Next up: The Social Government

  • After the B2C boys had their turn, the B2B conversation on social media started
  • Now it is the turn for governments to leverage social media

Next up: The Social GovernmentINTEREST in social media platforms started with people like you and me. When Mark Zuckerberg launched Facemash in 2003, little did he know that this platform would spawn the multibillion-dollar company we now know as Facebook – a company which would eventually sign on over one billion users globally and generate revenue of over US$5 billion within 10 years.
Many other social platforms joined the fray. Some thrived, whilst some disappeared into the all-consuming black hole of the Internet. In addition to Facebook, the current favourites include Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram and Weibo.
What is key is the fact that platforms are not the end-all in this game. What is more important is the understanding of our basic human need to connect, share and ultimately, to be accepted as part of a “tribe.”
As the number of social media users began to increase, marketers and advertisers saw an opportunity to reach their customers through these platforms, because users were spending more time on them.
For once, this new ‘activity’ overtook the No 1 activity on the Web – pornography! That is telling, isn’t it?
After the B2C (business-to-consumer) boys had their turn, the B2B (business-to-business) conversation began. How could B2B relationships leverage social media?
There are plenty of opportunities for lead generation and pre-sales through social media, especially with the emergence of LinkedIn. In fact, today there are authors, agencies and consultants that focus solely on LinkedIn as a platform for B2B lead generation. Wow!
So what’s next? Which sector is going to enjoy the next growth spurt?
Say hello to the Social Government (I was tempted to term it SoGo, but that reminds me of the old shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur which sells Diesel jeans).
How can governments leverage social media? How would a Social Government operate? Read on, earthlings.

1) Problem solving 

God knows we’re a bunch of complainers. The minute we see something we don’t like, a tweet or post goes up and a few minutes later, five friends are in a conversation about the pothole outside your office car park.
What are our options in terms of providing local authorities with feedback? Phone, e-mail or text (usually to a short code you never remember).
This is where local authorities can leverage listening tools to find out what the public is talking about online; and from there, engage with disgruntled users to learn more and hopefully solve the problem more quickly.
What would be amazing is if you tweeted “There’s a large pothole in front of so and so” and the authorities tweeted you back “Sorry about that – we’re on it.”

2) Customer service 

In relation to the point above, this would be a great avenue for personalised customer service.
From my experience with @CIMB_Assists, a lot of angry people can be quickly turned into happy campers if you reach out to them in a personal manner and empathise with the situation, following it up with a proposed solution.
Again, with listening tools, keywords can be used to find conversations relevant to a government agency, which will allow this agency to jump into a conversation and rectify a customer’s pain point.
It’s a little ‘Big Brother,’ I know, but a little loss of privacy for the greater good is … good, right?

3) Idea generation 

Crowdsourcing ideas from people is a good way to improve products and services. There are two reasons why I say that – first, the users of your products and services provide the best feedback; and second, many senior executives and planners may not know what’s really happening on the ground.
From what my friends who deal with the Government tell me, like brands, they sometimes don’t introduce the best policies, products and services.
Of course, the Government can’t be expected to be perfect, but preparedness through data provided by social media platforms will greatly improve policy planning and such.
A great example of this is the Genovasi Challenge initiative by Agensi  Inovasi Malaysia (AIM), which calls for Malaysians to contribute ideas towards “making Malaysian roads safer.” To find out more, click here.

4) Information dissemination 

There are 13.3 million Facebook users in Malaysia, which means at least 40% of the country’s population is on social media.
If we assume a perfect scenario where the Government can reach all 13.3 million users, and one person will be able to inform at least two others about an important announcement from the Government, then it would be safe to say that the Government could potentially reach 80% of the population with one post.
How long does it take to put an announcement on the radio or TV? Print ads are expensive – to get even one out takes even longer and readership figures are questionable.
In a country which suffers from natural disasters like floods and intermittent service disruptions, social media is a viable platform to inform the public in a timely and cost-effective manner.
Drawing again from  my experience whilst with CIMB, when we made a post about service disruptions in certain branches or areas, customers were generally happy with the advance notice and could better plan their daily routines.
To sum up, it’s not a question of whether or not governments should get on social media. It is a question of when and how well they do it.
They need experienced consultants to tell it like it is, and really think through the strategy and execution so that the experience is seamless and pleasurable.
The last thing that should happen is a poorly communicated plan and spotty implementation as that would only result in a social media fail case study!
Jagdish Singh Malhi is an ex-banker turned marketing and communications specialist with a deep interest in brands using technology and data to meet business objectives, and has been on both sides of the client/ agency divide.

Previous Instalments:

Six tips for a successful social media campaign

Five tips on social media community management

10 components of a social media strategy (Part I)

10 components of a social media strategy (Part II)

Tips on hiring a social media agency/ consultant/ ninja/ guru

Clueless about social media for business? Follow this …

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