Social Media Listening

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Dr. Abdus Sattar Abbassi

Social media isn’t just a good way to share memes and keep up with what’s trending. It can also be a very powerful way for government agencies to interact with the public. There are several benefits for governments if social media is used effectively and purposely.Managing crisis and sensitive issues pertaining to national security by engaging citizens to enhance public trust on government policies while setting the record straightwith factual and well researched information are key aspects of social media for any organization to test public pulse and save time & money to ensure reliable reach in the society.

People are usually glued to their screens for sensitive matters especially in the crises such as war against terror or spread of COVID-19; the wrong message could exacerbate things. The public is looking to government not just for direction, but for better understanding about actual facts and abilities to cope uncertainties. It’s especially important for the public sector to get the message out in a clear, calm and professional manner. This means no overuse of exclamation points or tweets in all-caps. Officials have to remain on the front and center to convey vital messages in a controlled and reassuring way with reliable facts addressing every aspect of the situation. In the current age of information it has been proved time and again that nothing remains concealed, reality finds its way sooner or the later, thus long-term credibility of institutions depends on honest and capable management of social media platforms irrespective of provocative trends.

Today an engaged audience is a happy audience. When you keep the public engaged, you’ll be able to keep them informed about the policy and issues that matter most to them. Ignoring aspirations and collective wisdom of the society can probably bring cosmetic and temporary change but can’t create sustainable trust on government agencies. People need something that is engaging and is of value for them.  Value can come in many forms. It might be information that makes it easier for people to interact with government departments, helps get them out of a sticky spot in life or addresses frustrations. It’s about finding what is valuable for people as opposed to just what we want to tell them.

People desire to seeauthenticity and transparency in their government.Theability to remain authentic and honest with your audience is crucial to building a good relationship with them. Social media provides a perfect avenue to remain transparent and clear with your constituents as possible.Jaun-Carlos Molleda, a university professor, believes “authenticity is sincere, innocent, original, genuine, and unaffected communication linked to moral authority. An individual who willingly disseminates a communication for which s/he would not want to assume personal responsibility is not behaving with integrity and authenticity.We’re in an era where people want authentic stories about actual events. Spokespersons and public relations professionals are the storytellers. It’s their job to find the authenticity at the core of claims, positions and narrations, and to tell those stories to the world in words that will truly be heard.Beingauthentic is being reliable, trustworthy, and original. Authenticity is the quality of being true in substance, and such quality is essential for public office holders and their spokespersons.”

Top-tier leadership of the country and the spokespersons must focus on the importance of fact-led and well researched communications to naturally evolve social media trends based on truths.Faith in news as well as individual spokesperson is needed if government departments, multinationals or local businessesdesire to effectively communicate with the public and engender the kind of responses and behaviors needed for societies to successfully navigate these unprecedented times.

Gail Thornton, a communications executive states “authentic communication is in demand within today’s world. Regardless of whether the conversation takes place with a government official, an employer, or a business manager, the expectation is that all voices should be heard and respected. At all levels of society, people are expecting greater levels of humanity, understanding, and honesty from their leaders, which entails leaders to be engaged, committed and genuine in their thoughts and actions.Stayingtrue to who you are, what you do, and who you serve. It is this human element that continually creates value, benefits your people and improves your reputation.”

To attain these objectives it is important to listen to the social media. Listening social media means tracking social media platforms for mentions and conversations related to government policies. Then analyze them for insights to discover opportunity areas to act instead of just monitoring to marginalize people with concerns and opinions.Listening social media involves two steps; in the first step government needs to collect information about mentions on social media platforms about policies, achievements and failures. Second step entails thorough analysis of information for ways to put what you learn into action. That can be something as small as responding to the satisfactory citizen with greetings or something as big as modifying the entire policy.

Social media monitoring is simply taking a look at metrics such asappreciation or criticism on success or failure of government policies or relevant hashtags and collecting data about those metrics as we observe in recently published Anti-State Trend Report 2019-21. Taking remedial measures in response to the data is called social media listening.Social media listening looks beyond the numbers of hashtagsto consider the mood behind the data.Social media listening helps to understand how people feel about policies and practices of sitting government. It’s not just counting the number of times a hashtag appeared on social media. This ‘online mood’of people is also called social media sentiment. Carefully watching the social media sentiment is a key part of social media listening.

Understanding how people feel about policies helps governments keep efforts on track. It also allows responding right away to positive or negative posts.The main thing to understand is that social media listening looks forward and backward. It is about analysing the information and using it to guide your strategy and day-to-day actions.Tony Tran, content marketing consultant, suggests “if you don’t use social media listening, you’re leaving a lot of valuable insights on the table.In fact, you might be missing out on a big piece of insight about your policies and outcomes that people are actively discussing. You need to know what people are saying about you.Your clienteles are telling you what they want from you. If you care about them, you need to take a look at the insights you might gain from social media listening instead of just monitoring.”