With the use of social media reform actors can communicate authentically and transparently as well as receive direct, but not necessarily representative, feedback. Social media includes all the interactive and direct communication channels on the Internet (Web 2.0). Social media play a key role in reform communication externally, affected persons and interested parties. They allow direct communication in real time and thereby save on going through intermediaries. They also open a direct communication channel for the reform environment so that external feedback can return unfiltered (which however also harbors a risk potential). Care must be taken to ensure that, with social media, a largely Internet savvy and mostly younger public is reached, which can have its strengths and weaknesses depending on the concern of the reform. Besides direct communication, social media can also serve as a source of information for traditional reporting.
1. Clarify the need
Firstly, it must be decided whether the reform issue is relevant for publishing (on the Internet) and whether the use of social media can assist in the reform process. This can be the case in particular if a large or Internet savvy (younger) public is addressed or active, but less organized, interests are affected.
2. Clarify resources and responsibilities
A successful social media strategy needs financial and, above all, personnel resources. For this reason, the relevant resources and competencies must be provided and developed. It must also be clear who is responsible for communication and which authorities the responsible persons have in order to ensure quick communication.
3. Identify suitable communication channels
Two points must be observed here: Where do I reach my target group? And which legal data protection framework must be observed?
Re: 1) The most well-known social media platforms today must surely be Facebook and Twitter. But YouTube, Xing or, for example, regional Wikis can also be suitable for a social media campaign. On the one hand, the intended reach and desired format (video, short news bulletins, longer text contributions, etc) must be taken into account and, on the other hand, the target public must be addressed. Of course, several channels can also be used in parallel.
Re: 2) For each channel, specific legal data protection and copyright concerns must be taken into account (Which user data are collected? Which data must the user provide? Where are the data stored? Who can access the data?). These concerns could exclude one or other channel from the considerations.
4. Initiate communication and maintain it
Critical factors for achieving success in social media communication are authenticity, which is indicated by appropriate language and communication on an equal footing, content (quality, above all facts) and frequency (how frequently do I communicate) as well as speed (how quickly can I respond to feedback?).
5. Influence discourse (if applicable)
Probably the most difficult part is to cast an issue in a positive light or obtain sovereignty of interpretation. Of particular importance here are transparency and honesty but also appropriate language as well as the development and maintenance of a network of supporters.
- Phase 2 – Agenda Setting:
- Communication: Address an issue and select it; obtain reactions; explain or create a need
- Phase 3 – Formulating and decision-making:
- Communication: Address issues; take reactions into account; create transparency
- Phase 4 – Implementation:
- Communication: Show progress; identify successes; address problems openly; take reactions and experiences into account
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Michelis, Daniel, & Thomas Schildhauer (Eds.). Social Media Handbuch – Theorien, Methoden, Modelle und Praxis (2nd edition). Baden-Baden. 2012.
Zerfaß, Ansgar, Martin Welker & Jan Schmidt (Eds.). Kommunikation, Partizipation und Wirkungen im Social Web. Band 2: Strategien und Anwendungen: Perspektiven für Wirtschaft, Politik und Publizistik. Köln. 2008.