As I was listening, I was struck by the idea that social media presents an interesting paradox, which I noted down like this:
[Through the lens of government] Where social media once had a specialised scope of application, today it is flexible. This imbues social media with a complexity that we shouldn’t shy away from.
Social media seems to be one thing and then another and then everything in between almost simultaneously.
- Social media can be used for one-way communications but also multi-directional communications
- It is suitable for young people but also for old
- It delivers a quick-win but can also be used over the long haul
- It has niche and mass appeal
- It can be used to put data out there and walk away, and can also support ongoing deliberation
- Social media is the channel for some of the best communications and some of the worst
- It can cost nothing and also break the bank
- Social media is prescriptive and at the same time offers choice
- It requires technical expertise and can be used by even young children
- It can be pointless activity but also the best investment of time and money
The ‘paradox of social media’ is only a problem so long as we approach social media as a end rather than a means – as a purpose instead of a tool.
This has an implication for the way in which we should prepare and train civil servants to use social media.
My view is that to be good with social media is more about having a good grasp of strategic communications than an expertise with blogs, mash-ups or tweets.