers in its cap that inspire bravery in a way one would expect from a defense organization.
At a much local level, the Mumbai traffic Police has about close to 12,000 odd fans on their Facebook page which is fairly simple in its core approach. The page gives out traffic updates from time to time and those following them appreciate that gesture. Also, the updates that go into that page talk about various sightings of rule violation on the streets that call for much engagement with city dwellers. Way to go Mumbai Traffic Police.
The Heritage foundation, a Washington D.C. based American think tank inspiring leadership with an already overwhelming Facebook presence of over 421k fans and over coupled with over 8000 subscriptions for its YouTube channel has an enviable audience engagement. The heritage foundation has now taken to Pinterest, the newest social media platform to furthermore extend its virtual footprint and get people to check out their boards and pins on various policies pertaining to education, family, healthcare etc. To reinforce credibility, there are boards that showcase charts and graphs. A move par excellence.
The scope to expand and engage on Social Media:
It is evident from various international, predominantly, and domestic organizations that Social Media offers a much larger benefit in establishing trust and reinforcing core values of government that often has a shady and dodgy public perception. A strong presence on social platforms helps to shape up perceptions and bust myth while establishing a strong emotional and rational bonding with the people.
In India, as far as government agencies’ optimum use of Social Media is concerned, it is still latent. While a few of them have already created pages and handles, there is barely any interaction or measures taken to engage people positively. In this context, Indian Air force is something one could draw an inspiration from.