One of the defining features of the era we now live in, especially in the Social Media space is what I have described elsewhere as the “dwindling Quality of Public Debate in Nigeria”. One area where this decay is most evident is in the Social Media. Thus to play in this field with a view to cut through the noises to reach their target publics, governments have to bring in their “A-Game.”
The Social Media has become so important to politics and Governance that no serious government could ignore it. According to a recent report by Lori Lewis, Vice President, Social Media, for Cumulus Media and Westwood within every 60 seconds in 2017 there are: 900,000 Facebook logins, 452,000 Tweets, 46,200 Instagram Uploads, 1.8million snaps on Snapchat, 1.5million Google Searches, 4.1 million Youtube Video viewed, $751, 522 spent on online shopping. Using the data above, you can easily calculate what happens online in one Hour, a day, week, month or year and reach your own conclusions about the ever growing power of the social Media in our age. So it is the duty of the smart government, MDA or business to enter this contest for the attention of their target audience with the right personnel.
Against this backdrop, I am of the opinion that the best way for any government to manage its image and optimally get its messages out in the Social Media is to outsource it to Private Social Media Experts from within its domain. It must always be remembered that the Social Media is a different kettle of fish from the traditional media. Thus it has its own style, culture, diction and structure. Its mode/rules of engagement are different from the Traditional Media. So you need to engage it in a goal oriented manner with clear cut performance indicators to measure successes and otherwise.
The Social Media is not an arena for ‘Big Men/Women’ with ‘Big Titles’ that are often hollow. It is also not a Gerontocracy where people consider your age while engaging you. It is the arena that is closest to the Democracy of Thoughts in our climes. So when governments engage politicians and put them on salaries that are not tied to performance to handle their social media they are bound to almost always fail.
The private Social Media Strategists, Social Media Managers and Public Perception and brand managers, of which yours truly is one, would weigh the sort of materials they put out in order not to embarrass their clients. Social Media Managers are different from sycophants that are paid to sing praises for government day and night. The latter attract more odium to the state and their Principals than shape perception on their behalf.
Nothing in the foregoing should however be misconstrued to mean that there are no Outliers even amongst those appointed to man such positions. Still, a closer look at those appointees who have done a good job would reveal that they are brought from the private sector and converted to public servants rather than appointed from among the political class, as has been the practice for some time now.
Given the forgoing, if a Government finds it too expensive to pay outside Consultants to manage its image in the Social Media for long, then after a while it could reach an arrangement with the Consultants that would convert their services to permanent employment with an attractive remuneration. The gain for the government here is that this arrangement reduces the pressure on it to part ways with huge sums at once by spreading the payments over a longer time frame.
So what are the qualities one should look out for in the coveted good Social Media Expert we have been talking about all along? I have identified eleven below that we shall now turn to.
There are the eleven attributes/skills I recommend that the Social Media Experts every Government needs to drive its vision, message and Policy Directions to its Publics (audience) should possess. I call them the First Eleven. They are: Critical Thinking; Excellent Writing Skills; Active listening/Reading; Creativity; Complex Problem Solving; People Management; Judgment and Decision Making; Service Orientation; Emotional Intelligence; Ability to Coordinate with Others; Research and Documentation.
Many Social Media actors erroneously assume that Social Media Management is just about posting and responding to the right stuff to improve your brand presence and power. But there is far more to it and one of the most important skills of the Social Media Manager that is easily missed and ignored even in contracts is that of Research and Documentation. The good Social Media Managers scout the cyberspace for new data, trends and developments that concerns the work of their Clients and feed same to the clients in a timely manner. This is vital because in today’s fast paced world, the flow of information is weigh faster in the Social Media than the Traditional Media. So it is part of the duty (or call it moral obligation) of the Social Media manager to feed his/her clients with information and in a timely fashion in order to give them the competitive edge by keeping them ahead of their peers or rivals, information wise.
For this to function properly however there must be a good direct communication channel between the top decision-making organs of the Client organizations and the Social Media Managers. One sure and easy way to seamlessly accomplish this is for the honchos to maintain ACTIVE social Media – preferably twitter and Facebook – accounts where information could be sent to them in a social environment via tags or Direct Message (DM) or Inbox, without the officialdom and protocols that the formal office setting requires. For the sake of data security, this could be stepped up through other channels.
What Government Social Media Is Not
Social Media image management for Governments and their Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) is not about: Arrogantly abusing all those who critiqued or question your claims; Ignoring those who seek answers on important Public Policies; Copying and pasting the thoughts and contents of a central author; Circulating the same old Photographs, Info graphs, Animations, Videos etc every time. That’s why you need good writers, Critical Thinkers and Creative Intelligence to thrive in this field; Issuing threats aimed at those who hold contrary views.
It is about winning them over or at least silencing them with superior logic and facts. The good Social Media Managers welcome critiques and criticisms aimed at their clients because they are confident that the engagement that would ensue from that would improve their Brand’s presence, perception and Power, which I call the Three Positive Ps(+Ps) of Social Media Imagine Management.
The good Social Media Manager engages rather than attack those who critique and/or criticize their clients. In fact they encourage such criticisms in order to create a conversation around their product. It is only the incompetent Social Media Manager that reacts to critics with abuses and intimidation rather than courteously engage them with facts and figures where necessary. They attack because they lack the wherewithal to put solid defence. So they see questions as personal attacks aimed at exposing their lack of creative intelligence.
In closing, if a Government is failing or generally taking a beating in the battles to promote its ideals and ideas in the Social Media from a ragtag army of ill-equipped unmotivated Social Media Actors, it is because its approach to Social Media engagement is flawed. Change the paradigm and the outcomes would change positively. Therefore, for a government to succeed in this front, I recommend that it outsource its Social Media to private Experts in the State outside the Political Class; rather than appoint Politicians to man this very important sector. The government does not have to like the guts of these Experts. Yet it has to be pragmatic to get positive results.
Social Media Managers are one of the new expert positions in government that should never be given to anyone solely on the basis of political patronage. It is rather one that should be filled by experts because their work is core to the image of the State. Finally, I am very much aware of the fact that as a client, the urge to join the craze to massively improve impressions in the form of page likes and handle followers in the shortest possible time may be high. Still the smart clients watch out first for the quality of the content that emanates from their channels. The impressions shall come from quality engagements. That’s why it’s vital to secure the right managers.
– Alfred is a Social Media Strategist.