With Great Power Comes Great Shareablility
I found myself asking these questions, and more, whilst listening to all the usual non-insightful social media plaudits given by gurus at the OECD event ‘The Power of Social Media’ at #SMWParis.
‘Video is the future of the web,’ ‘social media guidelines are fundamental’, ‘people want to connect with people’, ‘embed social into strategy’.
Sigh. Preaching to the converted, I tweeted. Amen, replied @sordelheide .
As usual, the cynical side of me wanted to block out all the evangelising of several tools – yes we know Twitter is fantastic, life affirming and world changing. Jerome Tomasini, Head of News & Politics at Twitter France (@jerometomasini) gave a rousing speech espousing how Twitter has seemingly become the only way that any mammal with opposable thumbs should possibly be allowed to connect with each other; without which we would not find out about events literally minutes before the real news media did. The story of Twitter is utterly fantastical; we were shown a slick video of how suddenly the world is now full of citizen journalists leaping to action whenever a plane lands on a river, or how budding revolutionaries are rising up against the government all thanks to this wonderful 140 character American micro-blogging site.
But slowly my cynicism ebbed away when the sessions took a good look at the real power of it all. Yes it is really true that people want to connect with people and not institutions, but why and what do we get from that? Leaders like Obama are far more popular than their institutions on Twitter at 5:1. Twiplomacy is a thing. Which begs the question should we be doing more at ECDPM to have social media champions within the organisation?
Anthony Gooch @pitres director of public affairs and communications at OECD says, there are no easy answers.
But there has to be something that public, governmental and non-governmental organisations can offer on social media that drives engagement. In the private sector it is a simple funnel towards sales, but as an institution that was based purely on books and physical paper reports – an institution with no money – it has a lot of ideas. The best thing for OECD to do is share those ideas.
In 2008 he was afraid of what social media was becoming, and took a punt on the emerging tools. Now, 15% of all their internet traffic comes from Facebook. Their entire philosophy around the Better Life Index is that it is a completely online animal that encourages people to personalise and share. ‘We need to pose questions, not give answers’, he said. They have also shifted around 11 million e-books in the past few years.
Matched with the rise of social media, there is a declining trust in traditional media outlets and governments. OECD digital diplomacy expert Arthur Micholiet explained that social has filled the gap between the public and traditional outlets and power centres.
I guess this is why we are seeing Google promote social stories (from networks like Twitter and Facebook but also now rather aggressively from Google +) in searches. They tend to be viewed as more trustworthy if real people have recommended them. Twitter posts with photos in them drive 1.5x more engagement than those without, showing that people are looking for a raw exclusive window into lives, work and business that comes from a personal view point.
Indeed, contrary to my early sarcasm if you stop and think, it is amazing how Twitter broke the story of the Hudson River plane crash, famously coming from the mobile phone of a passer by, before the media took control of the information and created their own narrative.
The Game of Life
It has now become a game to see who would break the next big story first – in light of this even the BBC had to have an internal meeting to decide if they went with website or @BBCbreaking first (they have nearly 9 million followers now). Indeed the whole social media phenomenon has been driven by the slow gamification of life itself. One of the speakers Yael Swerdlow (@YaelSwerdlow), co-founded a photo sharing game – Snapcious. It harnesses the primal human desire to capture images coupled with the hit of serotonin whenever we get a ‘like’ or a reward for our efforts. ‘Photography is literally darkness illuminated by little bits of light’ and is ‘transcendental of age and gender and society’ she said. An example of how the digital world, content and our susceptibility to be drawn into competitions with our peers combine to make a powerful medium.
Run down lunch facilities at OECD
Real Life Connections
In the end what’s really great about these events, and the answer to the question of why do we attend, is meeting people – the real people behind the avatars. Federico Recalde, behind the @OECD_Centre twitter handle – he said ‘the biggest take-away from this was to meet ECDPM’ – as we had done some work with them recently and become new best friends on twitter.
My own biggest take away was to meet Laurent Pichot who works for the French Ministry and runs their English Twitter account, showing that politics can be funny too. It’s important to show some humour and personality to maximise your impact on social media. So I’ll leave you with these two spoof Tumblrs he runs – fully endorsed by the institution- (one in French, one in English) http://chroniquesdiplomatiques.tumblr.com/ http://gifplomacy.tumblr.com/
For another point of view, read this blog by vice-president of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) in France.