Opinion
May 7, 2012

The strength of social media

Yesterday I participated in a panel discussion examining the role of social media in policy innovation – and how think tanks can take advantage of it to increase their influence.

It has now become common thinking that governments can’t develop policy alone. They need to work with citizens, groups and other sectors. The view is that this not only improves the product, it creates inclusion and credibility.

While traditional ways of influencing government remain important, social media is both a driver and enabler for think tanks looking to contribute to the policymaking process.

As a driver, social media gives citizens – and others – access to increasing amounts of information. It makes it easier to create networks of interest that can share information and ideas. It raises expectations among those outside government regarding their right to participate in policymaking. And it forces government to be more open to their input.

As an enabler, social media provides the tools for collaboration and influence peddling. Social media can help an organization talk to stakeholders. It can help it listen to others. And it can provide ways to mobilize support.

Think tanks can increase their effectiveness with social media in two ways. First, they can methodically develop strategies for how to use social media to listen, talk and/or leverage support.

And they can turn their organizations into social media savvy ones, supporting the zealots who understand the power of social media, and providing training and frameworks for those who will, as in any organization, resist change.

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