Private-sector and nonprofit leaders noted the importance of driving consumer action through social media during a panel discussion hosted by FleishmanHillard on Monday at the 2013 Global Diaspora Forum in Washington DC.
The panel featured speakers from Google, Facebook, Latinos in Social Media, and the United Nations Foundation.
A key topic of discussion was using digital tools to build advocacy efforts for an issue that affects people who fall in demographics described as a diaspora. To be effective, outreach from these channels can't only focus on gathering input; organizations must also prescribe an action such as signing a petition or something that will have a measurable outcome.
“That's when you empower the community; it's not just by giving them a platform,” said Elianne Ramos, vice chair of communications and PR at Latinos in Social Media.
A diaspora refers to a group of people who live outside their shared country of origin or ancestry but maintain active connections with that country. It can include emigrants and their descendents.
Another point of discussion was the rise in use of social media by world leaders. Aaron Sherinian, VP for communications and PR at the UN Foundation, has seen initiatives such as Facebook town halls have a significant impact on the actions of foreign leaders as they get feedback on their ideas instantly.
These leaders' reputations in their communities also improve when they use social media tools.
“When world leaders post on each other's Facebook pages, in some ways it humanizes them by making them more accessible,” explained Sarah Wynn-Williams, public policy manager at Facebook.
Even with these benefits, disapora groups should be mindful that digital tools are not the be all and end all of outreach to government leaders when trying to promote a policy change.
“The internet has blinded people to the fact that the old stuff works,” said Robert Boorstin, public policy director at Google.
Methods like lobbying, print advertising, and radio outreach are still the best ways to move the needle in many markets around the world, he added.