As I am getting ready for my talk at Open Innovatie and Social Media 2012 in Amsterdam on Oct 10, I have been asked a couple of early questions by the participants.
They evolve around social media and government and I would like to share some of these with you as I hope you can build further on my remarks with your perspectives and insights.
Do citizens expect to communicate with the government by social media?
To some extent, but we must remember that most citizens are digital strangers. They don’t understand social media. On the other hand, this is changing fast and since social media holds communication benefits such as speed, many-to-many interaction and viral potential, we will see that more and more government agencies have to pick up on this in order to fulfill the expectations.
Can we use social media to improve participation by citizens?
Definitely. Just check out this article, Five Ways Crowdsourcing Can Transform the Public Sphere. I like how the authors divide this into crowd-competition, crowd-collaboration, crowd-voting, crowd-labor and crowd-funding. Each category comes with a nice little example.
How can we use social media to improve communication? Can we use social media to improve working together?
As stated above speed, many-to-many interaction and viral potential help improve communication, so yes.
Social media in the form of communities definitely help improve ways of collaborating and we are also starting to see how you can do this with Twitter. HootSuite recently launched what they call Conversations allowing you to interact with others on the Twitter platform.
What impact does social media hold on government?
If we look beyond the obvious impact that social media had on the Arab Spring movement, we can also argue that government in general will become more open and transparent. At first, this will seem akward for many government agencies, but once they start learning the mechanisms behind engaging the crowd with the help of social media, they will adapt and start reaping the benefits.
One thought here is that there is not much competition between governments and public institutions compared to the private sector. Hopefully, this will lead to lots of knowledge transfer and sharing of best practices that will help the public sector implement good solutions fast.
What do you expect to happen in the next 5 years with social media?
In a recent press release, Gartner predicts that refusing to communicate by social media will be as harmful to companies as ignoring phone calls or emails is today. I don’t see why this should not be the same within the public sector.
We are just at the end of the beginning when it comes to social media. New tools and services will keep pop up and we will find new ways in which we can use social media. The develop of social media in the near future will be fast and to some extent unpredictable.
How can we motivate our colleagues to do something with social media?
What’s in it for me? That is the question everyone will ask when they are confronted with new ways of doing things. So you need to figure out this question before you start asking your colleagues to engage with social media. You need to define a purpose for your initiatives and this must be defined not only on the organizational level, but also on a personal level.
You also need to be aware of the Catch-22 situation on social media. The problem is that many people do not see much value in the use of social media and thus they do not spend time – or even allocate time – to get the know more about social media and how it can help them with their daily tasks.
Here we get to the catch-22 because unless you decide to invest time to learn more about social media and how this works, there is very little chance that you will ever find value in this.
Here you can also read about obstacles on open innovation and social media and get some advice on how to overcome them.
How do I get more followers?
Know your audience, be relevant and be persistent. Check this post on how you can become an influencer in six easy steps by using social media.
Your input and insights are highly appreciated! Please also feel free to ask other comments.