Government Communications “Updates Its Status” As More And More GCC Government Departments Sign Up To Social Media

Dubai: Although only 15% of the world’s governments are on Twitter, social media is gaining significance giving organisations and people a greater voice. GCC Government Social Media Summit convening in Dubai on September 17-19 sheds more light on how governments can use social media for effective internal and citizen communications.

The GCC Government Social Media Summit brings together case studies from US Department of State, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, New Zealand Ministry of Interior, UAE Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Interior, and other organisations from Bahrain, Oman and KSA. The summit acknowledges that government communication is a dialogue and not a monologue by providing many examples of ways to foster two-way communication between government and citizens.

Dan Slee who leads UK’s award winning local government social media initiative and a widely respected blogger is addressing the summit. He says “Social media is playing a more dominant role in various walks of life, and governments are acknowledging this evolution. Hence progressive governments are now planning to harness social media to facilitate more direct interaction with their citizens, in a manner that is both time-saving and cost-saving.”

For instance the UAE has championed the social development through innovative platforms like MyGov, which aspires to revolutionize the way people interact with their government. More inventive organizations will monitor where they are mentioned online, analyze what triggered both positive and negative comments, and pinpoint where to improve. It is no longer about attracting the most followers, but answering their questions and engaging them with an open mind without getting defensive. Sometimes this necessitates a less official’ voice and a more down-to-earth’ one.

He added that governments are leaning towards social media partly because it offers tremendous savings: “A Facebook page is free to set up. However, we’re not that good at working out how much time investment we’ll need and we’re also not great at reporting back the benefits accrued.” Shane Dillon from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office who addresses the important topic of “social media in crisis communications” at the summit said “Consumers are demanding engagement from government social media.

In the early days of social media you might have got away with simply broadcasting information using social media channels. Consumers increasingly want brands and government to interact with them especially on Twitter. So if a citizen posts a tweet asking for example where they can find information about a government service you should make every effort to reply. Chances are other people will see your reply, find it useful and re-broadcast your reply to others.” Shane Dillon added, “In the past consumers would perhaps phone or email organisations asking for information, they still do but increasingly they are doing this via social media channels.

The more interactive you are using social media the less demand you will have in terms of telephone enquiries. This is particularly true during time of crisis, consumers will demand accurate information and you should be using your social media channels to meet these demands.” Jared Gulian who will speak about “Social Media initiatives of the NZ Department of Internal Affairs” said “New Zealand Police recruitment staff administers a police recruitment fan page’ on Facebook. The page supports recruitment efforts and allows for direct engagement with individuals interested in police work. The New Zealand Police were awarded Social Media NZ’s ‘Best Use’ award for June 2011.