Social Media’s Lifeblood

Posted: January 16, 2013 in Module 1


I didn’t have to read very far into Olivier Blanchard’s book, Social Media ROI, to find inspiration for this inaugural post.  At page four, he lists what he refers to as three popular social media buzzwords: relationships, trust, and conversations.  He writes, “These three words describe the social web’s lifeblood, especially as it relates to business.”  As a public servant, I’m extending the lifeblood idea to also relate to government – and I’m zeroing in on trust.

According to the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer, across 25 countries trust in government (and business and NGOs) has significantly decreased.  In fact, in the 2012 Edelman survey, trust in government was lower than trust in business! As someone who lives this reality day to day this was no surprise, but it’s still disheartening.

So, what can we do to help build or restore trust? How can social media help?  As Blanchard writes, “The secret to how social media works won’t be found in marketing or business books. …In order to understand the true power of the social web, you have to look into the nature of humanity itself…”  (ibid., at p. 4).  What do we know about humanity and their relationship with governments?

We know that our stakeholder publics want to be listened to and respected.  They want to be assured by both our words and our actions that government is working in their best interests.  We also know that people now, like never before, want to have a say in how government carries out their mandate.  They want to participate, to collaborate.

Now, I just need to find the social media tools and platforms that allow me to build the best social program possible that can deliver on what my public wants.   I’m sure I’ll have all that figured out by next week.  I mean, how many tools and platforms can there be. What’s that?  How many more popped up in the time it took me to write this post?

  1. Hi J,

    Great post! I was also a civil servant for 10 years. This was pre-internet, or at least before most organizations had web sites. Agreed that trust is a huge issue for all institutions. Does organzations’ use of social media increase trust? I suppose it depends on how effectively it’s used. I’d like to see how the Ministry of Health might use SM tools to deal with the current ORNGE debacle. In order to inspire trust, one must be transparent. As you rightly point out, people want to be listened to and respected. Unfortunately, the lack of respect to taxpayers which Dr. Mazza has shown is going to take more than a PR campaign to resolve.


    • janettegw says:

      Hi Jeannine,

      Great to e-meet you. Always good to hear from someone who understands public service from the “inside”. I’ve spent most of my career “not” in the public service, and even after five years, there’s days I wonder if I’ll ever quite understand why we do what we do and the way we do it. Why generally we communicate so poorly? Why we’re not more open, honest and respectful? That said, I used to feel the same way about law when I practiced law – and the same way about teaching, when I taught university.

      On the subject of trust, did you see that Boyd posted the link to the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer? Government continues to fare badly. I believe that honest communication is the answer to building trust and good relationships – and good relationships is the way to be successful in all things. Social media gives us incredible opportunities to communicate, build trust, build relationships like never before.

      Again, thanks for your post. Glad for the dialogue.

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