It’s easy to scroll past social media posts, barely reading what the words say. Even while trying to be attentive, the massive amounts of existing information make it hard for people to tell which information is worth paying attention to. This influx of information makes it more important than ever for the government to be creating engaging content. There needs to be something separating the information the government is providing from the sea of social media content, so that the public is motivated to get their news directly from the source.
There are many ways to create engaging content. For example, statistics show that people are 18% more likely to click on tweets with images than without images. Another way to create engaging content is to simply add a hashtag, so that social media users can track what others are saying about the topic, as well as participate in the dialogue.
Here, we see President Barack Obama tweeting.
To create more long term effects, however, the government should be creating more social media movements that people can participate in over time. These movements are meant to be means of achieving government initiatives, as they provide people an easy way to be a part of whatever the government is talking about, rather than simply discussing the information. Below are three examples of successful social media movements.
This campaign was created to encourage more people to visit the national parks in the United States. The website allows users to search the national parks they can visit, links to get involved through volunteering or donating, a store, and a #FindYourPark link where the posts of the hashtag are all proudly displayed for the site users to see. The website itself is extremely engaging, and has links to many videos encouraging people to be a part of the initiative. Here is an example of one of those videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ykvO8UN3g0
The Reach Higher initiative was created to encourage students to pursue higher education degrees. To be a part of this movement, students share a photo wearing their new school shirt or colors using the hashtag #ReachHigher, as the promotional video of First Lady Michelle Obama explains. The twitter for the page can be found here, and it features #ReachHigher hashtags as well as the hashtag #CollegeSigningDay. Both are meant to celebrate students’ pursuit of higher education. There are videos available to watch as well, such as this one. Finally, to expand this initiative, the Reach Higher career app challenge was created. This was a part of the initiative to support career and technical educations, recognizing that the typical college experience is not right for everyone. The app challenge provided $225K to the winner who designed the best app.
This is a website that allows citizens to solve the problems that the government is working on. Participants create a challenge.gov account, and from there, can participate in whichever challenges they want. There is also a way for agencies to list what challenges they are having to then be posted on the website, allowing the users to work on the issue. People compete for the best solution, which awards them a monetary prize. This connects people who normally wouldn’t be connected to create results.
Now, it’s important for these domestic social media successes to lay the framework for international examples of similar things. The public diplomacy field should be creating similarly engaging social media movements that will create long term, trackable results, and that people will enjoy being a part of. Below are three examples of potential international social media movements.
One of the objectives of the state department is to provide humanitarian responses to reduce the costs of displacement, natural disasters, and conflict. To involve everyday citizens in such initiatives, a website could be created in which people have easy access to different organizations supporting different causes around the world. In a format similar to the UNICEF website, people would be able to learn about different causes around the world and choose which causes and organizations they want to donate to. This could include any event the state department recognizes as needing humanitarian response, such as raising money for materials for refugee camps and sending aid to areas struck by natural disaster. After donating, the website could encourage people to share their involvement online through the use of the hashtag #GiveLove. The idea would encourage people to feed into positive interactions as an opposition to the negative nature of today’s news.
To increase positive outlooks on cultures around the world, a website could be created in which people submit their favorite recipes. The website would include countries all over the world, and would be available in different languages. There can be a section for community discussion if people have questions about the recipe, tips about how to make the dish, or thoughts on how it was after making it. As a subsection of this, social media accounts such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter would be created. Here, users would find images from people trying out the different recipes. Pictures would be found by the people in charge of those accounts by looking through the OurKitchen hashtag. This brings light to new cultural experiences while connecting people to one another.
Above is a picture of a meal from the Philippines.
- Alternative Energy Contest
In an effort to achieve the United Nations’ goal of creating a world with more clean and sustainable energy, a worldwide contest could be created to see who can come up with the best idea and design for an alternative energy source to be put into place in different cities around the world. Not only does this work to better the health of the planet, but it fosters the connection of the scientific community, as well as supporting up and coming entrepreneurs in their ideas. These ideas could all be submitted to a website, where there will be different rounds of the competition, until a winner is chosen.
Social media campaigns like these real and hypothetical ones provide global connections, solutions to problems, and potential positive attitude changes that encourage people to be hopeful about the future of the world, while taking part in the shaping of it.