Governments in democratic countries are struggling with how they should engage in social media. Governments in not so democratic countries are subverting social media to their cause; rather effectively in many cases if you read Evgeny Morozov‘s insightful commentary. And then citizens of democratic nations want, often rant, for government to be more open, to engage in a dialogue. Sounds simple right? Except it’s not.
The Citizen Snacker
Increasingly, people are “snacking” when it comes to Web-based content (social media et al.) People prefer 90 second or less video content, quickly share and comment on photo’s and since we’ve been researching social media use, we’ve seen the average blog post slip down to 200 words from 800 words. Been on Wikipedia? Ever found yourself wondering where you started and how you got to where you did? Right. Snacking.
Government Policy is Not Really Snackable
Editorial liberty to invent “snackable” as a word – but how do you effectively explain why a certain government policy is needed in 140 characters on Twitter? You can’t, but you can include a link to where the deeper content is. Some people will go there. Most won’t. But they’ll sure have an opinion on it.
We Love Our Echo Chambers
Increasingly in our various research projects, we are seeing how people tend to engage with others who have similar views and opinions. This means if you’re a golfer, for example, you will tend to focus on websites and social networks related to golfing. Those who are deeply religious will tend to stay within those online communities. This is just normal, real-world human behaviour translated to Cyburbia. We call it Echo Chambers. Our research has shown that at least 78% of people engaged in social media are in some form of Echo Chamber.
Perception Becomes Reality in 140 Characters
We’re in the 90-Second Economy or the Attention Economy. We snack on media, we scan news headlines, we quickly share a breaking story. But we rarely dive deep. We’ve done some research for clients showing that on a really horrific story (i.e. a school shooting or grisly murder) that people will dig deep at the height, chasing content. Within 72 hours of the conclusion of the event however…you get the picture. But this is the reality that people perceive.
Government & Perception: The Public Diplomacy Challenge
When a government implements new legislation or a policy of some sort, that invariably impacts society. Major issues such as debt management, tax increases or justice need deeper explanation. The challenge governments face is getting a point across in 90-seconds and providing the back-up somewhere for those who are interested. Can government choose not to engage? Certainly. But can they afford not to? New policies are a reflecting of the political party in power. At some point an election will be called. If people use social media well enough, they can change and shape perceptions as good as, if not better than, political parties. As happened with Keystone XL Pipeline – citizen use of social media was very effective, it created enough awareness that it caused political damage.
We’re Over 200 Words
Our readers will be pleased to know we’re working on a book…that is more than 200 words. Sorry we’ve exceeded your attention span of 200 words, but if you’ve read this far, we’re delighted!