Proreactivity: The Last Social Media Frontier for the Public Sector

It is no big secret that the public sector is slow in adopting new technologies. When Public Sector Organizations (PSO) do adopt new technologies, they don’t always do it properly. This was the case (with a few exceptions) with social media. Most PSOs went in late and then tried to do it in a “business as usual” fashion which for them meant social media in broadcast mode with comments turned off and as little engagement as possible.

Luckily, for most PSOs, those times are long gone. PSOs have embraced the new challenges and potential rewards of social media. They learned to go from passive, to active, to reactive and are now proactively engaging with the public. They plan out events or campaigns on social media platforms, prepare content ahead of time, and monitor and measure their success during the event. The better ones might have people participating live and will even monitor social media during the event to identify potential leads. Very proactive stuff. So, are we there yet? Almost but not quite. There is one final stage that is proving very difficult to master, proreactivity!

Proreactivity is a term I coined to describe real-time, on-the-fly content adaptation and curation. It is something that the private sector has been getting really good at. The public sector, no so much so.

Proreactivity implies going beyond your planned and approved content in order to adapt your messaging in real-time and take advantage of any opportunities that pop-up. Simple examples of this would be brands monitoring an event and creating content on the fly:

Some were really good:

  • Arby’s now famous tweet to Pharrel during the last Grammys: Hey @Pharrell, can we have our hat back? #GRAMMYs

  • Oreo’s famous Power out? No problem. You can still dunk in the dark tweet during the 2013 Superbowl Blackout

Some were… questionnable. Several food retailers tweeted after the Luis Suarez alleged “biting incident” at the 2014 FIFA World Cup:

  • @SNICKERS: Hey @luis16suarez. Next time you’re hungry just grab a Snickers. #worldcup #luissuarez #EatASNICKERS

  • @tridentgum: Chew Trident. Not soccer players. #ITAvsURU

  • @McDonalds_Uy:Hola @luis16suarez, si te quedaste con hambre vení a darle un mordisco a una BigMac 😉

  • @TGIFridays: I think it’s safe to say Uruguay was hungry for the win.

Some showed terrible judgement:

  • Kenneth Cole’s Twitter attempt to associate his spring line with the 2013 Egyptian Revolution

  • Epicurious condolence tweets after the Boston Marathon bombings that included plugs for their products.

So why is this so hard for PSOs to do? Several reasons:

  1. Approval processes are are rarely flexible enough to accommodate real-time content

  2. Resources are often inadequate

  3. The risks are higher than usual and, as you saw in the examples above, things can backfire if not thought out properly.

So, how could your organization go about doing this without tripping up? Let’s look at a hypothetical situation:

Say there is a big cultural event coming up that your organization is going to participate in. In your planning, you should:

  • Ensure you have enough bodies assigned to properly cover the event, on the monitoring front and the participating front, and that those resources have had adequate training on the use of social media.

  • Do a brainstorming session of potential topics that might pop-up that are outside of your normal planned content.

  • Anticipate some worse case scenarios and draft some content that could be adapted in a pinch.

  • Negotiate an express approval process for the duration of the event.

  • Be prepared to apologize sincerely if your content is received in a negative manner.

Being prepared will help mitigate most of the risks involved and pave the way for success. PSOs who can master the art of proreactivity will undoubtedly reap the benefits with increased readership, increased following, and could in everyone’s dream scenario, could see their content go viral.

Alain Lemay is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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