Towards a UN social media strategy


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  • 10/07/12 So I wrote this to present to UN colleagues while I was interning at the UN this summer. Never made it beyond my boss, sadly. But I’ll post it here in case someone has a use for it. It’s the powerpoint version of the longer written doc you can also find on slideshare. Obviously all views are mine etc. The story I would have told is as follows. I was introduced to social media back in 2005, when facebook launched in UK – back in the very cute days when it was purely a tool for linking people, and poking each other. I was 21 – just about a digital native. I used social media first for work in 2006, when I helped a team of producers at the BBC World Service to use Facebook to reach people we wanted to interview: there was a story about a college student – how do you reach college students in 2006? Facebook. Since then I’ve always been interested in the impact of digital social networks for professional purposes – whether internal or external communication. And obviously now social media is huge – over 2bn online, perhaps 60-70% on social networks. Big business, all major brands are there. I haven’t included any stuff here on “why social media matters” - I assume you already understand that if we’re going to reach people in the 21 st century, the UN needs to be in the digital social space too. I came to the UN from my MA Global Governance programme in Canada, but previously worked for the UK governments public information body – and specialised in communication strategy, planning and digital engagement. So I have some experience in this stuff. And I’m presenting this as an outsider’s look at the UN practices. This doesn’t represent anyone else’s view. Yet. Think of it as free consulting. Why now? Well partly cos we need to start getting digital in order, but also because the Dept of Public Information has a new boss (Under Secretary-General) – so seize the day. He is ready to make his mark – he gets social media, let him lead this. The New Deputy Sec-Gen also spoke recently about busting-silos and preventing turf wars – let’s seize on those words to build a better, more consistent social media presence, to improve the state of the digital UN. Let’s start thinking from the global public’s perspective, rather than pushing our own structure on them. Internally, smart social media use is about open collaborative working across silos, breaking down hierarchies and developing a more meritocratic workspace – good modern organizational practice. And I have the McKinsey reports to prove it (search online for ‘Social Economy McKinsey’).
  • 10/07/12 In total I spent 5 months at the UN, observing how the Dept of Public Information works, in each of the divisions, and getting a general gist of how the entire Secretariat works, from other interns, from meetings, and from informal conversations with staff across the 16 th floor of 380 Madison Avenue. And when, early on, I was asked to take a look at the Facebook page – and develop a strategy for it, I realised that it couldn’t be done without reference to broader social media goals. What would success look like? What were we trying to achieve? Who were we aiming to talk to? But none of this information existed – even in regard to traditional media channels. The Department has yearly priorities, but there’s no overall communications strategy. Thus I ended up writing a half-strategy, half-Things-to-consider document. I hope that this provides a platform for senior managers to go ahead and construct, with the Under Secretary-General’s leadership, a comprehensive strategy in this area.
  • 10/07/12 Start with understanding the people who are online and using social networks; the people we want to reach, to engage with. I’ve called them the audience in the written document, but this is shorthand for people we want to engage with. Social media is about conversations, not about broadcasting information one-way. People don’t passively receive information in social media. So who are we aiming at? I assume that DPI vaguely aims to reach everyone on earth. Everyone is served by the UN. But if you try to communicate with everyone – if your target is everyone – you’ll reach no-one. We have to segment our audience. And to do that, we need data. All of this exists in pieces, or crumbs, but not for the whole world – mainly for US / Western Europe. I include a few examples here, and several more in the full document.
  • 10/07/12 So start with the real basics - where is everyone? Which social media platforms are they using? Where and when? How do they use digital spaces? Facebook is clearly the most popular platform in the world. Followed by Sina Weibo (Chinese microblog) and Twitter (everyone else’s microblog). But these aren’t universal. Couple of examples here from ComScore data. Japan is another (120m people – Twitter yes, but Facebook not as popular as Mixi) Another good example is VKontacke (or VK) in Russia: the company claims to have 100m Russian users. But the only UN presence is a UNRadio page with 300 friends, despite Russian being one of the official UN languages (though not a working language). There is a UN Information Centre in Moscow that is undoubtedly aware of this problem – but I imagine they don’t get a say in their orders from New York. But that kind of local knowledge will be key to building social media strategy. Next, languages…
  • 10/07/12 If you’re trying to communicate with the world through digital messages, then in which languages are people literate? How many can read English or French (the working languages of the UN) and how many can read Arabic, Chinese, Spanish or Russian (the other ‘official’ languages of the UN, in which a good deal of official material is published). I had, and the UN Library had, huge difficulties finding robust language data – it differs a lot depending on who you ask. This kind of worldwide language data is exactly what some part of the UN somewhere should be providing. UNESCO comes close, but the data that could drive the intelligent allocation of resources on different languages doesn’t yet exist. All you can do is mash together datasets that exist, with guesstimates of literacy etc – and I tried to create something a bit like this in a Google Spreadsheet that could be built through crowdsourcing (link in the full document) – but the chart above is something someone in Canada built. Note the fourth most literate language population, then Portuguese, Japanese and Bengali. It is this attention to actual potential audiences that should guide our strategy. Another stat from the CIA World Factbook – the UN’s 6 languages are the ‘mother tongue or second language of about half of the world’s population’. A half. That’s not great news.
  • 10/07/12 Moving on, there’s then data on the UN more specifically – where do people go to get information on the UN? What do they think of the UN and its work? Again, it’s surprisingly tricky. There’s actually little evidence on this stuff – Pew Global Attitudes Poll asks this question – but incredibly basic stuff. And only a handful of countries. And why segment by country? Why not look at age group / political view / gender against views of UN? Much more simply, it’s easy to work out what people talk about when they talk about the UN on social media – but the UN just doesn’t apply/have the resources to monitor this properly. Check out the social media ‘command centers’ at Gatorade, Dell, Red Cross, etc in the next slides. No such luck here. (Although UN Global Pulse is doing super-interesting trial projects at
  • 10/07/12 Gatorade video (on the right) in 2010. This is Dell from 2011. Dell apparently has several monitoring centres around the world that ‘follow the sun’. And listen to what Dell guy at the end of the video says about Dell staff. Images are copyright Jeremiah Owyang.
  • 10/07/12 And another one at the American Red Cross (which was paid for by Dell) – they’ve been praised for excellent work reaching out to be people about to experience hurricanes etc. See also Salesforce, Red Cross, Kansas City (run by volunteers!)
  • 10/07/12 There’s lots more in the document. But the biggest point I’m trying to make here is that good strategies are built on good data. And we don’t have either yet. Ideally some resource has to be found for this stuff – or the UN could partner with commercial media agencies who will be starting to collect this information (though they’ll be less interested in poorer markets). This information wouldn’t only be useful to social media geeks. Everybody working on communication across the UN system needs these kinds of numbers. Is there are a way to pool information in a shared space? You could start collecting available information on the internet, but ultimately there’s definitely a need for UN commissioned research (perhaps shared with media companies) – so can the costs be shared across the UN system?
  • 10/07/12 What can we do anyway, without decent robust data? Collectively we know something about platforms, their use, languages, etc. Now the fun bit. Decide what you want to do – why do we do what we do? What are we trying to change? Do we want to educate, to inform, to inspire, to engage, to debate? I looked to build a social media strategy upon a preexisting comms strategy, since social media should fit the broader goals of the dept. But there were no clear goals in the range of documents I found – you can read more about this in the full document.
  • 10/07/12 The only robust strategic objectives I found (i.e. those with measurable outcomes and a deadline) were in the former Under Secretary-General’s personal objectives – the Senior Manager’s Compact. The new USG may have to commit to something similar, which would represent a good opportunity for setting out some more robust goals. Setting new objectives will involve a long process of discussion across the dept and the UN system. Senior mgmt must take a lead, but they should involve everyone – the end goal is to establish specific, measureable, achievable, relevant and time-bound goals. These would sit under a vision and mission statement. It might be useful to give some examples of what these might look like…
  • 10/07/12 To start with a vision of where corporate organizations should aim to be in social media, I’ve stolen this work from Alterian’s social media strategist, Jeremiah Owyang. The UN is currently operating in an Organic structure, and I would argue wants to be in a Holistic Structure. The large number of UN accounts and the lack of cohesion between them reflects an ‘ organic’ style. This reflects the fact that social media use has developed with no real strategic vision, with several departments pursuing their own ill-defined goals and vision, passing on information as and when they individually see fit. A ‘ holistic’ model reflects a staff who are active in social media and are aligned in the same direction with similar but personal voices, engaging in a consistent, but unforced, fashion.
  • 10/07/12 Owyang suggests that there are two other models, which are fairly self-explanatory. I think there’s a risk that the UN, as a bureaucratic organisation – would naturally try to adopt a top-down, marshall-style ‘ centralised’ approach (Diagram 3). And that has benefits for the brand – for tight messaging – but it’s massively inauthentic, and I don’t think this can fly anywhere except perhaps military, intelligence – people who require absolute control. This is would be a response unfit for the 21st century, which would deter staff from engaging and would require the sort of rigorous control that the UN probably does not have capacity for. If there is to be a step between organic and holistic , that step should be the ‘ multiple hub and spokes’ model (Diagram 4). But a holistic model would still be the most positive, empowering, authentic. So…
  • 10/07/12 The UN could adopt this vision: UN staff will engage a global public through social media in a coherent way The only way of solving the a lot of the problems the UN faces in communications - problems of language, problems of the sheer quantity of content, problems of getting the audience to understand the complexity of the UN and what it is / does / can’t do, problems of answering the number of queries, as well as moving towards a UN more transparent, more open to solutions to problems coming from outside – is to have UN staff of all levels and issue areas active on social media. Which is, of course, ultimately the point of social media. It’s not meant to be controlled by comms officers. Until the UN makes this its vision for social media, it will struggle. As well as better external communication, there are are also huge internal communication and knowledge management wins from this idea. So the Mission for the social media team shifts to support that Vision – through staff training and support. Corporate accounts - the UN ‘brand’ accounts at HQ and in the field offices - will showcase the best of the staff’s work and act as a signpost to ensure the public can engage with the relevant staff. From that vision and mission, clear goals need to be developed.
  • 10/07/12 These are a few suggestions. Ultimately, real objectives would have to gain wide buy-in, be owned by the dept and led by management properly accountable to these goals. Much more detailed breakdown in the full document – but from this you can see how a strong vision can flow into objectives, outputs and outcomes.
  • 10/07/12 Again – secondary objective – more in the document. But this is the sort of footing that social media needs to be on. Setting clear targets is vital. Each italicised bracketed thing above is a target that would have to be met. If the strategy is to loosen control and encourage staff to engage in digital space, there needs to be clarity from leadership as to what we’re trying to achieve. And how success will be measured. The best leadership sets out a crystal clear goal, and then let’s staff get on with meeting it. So – goes back to the point about data - we’ll need quality benchmark data, then you need to keep measuring as you try to realise the strategy, and then when the data tells you new stuff, you reiterate and flex the strategy. If you’re not meeting the targets – why not? What’s gone wrong? Something you didn’t anticipate? Etc. If you can’t measure it – find a proxy – if you can’t find a proxy, you can’t make a target of it.
  • 10/07/12 So those were suggested objectives. Whatever the UN finally chooses to use – we need a plan to meet them. Research – Strategy – Plan (and constant evaluation) In the case of the objectives I’ve suggested – there’re two parts: staff training plans, and corporate account plans.
  • 10/07/12 Begin with the staff – what do we know about them? Just a few highlights from what we found when we surveyed only the staff of DPI. Interesting one to start – age – UN average lot older than a private company – given that a lot of the 20-29 are interns. The vast majority of Dept of Public Info respondents use at least one social media platform Of the 12 (8%) who don’t use them, only six (4%) had never used them – half because they were not interested and half because they had privacy concerns. Of those same 12, three said they were not interested in social media training, four said they did not have time, three said they would maybe undertake training and three said they would be interested in receiving training as part of a group.
  • 10/07/12 And the next question asked if the language above was their native tongue, however, only 40% answered in the affirmative. So people are choosing to engage mainly in their second language. Lots of good stuff in the document, but last one I want to mention is that there is a very strong demand for training in this area. Particularly as part of a group. In the free-form comments section of the survey, many people wrote of their need for more training across the board on digital communication.
  • 10/07/12 From this data we can build a plan for empowering staff to be active in social media. Essentially what you’re doing is creating a behavioural plan, with the targets set clearly by the strategy. You look at all the social and individual elements that drive behaviour and try to plan so that everything points to greater staff engagement in the digital space.
  • 10/07/12 Secondly, as well as a plan for staff engagement, there should be a plan for the corporate / brand accounts. These must too contribute to the overall strategic goals for social media. There needs to be an audit of all UN official accounts – a big, but entirely necessary task, their contribution towards goals should be measured, while looking out for merging and consolidation opportunities for those that don’t add anything new to the overall strategy. Any existing turf wars over digital presence needs to end immediately. Think purely from the perspective of the end-user: people who are trying to learn about / engage with the UN. Then establish strict branding guidelines to make it easy to identify official UN digital presence across the internet. Whatever platform. Make it clear that the user is looking at something run by the UN Secretariat. This doesn’t mean that the messaging cannot be different between depts etc. It can be. Departments can disagree on approaches. It’s a complex organisation. People can deal with that. But at least try to show that the UN works collaboratively…it might become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • 10/07/12 After much work, we should be able to fill in something like this – whereby each platform is justified by its contribution to our broader strategic goals. It should be clear in our minds what each platform brings – a different audience perhaps – and then we plan what content, responsibilities etc. We could have a mini-goal for each platform – and a responsible person for each platform.
  • 10/07/12 In the short term the responsibilities could look like this – you’ve got all staff (once they’ve taken a short training session – could be done online) with the opportunity to suggest content. And at the same time they’re going ahead and writing their own content on their personal profiles. A small Dept of Public Information team picks out the best into a platform management tool (such as Hootsuite) – and then one person (per platform) takes responsibility for approving and publishing them. These permissions could rotate around timezones.
  • 10/07/12 Wanted to make this impactful – so suggest very basic project plan for DPI if this was to be taken on as a priority.
  • 10/07/12 So, assuming this sounds like a good idea, here’s what you do to make this happen. Survey all staff (as has occurred within Dept of Public Info) – should be fairly easy Build up data – help fill in this document: I nitiate a UN-system wide social media audit to do two things: (a) find out how many UN-branded accounts exist, what their aims are, and who is engaging with them; (b) find out where the audience we want to reach are, where people discuss the UN and what their views are; Platform negotiation – this is about Facebook named accounts; but also about management and analysis tools – getting special deals for the UN system as a whole
  • 10/07/12 Moving forward…
  • 10/07/12 CoI is the Committee on Information – the body of 100+ member states whose representatives meet to discuss the work of the Dept of Public Information. And who are partly collectively responsible for the lack of strategic mission at the Dept.
  • 10/07/12 Finally, one year in – DPI reviews the whole process. Iterating and changing if necessary. Which it probably will be. Take some risks, work out what works and what doesn’t.
  • 10/07/12 Any questions?
  • Towards a UN social media strategy

    1. 1. ‘Our people areour voice’Towards a social mediastrategy for the UnitedNationsSummer 2012A well-meaning suggestion from Joe Mitchell, whileinterning at the Dept for Public Information
    2. 2. Overview Research. Strategy. Plan. Next steps.Joe Mitchell Not (yet) the views of anyone who works at the UN September 2012
    3. 3. ResearchJoe Mitchell Not (yet) the views of anyone who works at the UN September 2012
    4. 4. Research: Where is everyone?Joe Mitchell Not (yet) the views of anyone who works at the UN September 2012
    5. 5. Research: What languages can they read? Language Literate population % of the worlds literate population Chinese (Mandarin) 794,947,565 14.68% English 572,977,034 10.58% Spanish 295,968,824 5.47% Hindi/Urdu 230,560,488 4.26% Arabic 229,444,922 4.24% French 220,326,329 4.07% Russian 194,503,049 3.59% Portuguese 191,739,619 3.54% Japanese 126,159,159 2.33% Bengali 107,897,009 1.99% German 93,969,555 1.74% Mitchell September 2012
    6. 6. Research: What do they think of the UN? Mitchell Not (yet) the views of anyone who works at the UN September 2012
    7. 7. Research: What do they think of the UN? Images © Jeremiah OwyangJoe Mitchell Not (yet) the views of anyone who works at the UN September 2012
    8. 8. Research: What do they think of the UN?Joe Mitchell Not (yet) the views of anyone who works at the UN September 2012
    9. 9. Research: Towards a better evidence base • Good strategies come from good data • Data like this would be valued across the UN system • Partner with other system bodies or commercial media companies?Joe Mitchell Not (yet) the views of anyone who works at the UN September 2012
    10. 10. StrategyJoe Mitchell Not (yet) the views of anyone who works at the UN September 2012
    11. 11. Strategy: What already exists?Joe Mitchell Not (yet) the views of anyone who works at the UN September 2012
    12. 12. Strategy: Modeling corporate social media companies-organize-for-social-business/Joe Mitchell Not (yet) the views of anyone who works at the UN September 2012
    13. 13. Strategy: Modeling corporate social media companies-organize-for-social-business/Joe Mitchell Not (yet) the views of anyone who works at the UN September 2012
    14. 14. Strategy: Vision and mission Vision: Our people are our voice Mission: to train, prepare and support UN staff to lead digital conversations in their areas of work.Joe Mitchell Not (yet) the views of anyone who works at the UN September 2012
    15. 15. Strategy: SMART goals Objective Output for DPI (by Intermediate Long term 2014…) outcome (by 2015) outcome (by 2016) Training More digital staff Culture change (0.5% across all depts) (5% field staff, 10% (+10% ‘feel HQ digital) engaged’, Mentoring ‘empowered’) Better known staff (0.1%) (>100 with >5,000 Public awareness followers) (+10% ‘I know about the UN’) Staff as Reduced number of Better corporate voice Transparency corporate accounts accounts (+25% (30%) (number of independent Training, template languages, correct accountability branding, UNICs to strategies for UNICs score) have individual (all) strategies)Joe Mitchell September 2012
    16. 16. Strategy: SMART goals Objective Output for DPI Intermediate Long term (by 2014) outcome (by 2015) outcome (by 2016) Better internal Education and Increased use of Better informed communication training for senior social media for staff leaders internal communication (+25% in, e.g., (Presentations and training to all USGs, ‘I know what the UN (+1500% internal ASGs, D2s) system is doing’, interaction) ‘I know what my colleagues are Reduced email working on’.) burden (-25% emails)Joe Mitchell September 2012
    17. 17. PlanJoe Mitchell Not (yet) the views of anyone who works at the UN September 2012
    18. 18. Plan: Data on staff use of social media Age How many social media platforms do you use?Joe Mitchell Not (yet) the views of anyone who works at the UN September 2012
    19. 19. Plan: Data on staff use of social media Which language do you mainly use for social media? Would you be interested in receiving social media training?Joe Mitchell Not (yet) the views of anyone who works at the UN September 2012
    20. 20. Plan: Staff training and engagement plan Individual incentives Social factors Increase perception of benefits Create the idea that social media work is the norm Reduce the fear of social media Individual capacity and Structural factors knowledge Make sure there are no Establish how-to physical barriers to knowledge with all staff accessing social media platforms Safe practice space?Joe Mitchell Not (yet) the views of anyone who works at the UN September 2012
    21. 21. Plan: Corporate accounts Mini-vision: run smarter digital profiles where the people are (think languages, platforms) • Audit • Map and reorganise with the user and UN resource in mind • It is not necessary to be everywhere • Clear and powerful brandingJoe Mitchell September 2012
    22. 22. Plan: Corporate accounts Twitter Facebook Tumblr Blogs Pinterest Storify etc User base? What do people use it for? What overarching strategic goal does UN use of this platform meet? What content should be shared here? Who provides that content? What is our SMART goal for this platform? Ultimate responsibilityJoe Mitchell September 2012
    23. 23. Plan: Corporate accounts Management Google Social media Public Spreadsheet mgmt tool platforms (All UN staff, (Small admin (One person with training) team) per platform)Joe Mitchell Not (yet) the views of anyone who works at the UN September 2012
    24. 24. Next stepsJoe Mitchell Not (yet) the views of anyone who works at the UN September 2012
    25. 25. Next steps: immediately 1. Survey all UN staff 2. Initiate UN-system wide social media audit 3. Request help in building the evidence base for a robust strategy 4. Start discussion with everyone, on the UN goals for social media 5. Begin work with legal and procurement teams for platform negotiation 6. Share this draft strategy with DPI, UN, UN system colleagues for feedbackJoe Mitchell Not (yet) the views of anyone who works at the UN September 2012
    26. 26. Next steps: within three months 1. Continue to publicise this draft and consult management and staff on strategic objectives 2. Rework this strategy as appropriate given the above, and the UN staff digital survey results 3. Work towards gaining approval from senior management (USG, beyond) 4. Initiate development of a training programme, guidelines, branding rules, kits, templates, etc for all staffJoe Mitchell Not (yet) the views of anyone who works at the UN September 2012
    27. 27. Next steps: within six months 1. Meet with members of the CoI to consult and seek feedback; 2. Seek SMART goals sign off from senior managers and their commitment to support staff to meet them; 3. Launch training programme, guidance documents etc 4. Seek partnerships with digital media companies and across UN system to research global user data (and seek resources to commission independent research)Joe Mitchell Not (yet) the views of anyone who works at the UN September 2012
    28. 28. Next steps: at one year 1. Monitor strategy implementation: publish annual progress report, include re-survey of UN staff 2. Identify what works and what doesn’t, iterate and change, check SMART goals still achievable and relevantJoe Mitchell Not (yet) the views of anyone who works at the UN September 2012
    29. 29. FINQuestions / comments?Thanks to: New York DPI people as well asSilke von Brockhausen, Beatrice Frey, KarineLanglois, Roxana Samii and Justin Smith.All photos (CC) UNPhoto Joe Mitchell