Let’s be cautious about proclaiming social media as a force for democracy even in Western societies.
Should we ban politicians from social media and content marketing for the sake of transparency?
I’m a content marketing fan. But there are dangers when governments use content marketing to go direct to voters. It may be attractive for Ministers to craft content and use social media to release information, but essentially what they release is a formulaic, sanitized version of events.
The core of the content marketing movement is directly engaging people of interest to you. It is easy to see why that would appeal to bureaucracies. It gives them a chance to control the message and avoid the spotlight traditional media might shine on their story.
Social outlets are news sources for more and more Americans and Australians, and administrations frequently use them to go directly to the masses. It may appear democratic to release information through social media but it is easier than standing before a hungry media pack asking pesky questions.
Even if the pack reports what our leaders say, that information can be filtered and viciously edited for the evening news or tomorrow’s paper. Social media and its cousin, content creation, let leaders meet people directly through digital chats, hang-outs, meet-ups and tweet ups.
But remember these forums are imperfect platforms for ideas. A Government can choose not to answer questions or respond to comments and there is precious little time in such cyber sessions to question a President or Prime Minister. And online questions can be vague and without the context and history a seasoned correspondent can throw around an issue.
In Australia Tony Abbott uses Facebook and Twitter to broadcast policies more than to interact with Australians. Reading his Twitter account this past week you’d never know about the firestorm of protest over Tuesday night’s budget. Yet traditional media – for all their faults – extensively reported the story.
In the US the White House Correspondents Association have lodged concerns with the Obama Administration’s use of digital to bypass news outlets and go direct to the public. A recent edition of On The Media explored the issue in detail and it is worth a listen.
Let’s be cautious about proclaiming social media as a force for democracy even in Western societies. In some cases it may mean governments have a communications channel that let’s them control information while seeming to be open.