I write about the things that matter to me. All opinions are my own.

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

"Social Media Is A Waste Of Money" - What To Say

The role is really citizen engagement and the set of tools includes social media. 

Done properly you are building the infrastructure - culture of openness, accessible tools, and policy - to enable everyone and anyone to engage. 

I too have seen wasteful spending on flashy outreach with dubious results. But a lot of executives like that. They think glossy billboards means we did something. They can be argued down from that particular tree. 

But the real task is to help leaders see who they need to engage, segment these publics into target audiences with a high level goal for each, and empower organizational ambassadors accordingly. 

As far as cost, it is minimal:

  • You can get an army of ordinary frontline employees to proselytize on Facebook just by giving them permission. Cost - $0. 
  • You can train anyone to do a rotation at the customer service chat desk. Cost - in-house training and time away from regular duties. 
  • You can also empower subject matter experts to talk about complex and controversial issues affecting the agency from their own perspective - not representing the agency. You have to trust your people and let them disagree sometimes though. Cost - $0. Impact huge. 

The risk we are taking is not so much financial as cultural:

  • How much do we trust our people? 
  • How educated are they about the mission? 
  • How well does information flow internally and from the outside in? 

Yet investing in the above is not an option, but a requirement. They are capacities we MUST build in order for our organizations to survive. They are the basis of engagement. 

When it comes to government or any social institution, the public will not accept a bunch of bobbleheads swaying to the latest propagandistic tune. They want facts, they want access, they want something true and beautiful to believe in. 

We can't afford to deliver anything less.

All opinions my own.