It is a cliché these days that communication has never been faster moving. The growth of social media means information, news and, of course, propaganda can be shared globally at the push of a button. But what does this really mean for public sector agencies and for the many users of social media?
The terrible murders of two American journalists and a British aid worker by Islamic State highlighted how social media can be used by terrorist groups. The first IS video was circulating through social media before it even featured on the news.
The Government and other agencies were slow to respond to the narrative that was being played out. It was almost 24 hours before something was officially said and it was left to members of the public to condemn the actions and offer a counter to the terrorists’ narrative.
In this modern world, organisations have to be swift to respond and challenge negative or misleading comments on social networks.
Terrorist groups and individuals don’t have to go through layers of approvals to get messages out, and institutions at home have to be able to be as fleet of foot to get counter arguments out.
People were quick to speak of their abhorrence over the murders and wanted to share this through their social networks. But many were not aware that in their use of social media they were circulating the terrible footage and with that the IS message. With the power of social networking comes great responsibility.
When we publish messages through Twitter or Facebook it makes us the publisher and with that we have to be aware of our responsibilities. It means people need a really good understanding about how things work and of our legal and moral obligations.
The challenge for institutions is how can they retain control of messages when they need staff to be able to respond immediately? How can they be confident that the staff members using social media are empowered to act without unnecessary approvals?
If public sector organisations don’t find a way to respond 24/7, start to integrate social media into their service offer and trust their staff to act alone, then they will always be reactive to events. Agencies now have to take a long hard look at how they ‘do’ social media and question if it is cumbersome and limiting.
If we want to get our story out there then we need to start to trust others to respond.
Amanda Coleman is corporate comms director at Greater Manchester Police