Governments need to realize the potential of social media

Posted Jul 29, 2017 by Tim Sandle
A new report has concluded that governments around the world need to embrace social media. The report calls out the U.K. government as an example of a leading innovator in online communication.
Social media
Social media
Flickr user magicatwork (CC BY 2.0)
Social media is a wider ranging term. It can refer to the means of interactions among people in which they create, share, and exchange information and ideas through virtual communities and networks. Leading social media services are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Vimeo. With more content going on-line, and based on the expectations of consumers, it is important that providers of services develop ways to interact with consumers (and governments with their citizens). In short, social media is becoming a vital tool for daily social interaction.
Using Twitter on a smartphone
Using Twitter on a smartphone
MDGovpics / Via Flickr
Social media platforms include:
Blogs: Forums for discussions on specific topics.
Facebook: The world’s largest social network, with over 1.55 billion monthly active.
Twitter: A social networking/micro-blogging platform with a 140 character limit.
YouTube & Vimeo: Video hosting and watching.
Flickr: An image and video hosting website.
Instagram: Photo and video sharing app.
Snapchat: A mobile app that lets users send photos and videos.
LinkedIn: Professionals networking.
With governments, a report from analysts KPMG notes that social media is not only a medium for the state to pass on news to its citizens. To be effective it needs to be “a conversation that informs policy”, and a way of citizens providing information to governments about emerging risks.
There are also savings to be made. In place of spending money on leaflets, governments can directly send out messages via Facebook, Twitter and other digital channels. This can include public health pronouncements or things that need to be communicated rapidly, like flood risks. Services can also be provided digitally, such as voter registration. New policies can also be proposed and commented on, such as the proposed building of a new roadway close to a community.
With Twitter, for example, can be effectively used by governments, in the context of traffic updates, to:
Describe the impact on bus routes.
Provide updates on construction phases.
Issue live traffic and closure updates.
Provide details on speed limit changes.
Inform on pedestrian access issues.
Taking in magnificent views of London from atop of the cruciform.
Taking in magnificent views of London from atop of the cruciform.
One of the leading nations, called out in the survey is the U.K. The digital services offered by the British government come under the Government Digital Service, which has helped to drive the digital transformation of the U.K. government. The process allows the state to deliver public services via the GOV.UK central website, which includes all government.
Through the central website, citizens (technically ‘subjects’) can pay taxes, check on public health facts, alter their road tax, register to vote, pay television licenses and so on. There is also a supporting Twitter feed to mass communication. The U.K. experience can acts a model for other nations considering embarking on the digital transformation of governmental services.