1 June 2012

Social Media and Public Participation in IA - Presentation 2

Social Media: Friend or Foe in Public Consultation Program?

What are the best tools we can use to inform people and then to get them engaged, that the key question?

Keep in mind:

  • Developing relationships and connections that lead to trust
  • Word of mouth is amplified by social media
  • "Authentic" messaging builds credibility

Online "lurkers"

  • 90% online communications are lurkers they passively participate by reading material themselves but don't post comments themselves
  • 9% occasionally post comments
  • 1% provide majority of feedback
Social media a friend?

  • Potential for enhanced connectedness with broader and larger range of community members than traditional tools
  • Increased potential to engage with stakeholders outside of the community
  • Opportunity to respond quickly to false information
  • Opportunity to provide factual information from other credible/independent sources

Interests groups know:

  • Social media is valuable in expanding and amplifying your effort with limited resources

Social media, an enemy?

  • Loss of control of messaging
  • Information can spread quickly
  • No accountability due to anonymity
  • Human resources required to monitor and manage throughout the project life

Some challenges:

  • Google makes everyone an expert - responding to endless stream of info available on the Internet, providing credible sources online
  • Space/size restrictions (e.g. 140 character for twitter) force concise messaging - are we losing th meaning
  • Be prepared to listen to your community


  • Develop a meaningful consultation plan with a range of tools including traditional consultation tools
  • Social media can be an effective consultation tools
  • Track and respond in a timely manner
  • Utilise a variety of social media
  • Monitor the chatter


Proponents like order, a line to talk and keep points to monologue out, social media increase the risk of information they don't want to get out getting out at a time they don't want it to.

Today the Internet talks back, and proponents don't realise how fast and hard they talk back, people aren't just interested in knowing what information you want to tell them but they want a debate.

If you are monitoring, do you have a reaction plan, how do you react to what emerges from monitoring?

  • Monitoring is about responding to the questions an disses that are being discussed, particularly useful where rumours and false information that create public fear to reassure communities
In areas like South Africa where you have highly rural and highly urbanised areas, you can have a wider group of people who are not affected who object and protest but the people who are affected are mostly happy about a development, how do you handle that?

  • This is an important issue, regulators and decisionmakers need to take that into account.