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Social Media for Gov NZ : connecting government and citizens through engagement

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One of the many COVID-19 related challenges that the government of New Zealand has to deal with is finding an avenue where trust and confidence remain despite the horrendous pandemic effects. The different sectors of the government explored ways and avenues to connect to the citizenry which reassured a sense of security and order during very uncertain times.

Online Business Academy Founder, Wanita Zoghby-Fourie, main facilitator of the Social Media for Gov Summit last June 16 to 18, said with social distancing or physical distancing being enforced to fight the spread of COVID-19, the government found other means to be more accessible and visible to the entire population.

People from various walks of life spend a considerable amount of time in social media platforms daily. However, as quarantine protocols were enforced, they tend to spend more time scrolling up and down scouring for updates and news concerning COVID -19 updates.

The advent of technology and high-speed information ushered the development of an alternative approach and saw how connecting with people has become a necessity. The main intention of the summit was to show the significance of an effective social media strategy in engaging the population.

Improved citizen engagement through social media platforms will resonate with the significance of personalized and socially connected experience for the entire population, Wanita Zoghby-Fourie said.

This smart use of social media invoke trust to the various crisis intervention and management plans being carried out by the government. However, there are also certain considerations by which the government organizations considered before exploring social media as their strategy for connecting with the public.

Auckland University of Technology Social Media Manager Amanda Jeffs, one of the panelists of the summit said, “In order for social media to thrive within government organizations, it is imperative to recruit the right people with the right attitude. The right people designated to manage this engagement scheme are expected to be culturally compatible with the team and must be adaptable to various responsibilities and situations.”

People tend to be drawn into somebody who speaks their words and walk their shoes. They have more affinity to relatable public figures. When a social media strategy appeals to the greater mass, it shows something most citizens can follow, interact and identify themselves with.

Horowhenua District Council Social Media Advisor Kylie Bensemman said government organizations should exert effort in humanizing their staff online. “Let the people see they are real; they are our people. In this way, the population can truly understand that the government is for them and their welfare.”

You can humanize staff on social media, through campaigns and ads which showcase relatable info graphics, videos and images, she said. A common message that resonated during the summit was that one of the effective ways of engaging the citizens across the country is through visual management.

New Zealand Digital Communications Manager Chris O’Brien said that supervising and dealing with the visuals of a government program or campaign can effectively identify gaps and finding the right individuals to carry out tasks. Social Media Team Leader EL1 Karina Wilson share this view of using videos to maximize citizen engagement.

With the avalanche of socio-economic concerns related to COVID-19 aftermath, bridging the gap between the government and the citizens through outreach and engagement has proven to be a viable tool.

Wanita Zoghby-Fourie said the summit has highlighted the significance of social media in augmenting the quality of service delivery and citizen satisfaction. This was possible because people somehow found a new reason why they should entrust their welfare to the government.

Social media has helped foster and strengthen the goal of the country which is to fight off the pandemic as one nation. Public trust awakened cooperation, compliance to protocols and adherence to health policies, inspiring people to be hopeful as the world slowly stands up from the shambles left by COVID-19.

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