ARTICLE | 14 AUGUST, 2014 | BY TYLER JOHANNES
The Social Media Case
More and more UAE citizens and residents use social media for their daily dose of information, news feeds, interpersonal communication and more. As this trend increases, government entities should recognize the need to improve their social media presence and adopt social media and digital strategies to engage the public. There is much expectation and evidence from around the globe that public sector social media use will have an impact on citizen and resident participation in public policy formulation, service and product design, and the way the public sector conducts business. Social media has become a great tool for the public sector to use in soliciting feedback and ideas from citizens and residents and to gauge national sentiments, attitudes, and trends.
This new trend of engaging the public and providing citizens and residents with transparency and continuous information and awareness has been dubbed “Open Government”.
The 21st century has been marked with increased demands for more citizen participation in government policies, transparency, and engagement from governments. As governments recognize the importance of “keeping the people happy”, many governments around the world including the UAE have engaged in open government initiatives to increase transparency, collaboration, and participation.
The UAE Government and Social Media
The concept of social media use within the public sector is still a fairly vague and new concept in the Arab World. While many entities in Abu Dhabi and the UAE have embraced this change and adopted social media in their PR and Communications strategy, they are still behind their international and western counterparts. Since the launch of the Emirates e-Government initiative a few years ago, many local Abu Dhabi government entities have followed suite in developing and expanding their e-services and online presence. The commitment to the development of a customer centric and effective e-government is evident at the GCC and Arab e-Government Awards. The UAE government entities have brought home the highest number of e-government awards from the GCC Awards and are one of the highest ranked countries in the Arab World for e-government.
The UAE has dramatically increased its online and social media presence at a federal level. The UAE Government has official pages on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media channels where citizens and residents can stay updated on local news and can participate in conversations and provide feedback on government services and programs. In addition to its social media presence, the UAE Government has also improved transparency and openness in sharing data and statistics with all citizens and residents through many websites and services including www.government.ae www.abudhabi.ae www.scad.ae www.uaeinteract.com
Social Media Dashboards and Monitoring Tools
Whether government entities choose to monitor the effectiveness of social media and digital strategies and campaigns, there are many free tools that can be used to monitor and measure the effectiveness of social media campaigns. Among these include the following:
Social Mention is a free tool to search and analyze user generated content from social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Google, or Digg. Users can search by hashtags, social media account names, or general keywords. The tool lists all the recent mentions of the search item, as well as sentiments (positive, negative, neutral), the top related keywords used in social media updates, and the most frequent users for search items
Tweet Reach is another free tool which can analyze the activities of government Twitter accounts. It displays how many Twitter accounts have been reached by the agency, how much exposure is generated by calculating the number of retweets, the most retweeted content, and other factors.
Topsy is a tool that PR and Marketing Managers can use to compare and analyze issues that people are talking about on Twitter. Managers need to just search and compare the various hashtags that they want to measure and the result will include a comparison with statistics and exposure generated from each topic (hashtag).
As with any other public sector investment, it is important for entities to measure the return on investment (ROI) of social media and digital strategies and campaigns. PR and Marketing Managers can use a variety of tools and/or outsourced services to manage digital content, analyze and measure results, and improve efforts continuously.
How can Governments Use Social Media
Local public sector authorities and entities need to follow the lead of the UAE federal government and develop their own unique digital strategies to engage and collaborate more with their customers. Social Media has is becoming an essential tool for communication and collaboration, and soon may become as much a part of government business as email.
The below graphs gathered by the Abu Dhabi Statistics Center depict the statistics of facebook and twitter usage by UAE residents per Emirate:
Social Media can provide public sector entities with a platform to conduct many value added activities for stakeholder engagement and collaboration including: