So, apparently Ed Miliband thinks the world can be fixed with social media. And while we’re not 100% sure that world peace can be achieved through Facebook and Twitter, we can see where a government could help smooth out some highly unpopular issues before they spiral into a global outcry.
Let’s face it, if you are running a country there is nothing quite as embarrassing as a political uprising. When whispers about your ‘daring’ choice of headwear and ‘stern’ treatment of opposition supporters are making their rounds at diplomatic dinners things are bad enough, but when you have a full on political uprising hitting international headlines, it’s nothing short of humiliating.
Like most problems of this scale it is best to avert disaster, and you can often stop a slow burning situation from turning in to a major problem with social media. Now we’re not suggesting that any facebook savvy dictators take tips on how to rule their land through this, but any powerful body that needs public support can improve relations with the people who matter by investing in social media. And this could be a government, corporation, new business or even your local council.
So, here is our a tongue-in-cheek -guide to using social media to prevent a political uprising…..or just some useful tips on how to use social media to improve public relations –
- Monitor – A clever mix of automated and manual social media monitoring is required. Knowledge is power, what are people talking about? What topics are trending? What is the general sentiment towards current political issues? The identification of hot topics can be used to define policies that will please the people. The identification of unpopular issues can be used as a basis for corrective action.
- Map – Mapping the social media landscape and its key players is vital if the social media and real world is to be better understood. Identification of key influencers with large followings, high authority, and high interactions would allow better management of difficult political situations. Often political and social problems exist for a long time and it is only when a small handful of influencers take up the cause does an unpopular change gather momentum and becomes a big issue. By keeping track of the overall social media landscape and developing a thorough understanding of the people or organisations that influence or control different areas, paves the way for stage three.
- Interact – This is perhaps the most valuable and most difficult stage of the process. It involves using the historical and real time data to form offline and online strategy, while taking immediate action on social media platforms. For example, if a region of a country is voicing concern or anger over a particular issue, the problem can be met head on at various levels. At an offline level, resources could be diverted from a more content region to improve conditions and support in the unhappy region. On a positive social media level an alternative side of the story can be put across, by effectively engaging the key influencers, rather than a low level scatter gun approach. Strictly for arguments sake influencers could be persuaded to change their views.
This three step process barely scratches the surface on what would be a vastly complex and time consuming enterprise. It is vital to remember that social media is an uncontrollable freedom of speech monster.
While it can be monitored, mapped and guided through interactions, it can easily backfire, as any community can act in unpredictable ways. There is also a large moral question attached to monitoring any group in such a way. What one person considers to be listening to the voice of the people in a bid to make a better world could be view by another as Orwellian engineering. None the less, there lies a great opportunity for governments or companies alike to find out what its people want or need, sometimes before they even know. Political or consumer un-rest can be avoided by engaging with the affected people in the problem areas online and meeting their needs in the real world.
On a political (or corporate) level an advanced social media monitoring campaign could be a powerful tool in the correct hands. Even just at an information gathering level the potential benefits are plentiful. The big question that must be asked of any government or company aiming to attempt this is: do they have the understanding of such a modern and fluid technology and the restraint to use it wisely?