“What are the various ways that Social Media can be applied to Individuals, Government…”
Social Media’s impact on individuals is a seismic change from the past, Facebook notwithstanding. The whole notion of being your own personal brand manager, the structure that it implies, and it’s impact on creating a career path, is a giant leap forward. Gone are the day’s of having a C.V., on paper that is mailed out, or sent as an attachment in an email, to a specific company.
Let us deal with how Social Media will impact on government from the top down, not including governments use of wikis as a research tool. A quick search on the Internet for Government of Canada and “Freedom of Information” requests yields the following headline ”
Canada Ranks last in Freedom of Information”
“Consider two from the Information Commissioner, Suzanne Leqault quotes pulled from the piece. Only about 16 percent of the 35,000 requests filed last year resulted in the full disclosure of information, compared with 40 percent a decade ago, she noted.” http://eaves.ca/2011/01/10canads-ranks-last-in-freedom-of-information.
This piece of information speaks to an attitude in government that makes implementing Social Media, with its lack of constraint regarding two way communication, unlikely. Government is all about framing their narrative in the most flattering light in order to get re-elected. The other problem with government embracing Social Media is that it would involve spending money in order to implement it. Where does this fall in the overall scheme of things given that the current governments raison d’etre of slashing the deficit. Would future governments be prepared to spend money on this at the expense of other programs? The answer may lie in the following article
“Taxpayers spent $14.8 million last year promoting Canada’s Action Plan” http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/federal-ad-spending-exceed-projections/article16503725/ . This $14.8 million does not include the cost of “focus group” research, nor Polling activities, which I am sure does not run cheap. Could governments at all levels become more efficient at framing their narrative by using Social Media? I think so. By scaling back their use of advertising which a) was state of the art back in 1960 and b) is something that rarely breaks through peoples perceptual blindness anyways, and diverting the money to creating a Social Media Strategy and platform would be a far more effective use of taxpayers money. Yes it would involve interacting with the masses but it would provide an opportunity for incremental improvement, and would be a huge step forward in managing Scandals/Crisis’. It would also provide a real time understanding of how a government is perceived by it’s constituents
The major obstacle to overcome in this scenario would be fear. The need for control can be a major motivator for individuals, never mind structured groups such as political parties. Need for control is a byproduct of fear. This need for control is demonstrated by governments unwillingness to react to “Freedom of Information” requests, http://eaves.ca/2011/01/10canads-ranks-last-in-freedom-of-information
Fear also expresses itself in the Canadian psyche as caution
“Canadians tend to be quite cautious, we tend to be risk-adverse. It takes quite something to push Canadian companies over the line…” http://msn.com/en-ca/money/topstories/canada-business-impatient-for china-growth-as Harper-promotes-trade-ties/ar-AA6wLqK
A sea change in constituents attitudes will be required for Social Media to have any future in government. This is possible given the fact that Social media has permeated the lives and consciousness of young people and society as a whole.