How PH gov't can use social media more effectively

by Atul Tuli

Posted at Apr 26 2015 09:40 AM | Updated as of Apr 26 2015 06:06 PM

(Editor's note: Atul Tuli is the senior sales director for Oracle Cloud CRM of Oracle Corporation, Oracle Asia Pacific Division)

MANILA, Philippines - When people think of social media, the most popular internet-based applications and social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube immediately spring to mind.

These channels have changed the way people interact using instant messaging and sharing of multimedia content like photos and videos.

This is certainly evident in the Philippines, which is already considered as the “texting capital of the world”, where the use of social media in the country is extensive. Filipinos are using a range of social media platforms to post pictures, express themselves, search and connect with old friends and relatives, and communicate with loved ones. In fact, messaging apps like Viber, WeChat, Line, Skype, and Facebook Messenger that provide free voice over internet calling and texting are also being used heavily by Filipinos in communicating with families abroad.

Extending the impact of social networks

After the initial curiosity aroused by early social networks like Friendster and appreciation of the benefits of immediately connecting people with both longtime and long-lost friends, the increasing popularity and number of other networks like MySpace, Multiply, Facebook and LinkedIn resulted in the usability of social media being extended into business and e-commerce.

It’s only recently, however, that government agencies in the Philippines have begun to see the benefits of social networking. Politicians certainly took notice when social media played an important role in the conduct and eventual outcome of elections, as many candidates and their followers used Facebook and Twitter to great effect as an extension of their campaign tools.

Government adoption of social media

Law enforcement agencies have now tapped social media in helping criminal investigations, making it easier to gather evidence against suspected perpetrators, especially those carrying out cybercrimes.

Perhaps surprisingly, the Armed Forces of the Philippines has also been active on social media, since 2009, maintaining a presence on Facebook where it now has over 98,000 followers, as well as Twitter since 2010, gaining over 30,000 followers. The AFP posts updates on its programs as well as news of national concern on both of these channels.

Given that the country is also frequently hit by killer typhoons, crisis hashtags like #rescuePH and #reliefPH have likewise been used very effectively in times of disaster since 2012. These hashtags have speeded the dissemination of government advisories and updates, identifying areas where help is most needed, and pointing out how and where generous and more fortunate souls can best provide relief and financial assistance.

The President of the Philippines, Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III himself is also a big believer in the power of social media. Immediately after his election in 2010, the president instructed his staff to craft a communication program that effectively maximizes the advantages of social networks for better interaction and engagement with citizens. It should therefore come as no surprise that part of that program is directed towards ensuring that the Office of the President and the leader, affectionately also dubbed P-Noy, maintain a strong presence on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Still more potential

But while the Philippines, like other nations, can be lauded for developing a social media strategy that government agencies have adopted with varying degrees of success, ??the full potential and benefits of social media are yet to be maximized.

No less than Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez, Jr., the man credited with the widely successful “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” tagline, conceded that above and beyond the ability to spread information quickly, the real power of social media in enhancing personal conviction needs to be tapped.

This area of social relationship management (SRM) is a significant aspect of social networks that governments in particular tend to overlook. However, it remains vital to the social media strategy of any institution, government or otherwise.

Defined as the processes an organization uses to activate, monitor, and engage with the large number of loose ties it maintains across open social networks, SRM is integral to specific goals of government such as building mindshare, visibility, transparency, and trust, elements that equate to brand equity for government entities, and should be accompanied by increasing reach and more rapid communication, improving services to citizens, and communicating and engaging effectively with the youth.

To achieve these goals, government must treat itself as a brand, and identify social media as a low cost channel to reach citizens through social media solutions offered by companies like Oracle, in particular, now that Filipinos are considered the most social of nations.

Using the latest tools

??One big reason why social media efforts by government do not attain the same viral proportions as YouTube sensations or other content that generate countless re-tweets and Facebook likes is because government agencies fail to recognize that they have a different social relationship with consumers, or to be more specific, the general public they specifically serve.

Government therefore can still benefit from extending their social networking efforts to where they generate actionable engagement with constituents, and reap the dividends. This is where a specific SRM strategy for increased transparency and public participation is key to going beyond mere tweets and likes.