Understanding Social Media

I have added a new first step to my strategic social media engagement process. It involves educating key senior stakeholders within your government organization as to what social media actually consists of. Without this, I am convinced that your journey towards successful use of the digital space will be unnecessarily difficult.

Put simply, you need to ensure that key senior stakeholders as well as everyone involved in the initiative that you’re about to undertake have at least a high-level understanding of the current digital landscape, including statistics, trends, and implications of both engaging and not engaging.

Most of their “social media knowledge” currently consists of hearsay, traditional media coverage (often horrendously inaccurate), and the online behaviors of their own teenage daughters and sons. Just because someone uses a particular social media tool does not mean they know how to use it properly, let alone how to apply it strategically in an organizational setting. And it definitely does not mean they know what’s actually taking place globally at a macro level in terms of the digital space, mobile and social media in general.

It is therefore crucial to have their buy-in on at least the following points:

  1. Social media is not a fad, it’s a reality. Get used to it.
  2. Social media is about people not technology (often requires culture change).
  3. Social media is not just something “the kids do”.
  4. Social media affects all functions of the organization.
  5. Social media is not meant to completely replace traditional media, the two work in unison.
  6. Sooner or later you will need to dedicate full-time digital engagement resources.
  7. There is a cost to not engaging on social media channels.
  8. Most of your employees are going to engage in one way or another, whether you like it or not.

Some great ways to help you with this include:

  • Hosting a high-level senior management presentation demonstrating the above points, including how social media engagement can tie into your organization’s strategic goals. Do not use “techie” terms.
  • Hosting a series of “social media 101” lunch n’ learn presentations for your entire organization.

Without a belief in the 8 elements above, your social media initiative may be reduced to some techie/web side project for your summer student. Not a good thing.

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