india-social-media

Social Media and International Development: Academic Texts

Here are a just a few of the academic texts and papers that I believe are informative for anyone studying social media’s relationship with international development.

Updated: 24/02/2017

TEXT BOOKS

General – Communication / Social Media

Boyd, D (2014) It’s Complicated: the social lives of networked teens
Boyd is has worked for Microsoft Research for a number of years and is one of the leading experts in the field of social media. The book focuses on youth in the US and how they lead their lives online. Some of the findings from her study are obvious, other quite illuminating.

Castells, M (2011) Communication Power
A key text in mass communication and power strategies. Castells coined the phrase “mass self-communication” to describe how social media and internet technologies have aided social movements.

Dijck, J V (2013) The Culture of Connectivity: A Critical History of Social Media
A historical and critical analysis of “connective media”.

Fuchs, C (2014) Social Media: a critical introduction
What are the implications of social media such as Facebook, Google, YouTube and Twitter for power, the economy and politics. This book provides a critical introduction for anyone studying social media

Hindman, M (2008) The Myth of Digital Democracy
Three years before the Arab Spring, Hindman argues that political blogs and the internet have done little to change the public sphere. Was he wrong?

Hinton, S and Hjorth, L (2014) Understanding Social Media
This is a very accessible critical introduction to social media. There are two particularly good chapters: ‘What is Web 2.0′ and ‘Social Network Sites’. The chapter on ‘Participation and User Generated Content’ also clearly explains the difference between user generated content and user created content and a great section on users as produers.

Jarvis, J (2011) Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live
Jarvis firmly believes in the power of the internet and social media and how it ‘publicness’ allows us to think, collaborate and organize in ways that were impossible before.

Morozov, E (2011) The Net Delusion: How not to liberate the world
There are cyber-utopians and cyber-dystopians and Morozov firmly sits in the latter camp. Well, he’d prefer to call himself a cyber-realist. Some fascinating insights into censorship

Murthy, D (2013) Twitter: Social Communication in the Twitter Age
My favourite book of 2013. A brilliant introduction to the use of Twitter as a communication tool.

Rheingold, H (2002) Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution
Rheingold, a veteran technology writer predicts how mobile technologies will change the world. He predicted the power of the mobile phone ten years before the Arab Spring.

Shirky, C (2009) Here Comes Everybody: How Change Happens When People Come Together
An excellent book about group forming and how social media has made collective action “ridiculously easy”.

Trapscott, D (2009) Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation Is Changing Your World
A fascinating insight into the ‘Net Generation’ and ‘Digital Natives’.

Weller, K, Bruns, A, Burgess, A, Mahrt, M (2013) Twitter and Society
A current overview of research into the uses of Twitter. There is also a section on analysing Twitter data.

Arab Spring and other social media “revolutions”

Castells, M (2012) Networks of Outrage and Hope: Social Movements in the Internet Age
An analysis of the new forms of social movements by the leading academic on networked societies.

Dabashi, H (2012) The Arab Spring: The End of Postcolonialism
Dabashi uses the phrase ‘delayed defiance’ for how the Arab Spring has transformed the geopolitics of the ‘Middle East’.

Gerbadou, P (2012) Tweets and the Streets: Social Media and Contemporary Activism
Digital activism and contemporary protest culture.

Ghonim, W (2012) Revolution 2.0.
Wael Ghonim is considered one of the most influential people in the 2011 Egyptian Revolutions. This is his personal account of the events. A fascinating and compelling read.

Howard, PM, Hussain, MM (2013) Democracy’s Fourth Wave? Digital Media and the Arab Spring
An examination of the role of the internet, mobiles and social media in the Arab Spring.

Lovink, G (2011) Networks Without a Cause
A probing critique of social media and network theory. Useful chapters and case studies on Facebook, Wikileaks, blogging and online video.

Mason, P (2012) Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions
A discussion of the various ‘social media revolutions’ of 2011: from London to Egypt. An excellent account of the various uprisings around the world.

JOURNAL ARTICLES

General (social media)

Castells, M (2007) Communication, Power and Counter-power in the Network Society
An seminal paper by Castells on the emergence of mass self-communication, power and politics. The new public sphere.

Kaplan, AM (2010) Users of the World, Unite! The Challenges and Opportunities of Social Media
One of the most cited papers on social media, often quoted for it’s definition of social media. But is it still current?

Miller, D (2016) How the World Changed Social Media
Nine anthropologists each spent 15 months living in China, Brazil, Turkey, Chile, India, England, Italy and Trinidad. Fascinating study with accompanying MOOC.

Steinfield, C, Ellison NB, Lampe C (2008) Social capital, self-esteem, and the use of online social network sites: A longitudinal analysisAn investigation into the relationship between intensity of Facebook use, measures of psychological well-being, and bridging social capital.

Social Media and International Development

Ali, AH (2011) The Power of Social Media in Developing Nations
An excellent paper on social media and international development with a comprehensive introduction and some insightful case studies.

Bailard, CS (2012) A Field Experiment on the Internet’s Effect in an African Election: Savvier Citizens, Disaffected Voters, or Both
A study of the internet and social media’s influences on the Tanzanian political elections.

Best, ML, Meng, A (2015) Twitter democracy: policy versus identity politics in three emerging African democracies
760,000 tweets gathered during national elections in Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya to analyse policy relevant discussion.

Bidwell, NJ et al (2010) Please Call ME.N.U.4EVER: Callback and Social Media Sharing in Rural Africa

I admit to not having read this yet. But it looks too interesting not to include… I hope I’m right.

Breuer, A, Farooq, B (2012) Online Political Participation: Slacktivism or Efficiency Increased Activism? Evidence from the Brazilian Ficha Limpa Campaign
A study of social media and political campaigning. Does social media contribute to participatory democracy? A case study of the Brzailian anti-corruption campaign Ficha Limpa.

Briones, RL, Kuch, B, Liu BF, Jin, Y (2011) Keeping up with the digital age: How the American Red Cross uses social media to build relationships
How the Red Cross use social media to communicate with its various publics/stakeholders.

Chiumbi, S (2012) Exploring Mobile Phone Practices in Social Movements in South Africa – the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign
Mobile phone usage in South Africa to mobilize deprived communities

Comunello, F, Anzera, G (2012) Will the Revolution be Tweeted? A Conceptual Framework for Understanding the Social Media and the Arab Spring
To understand the Arab uprisings we need to consider the complex interactions between society, technology and political systems. There is no evidence that fully supports the techno-realist or digital evangelist perspectives.

Drumbl, MA (2012) Child Soldiers and Clicktivism: Justice, Myths and Prevention
A brief paper dispelling the myths of child soldiers portrayed by some NGOs, with a focus on Kony 2012.

Gamal, H (2010) Network Society: A Social Evolution Powered by Youth
Published in the Global Media Journal, Arabian Edition the year before the Arab Spring. A discussion on the digital divide and cyber-optimists. An important article in a literature review considering the author and its timing.

Gregory, S (2012) Kony 2012 Through a Prism of Video Advocacy Practices and Trends
A brief anaylsis of the Kony 2012 video: storytelling, video advocacy, activsm, spreadability and drillability

Guo, C, Saxton, GD (2012) Tweeting Social Change: How Social Media Are Changing Nonprofit Advocacy
This study analyses the social media use of 188 advocacy organisations. It proposes a three-stage pyramid model of social media-based advocacy.

Howard, PN, Agarwal, SD, Hussain, MM (2011) When do States Disconnect Their Digital Networks? Regime Responses to the Political Uses of Social Media
This study looks at 566 incidents where social media has been disabled. The author compares the dataset to understand why states take this drastic action.

Jefferess, D (2013) Humanitarian relations: Emotions and the limits of critique
A critical analysis of development marketing, social media and humanitarian fundraising in the context of the ‘Africa for Norway’ spoof video.

Jurgenson, N (2011) When Atoms Meets Bits: Social Media, the Mobile Web and Augmented Revolution
“Digital dualism” – I’ll let you decide.

Kamis, S, Gold, PB, Vaughn, K (2012) Beyond Egypt’s ‘Facebook Revolution’ and Syria’s ‘YouTube Uprising': Comparing Political Contexts, Actors and Communication Strategies.
A study comparing and contrasting the role of cyberactivism in the Egyptian revolution and Syrian uprising.

Khondker, HH (2011) Role of the New Media in the Arab Spring
This article considers the role of globalization, the media, new media and connectivity.

Li, J, Rao, HR (2010) Twitter as a Rapid Response News Service: An exploration in the context of the 2008 China Earthquake
An analysis of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake and Twitter as a new information channel.

Lee, Y, Hsieh, G (2013) Does Slacktivism Hurt Activism? The Effects of Moral Balancing and Consistency in Online Activism
An interesting look at the effects of online activism and the effects on monetary donations.

Lim, M (2013) Many Clicks But Little Sticks: Social Media Activism in Indonesia
A study of social media narratives in Indonesia and their potential impact as political activism.

Lovejoy, K and Saxton, GD (2012) Information, Community, and Action: How Nonprofit Organizations Use Social Media
This paper looks at 100 Nonprofit organizations in United States and how they utilize Twitter as a communications tool.

King, G, Pan, J, Roberts, M (2013) How censorship in China Allows Government Criticism but Silences Collective Expression
An analysis of social media content in China to measure levels of censorship.

Mandianou, M (2012) Humanitarian Campaigns in Social Media
How humanitarian campaigners have started to use social media to raise awareness and reach potential donors. The articles discusses polymedia events and the role of social networks.

Nemer, D, Freeman, G (2015) Empowering the Marginalized: Rethinking Selfies in the Slums of Brazil
This paper studies selfies to amplify the voice on the marginalized in Brazil.

Neumayer, C, Raffl, C (2008) Facebook for Global Protest: The Potential and Limits of Social Software for Grassroots Activism
Social media for grassroots activism in Columbia

Norris, P (2012) The Impact of Social Media on the Arab Uprisings: The Facebook, Twitter and YouTube Revolutions?
Social media and four functions for mass uprisings: informational, networking, cultural and behavioural.

Samin, N (2012) Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Social Media Moment
This paper contrasts the Egyptian experience with Saudi Arabia.

Seo, H, Kim, JY, Yang, S (2009) Global Activism and New Media: A study of Transnational NGOs’ online public relations
A survey of 75 transnational NGOs and how they use new media as a public relations tool.

Sheombar, A (2011) Social Media for International Development: Social Media Usage by Dutch Development and Aid Agencies
An MRes research project examining social media potential in the sector of Dutch Aid and development organisations.

Shirky, C (2011) The Political Power of Social Media: Technology, The Public Sphere, and Political Change
A discussion on the impact of social media in mobilizing mass political protests.

Smith, BG (2010) Socially Distributing Public Relations: Twitter, Haiti, and Interactivity in Social Media
This study explores social public relations through a qualitative analysis of user involvement on Twitter regarding relief efforts to support Haiti following the 7.0 earthquake that hit Port-Au-Prince in January, 2010

Tufekci, Z (2013) “Not this one”: Social Movements, the Attention Economy, and Microcelebrity Networked Activism
A study of networked microcelebrity activism and broadening participation.

Tufekci, Z, Wilson, C Social Media and the Decision to Participate in Political Protest: Observations from Tahrir Square
A survey of participants in the Tahrir protests to analyse how social media was used during the demonstrations.

Valenzuela, S, Arriagada, A, Scherman, A (2012) The Social Media Basis of Youth Protest Behaviour: The Case of Chile
An interesting exploration of social media’s contribution to the Chile Winter student protests.

Wall, M (2009) Africa on Youtube: Musicians, Tourists, Missionaries and Aid Workers
Videos representation of Ghana and Kenya on Youtube

Warren, C (2015) Explosive connections? Mass media, social media, and the geography of collective violence in African states
Evidence which demonstrates that social media penetration generates substantial increases in collective violence.

Wolsfeld, G, Segev, E, Sheafer, T (2013) Social Media and the Arab Spring: Politics Comes First
This study presents two broad theories: first that you cannot understand the role of social media in collective action without understanding the political environment and secondly that a significant increase in the use of social media is much more likely to follow a significant amount of protest activity than to precede it.

Yates, D, Paquette, S (2010) Emergency knowledge management and social media technologies: A case study of the 2010 Haitian eathquake

An analysis of social media and disaster and emergency management.

Youmans, WL & York, CY (2012) Social Media and the Activist Toolkit: User Agreements, Corporate Interests, and the Information Infrastructure of Modern Social Movements
An analysis role of social media in the Arab Spring uprisings using four case studies.

Zuckerman, E et al (2010) Blogs and Bullets: New Media on Contentious Politics
A critical analysis of “cyberutopians” and “cyberskeptics” perspectives on the impact of new media on political movements.

POLICY BRIEFS AND REPORTS

Ackland, R, Tanaka, K (2015) Development Impact of Social Media
A background paper prepared for the World Bank’s World Development Report 2016 Digital Dividends. The paper gives a good overview of social media for development with chapters on social learning, economic activity, emergency response and community voice.

Africa Practice (2014) The Social Media Landscape in Nigeria
Data on the personalities and platforms which are most influential in Nigeria in terms of content and quality.

Alder Consulting (2014) Social Media Nigeria Reports 2014
Five reports on the state of social media in Nigeria

Bohler-Muller, N and van der Merwe, C (2011) The potential of social media to influence socio-political change on the African Continent
A detailed account of the Arab Spring uprisings with some policy recommendations.

Camp, M (2016) Assessing the impact of social media on political communication and civic engagement in Uganda.
This paper was the result of the first annual Social Media Conference organised by the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) in conjunction with the Centre for Media Literacy and Community Development (CEMCOD) and the African Centre for Media Literacy (ACME) in July 2015.

Department for International Development (2016) Using Social Media Data in International Development Research, Monitoring and Evaluation in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
Report on World Food Programme Case Study.

Friedrich Ebert Foundation (2014) – Social Media in Cameroon
Powerpoint presentation with stats on the rise of social media in Cameroon

Gao, H and Barbier, G (2011) Harnessing the Crowdsourcing Power of Social Media for Disaster Relief

IBT (2015) Social Media – Getting Your Voice Heard
Advice for NGOs and how to use social media as a communications tool.

Jebril, N, Stetka, V, Loveless, M (2013) Media and Democratisation: What is Known about the Role of Mass Media in Transitions to Democracy
The potential role of mass media in transitions to democracy, with case studies from Central and Easterm Europe, Latin America and the Arab World.

Johnson, R et al (2012) Social Media Amongst Most-at-Risk Populations in Jamaica
I was totally intrigued by this study as it offered some important practical insights into how social media can be used to disseminate health information. I’ve written to the authors twice to find out if it was successful but have not received a reply.

Kaigwa, M (2014) Nendo Social Media Trend Report, Kenya
An excellent report on the state of social media in Kenya

Ndemo, B and Weiss, T (2017) Digital Kenya – An Entrepreneurial Revolution in the Making
Chapter by Mark Kaigwa – ‘From Cyber Café to Smartphone: Kenya’s Social Media Lens Zooms In on the Country and Out to the World

Nendo (2014) A-Z of Kenyan Twitter
Nice little report giving insights into Twitter in Kenya

Pedrick, C (2015) Embracing Web 2.0. and Social Media: A life changing pathway for agricultural development actors

Portland Communication (2014) How Africa Tweets
3 months of geo-located tweets from Africa

Taki, M, Coretti, L (2013) Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture: The Role of Social Media in Arab Uprisings – Past and Present
Six articles designed to answer :What are the cultural, technical and political variables that are conducive to using social media for mobilization? How have citizens and states used social media during the uprising and beyond? How do we research social media movements in the Arab world?

The Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) Embracing Web 2.0. and Social Media
18 case studies about how social media and Web 2.0. technologies have been used to support agricultural development. Case studies from Madagascar, Cameroon, Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana, Rwanda, Burkina Faso and more.

USAID (2013) Social Media Handbook for Agricultural Development Practitioners
An excellent interactive PDF document for people interested in social media for agricultural development.

WHO (2016) Global diffusion of eHealth
Chapter 7 has some fascinating data on the huge expansion of ICT and social media in health.

Zab, S (2013) Why Nairobi is the Next World Tech Capital
Nice presentation including stats on mobile, internet and social in Africa.

VIDEOS

9 movies about social media textbooks
Students in the University of Westminster’s MA in Social Media have as part of my module “Critical Theory of Social Media and the Internet” directed movies about books that present theoretical knowledge and empirical research about social media’s role in society.

The power of social media and democracy
Iceland President Ólafur Grímsson talks about how he was made to take political action due to social media campaigning in Iceland during the global financial crisis.

Arab Democracy and Social Media with Ethan Zuckerman
A discussion about free speech in the developing world

Behind the Great Firewall of China
TED talk by blogger Michael Anti

Citizen Journalism as Counter to Censorship and Culture Wars
Talk at MIT by Zeynep Tufekci on 140 Journos

How Young Africans Found a Voice on Twitter
TED talk by 22 year old Siyanda Mohutsiwa from Botswanatalking about when her hashtag #IfAfricaWasABar went viral.

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Amnesty International – Social Media Case Study

An interview with Dunya Kamal, Global Communities Officer at Amnesty International about their use of social media to further their cause.

1. How has social media changed the way Amnesty International communicate?

We’re able to inspire people to take injustice personally, in a very direct and organic way. Being the largest human rights organisation in the world means we need to be sure that we are engaging in the conversations our audience talk about, and providing them with content that they care about, relate to, and want to get involved in. It’s massively changed the way we communicate! We’re now creating content specifically for social media e.g. videos for Facebook, and we’re understanding our audience so that we can remain relevant.

2. What is Amnesty International’s most successful campaign on social media?

When we launched our Ireland report and campaign back in June 2015, we were hoping to get an impact with some really powerful graphics our in-house designer created. We weren’t expecting to break our own personal best, with it having the biggest engagement on Facebook for a single post that any of our campaigns has ever achieved (record petition signups in the first week at 15,000, too!).

Amnesty

Its success was down to a few factors: the content itself was demanding Ireland change its abortion law; the timing was just after the Marriage Referendum success, so many of our users were commenting with the feeling that ‘if the #MarRef happened, it’s about time we got around to this too’.

We’ve also had success with a short-running campaign targeting Shell to clean up the Niger Delta, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The focus on this one, in contrast, was Twitter, hijacking Shell’s own hashtag ‘#makethefuture’ and asking our audience via the website and our tweets, to target Shell.

 

3. How do you measure the success of your social media channels? What metrics do you use?

Success isn’t a tangible thing – it really depends on what the objectives are. Clearly, if we’re growing across channels, and our engagement numbers are high, we’re on the right track. We use Sprinklr, a social media management tool and platform for a lot of our data capture on social. If part of a campaign is to overload a government official’s Twitter account with mentions, then what we’re focusing on is the pick-up of a specific hashtag or how many people tweet him/her, as opposed to the number of retweets our own tweets receive. Our Data and Insights Analyst is doing an amazing job, setting benchmark figures for our channels in general, projecting what our growth should be by a certain point, and looking at what type of content our audience engages with the most. Adapting our content so that we’re constantly listening to what our audience wants, is a great way to at least ensure you’re always on the right side of success.

4. How does social media help you connect with the media?

Social media is great for bringing breaking news to the people you want to see it – namely press on Twitter. Any time a crisis proliferates, the media team and myself jump on Twitter to get an idea of the content being shared, what the tone of voice, angle, attitude is on the issue. I like to keep an eye on trending hashtags to ensure we are inserting ourselves into the conversation appropriately, and we have a separate press Twitter account that focuses on sharing content most appropriate for journalists and media across the world. Like everything else, social media has made that line to media more direct and therefore much quicker, so not only can we disseminate information (especially breaking news) in effective ways, but we are also able to respond to and see what other news outlets are doing.

5. What is the most important ingredient in a social media strategy?

Understanding your audience. A well-written, coherent strategy is only as valuable as what it delivers. You need to be able to listen, on each platform, to what your audience wants, as well as what kind of content they are engaging with on their social channels (which may have nothing to do with Amnesty!).

6. How do Amnesty International use social media for human rights monitoring?

This predominantly occurs in Twitter, which is an extremely powerful tool for those wishing to document abuses or simply get their story heard. Once I spot something on social (using Topsy for example, sometimes our tool Sprinklr) that seems like it is gaining traction or exploring a human rights abuse, I send a note to the relevant researcher or campaigner to flag to them what I’ve been seeing online, but also to get an understanding from them on what they’re doing – most of the time they’re keeping a watch on the situation, are looking to verify sources, and sometimes there’s an upcoming report or briefing on the issue.

7. What concerns do you have about social media?

The only major concern we have is sharing information too early – sometimes we need to be sure we have verified what we’ve seen on social, which might delay our response or voice on the issue, but is crucial to ensure we don’t say anything that isn’t true. Information is provided to the researchers, who may then need to speak to our law and policy department, but the verification of information comes from a number of sources across the organisation and at this point it would be out of my hands, I’ll hear back if something has been checked and verified, but usually this stage is more focused on information gathering.

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UNDP and their use of social media – 2015

A detailed interview with LeiLei Phyu, Social Media Manager at the UNDP. This is longer than my usual blog posts, but Lei has provided so much rich content and advice about the use of social media that I have left the interview in it’s entirety.

1. Why do you think that people follow the UNDP on social media?

I think the majority of the people who follow UNDP on social media follow us because they are interested in the broader human narrative and our role in it. From our audience, community members who contribute and engage with us daily are big on advocating for social causes.  They’re an informed and curious audience, especially interested in the impact narrative – stories of hope and inspiration – the kind UNDP works on such as the story about a nurse in Ghana who used mobile nursing to save the life of Faith, an expecting mom, who lived in Keta, off the coast of Ghana. Faith was a mother of three. Her town of 20,000 was stricken with cholera during 2014—heavy flood and changing climate patterns had dramatically affected the health of Faith’s town, which is a similar story for small communities like Keta worldwide. Especially during rainy season, Faith and the rest of the residents of Keta were cut off from the nearest major health centre. As a mom of three, pregnant with a fourth child, already showing symptoms of cholera, Keta was in no condition to travel far to reach the closest health centre in time.

Access to information is the primary reason why our audience follows us. Using Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin as a space to provide feedback on our programs and have someone from UNDP respond back is also a key reason. The general public, both from the global south and north, follow UNDP’s social channels on different platforms to learn about our work,  our results, trends in key global conversations, about the issues that matter most to them such as climate action, gender equality, anti-corruption, social justice and youth action. Media and those who work in government such as parliamentarians and those who sit on Foreign Affairs Committees or are responsible for covering specific foreign policy issues follow us to keep tuned into trends in global affairs and sustainable development, especially new or emerging key development decisions, policies, results, data in reports, and our responses to global challenges. An ongoing example is the Climate Summit (COP21) happening later this year in Paris, as well as the next stages of the Sustainable Development Goals, which were adopted by world leaders a few months ago at the UN General Assembly.

I started managing UNDP’s English social media platforms in October 2014. Before this, I had exclusively worked on crisis and disaster response and recovery communications and fundraising for five-years, when the role of social media began evolving globally both in driving social and political change (Arab Spring), in aid programming, and in the way UNDP communicates—social media’s role is very important in times of disasters and conflicts.

Social media gave organizations like UNDP a means to directly connect to the public rather than wait to be noticed. It’s an opportunity to be more approachable and rewrite our own narrative, break down mis-information, and show that for every negative story about those in the UN system, there are 100 undiscovered stories of positive action, and that behind these results, are amazingly talented and committed human beings who work very hard to improve conditions for the world’s most vulnerable. By not responding, by not engaging, because of a culture of risk-aversion, we run the risk of letting the myth or stereotypes and public perceptions of us become bigger and bigger monsters. The best way to address mis-information and chase the monsters away is turn the light on and reveal ourselves, who we are, what we do and how it makes an impact, what the steps look like at different phases of a project, and why you should care.

Social media also opened up a way for the public to have a dialogue with UNDP and our staff directly through our global social platforms and through staff’s individual Twitter handles. Access to information remains a big part of our conversations with the public. On a given day, I respond to questions on how to apply for jobs, how to receive climate adaptation training or become a project participant – most times, people seeking answers to questions want to learn. In the past year, we’ve had farmers—one from the Philippines who needed advice on climate adaptation as the leaves on his coconuts were already drying up. We were able to connect a youth fish farmer from Nigeria who faced the challenge of getting a loan and had put all his savings into starting his fish farm before weather patterns changed and his fish started dying.  Students and journalists turn to us when on deadline to find data resources or information.

Social media is transforming the culture of communications and transparency in the organization where often, no news comes out of projects until the project reporting cycle comes to term, a very technical status and budget report is sent to donors, and depending on the communications capacity (whether they have a dedicated communications staff in their office or not), we may or may not get a report or story about the project that may or may not sound more or less like a budget report. So social has challenged different parts of the organization to change specific processes so that we’re more accountable and transparent at every step of the process. This new demand requires skill sets and training for staff and skill sets. It sheds light on the capacity gaps that are systematic – the need for staff from all areas of work to be able to write effectively void of policy jargon and the need for capacity, especially in offices where a communications function maybe one of six functions a staff holds. We are part of a tree and the tree has to be healthy for everything to work right—I cannot tweet without getting quality stories that show impact and has a strong human narrative from fellow communications colleagues. They in turn need capacity, training, dedicated time and the full support and cooperation of their office to communicate, as well as a strong linkage with the project and technical staff who have the expertise, data and access to the communities who participate in our projects.

Making this connection – getting that buy-in at all levels on the vital importance of investing in communications skill sets, finding that space in business processes, in cultural mindsets of the value of social media and strategic communications – these are priorities we’re working on to innovate within the organization following our UNDP organizational restructuring which concluded at the end of 2014 and as a new Communications Strategy is being drafted. We need to evolve in the way we communicate because the world is moving at a faster pace and we need to adapt and get out of the “the UN bubble.”

2. Who are your main audiences on social media? Do you segment any of your channels for specific audiences for example do you have more than one Twitter account?

UNDP’s global communications office has a sub-team—the social media team, which manages UNDP’s global social media accounts in English, Spanish and French on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin (only available in English). What we prioritize on the global channels are the best of our work. We show development impact. We tell the story of transformation through the voice of the communities affected and the people who have found their lives changed for the better by our projects. We curate and re-write content pulled daily from over 170 UNDP offices, through websites, through exposure photo blogs, through YouTube channels, through Twitter and Facebook. In addition, I do quite a bit of monitoring of staff’s Twitter handles depending on the global news priority and trends of the day—if the whole world is talking about Syria on Twitter, I’ll go through our Syrian colleagues’ Twitter handles to showcase their take on their ongoing work in Syria. If the world is talking about kittens, I’ll pull out all the stories about endangered big cats living in protected areas we’ve had a role in establishing.

For global accounts, we try to find that middle ground to tackle the diversity of our social community. Advocacy, education, ensuring accountability and transparency through open.undp.org data and thought leadership are priorities for messaging. For the general public, we’ve slowly started a series called #ABCdev which seeks to demystify policy wonk jargon into practical examples that anyone interested in learning about development will be able to appreciate. Data, results reports and updates on developing and ongoing work are key to our approach too. These are of vital importance for global media, government and development partners as well as the public—such as Syria, the current debate around the European migrant crisis vs refugee crisis, the war in Yemen. In the case of under-reported news such as drought in Papua New Guinea and drought in Vanuatu while the island nation is still recovering from Cyclone Pam, we raise light to conditions not covered in big media that profoundly affects the very existence of these communities . We shine the light on local heroes who bring amazing changes to improve their communities through our work.

UNDP

Our work aims to give people a boost up the ladder or give them the tools they need to flourish – the drive behind change are the determination of people who utilize those tools —whether it be women’s access to land rights in India or policies and technical processes that UNDP facilitates that leads to laws and groups that provide a structure and space for activists to pursue social justice—in Guatemala, Elena, a mom and a survivor of the civil war in the country.

UNDP

Her story starts with heartbreak. In 1982, when she was 12, she was raped by soldiers. Elena grew up to become  part of the first group of Maya Ixil women who made history when they testified again former President of Guatemala, Efraín Ríos Montt, for genocides and crimes against humanity. This case continues to be very contentious but in 2013, when Elena took the stand, it was a landmark case because it shed light to years of injustice and impunity.  She’s a teeny, tiny petite woman—soft spoken, shy. Our UNDP Transitional Justice Programme may have paved the path but the true strength was Elena who said she had to do this, regardless of how much it put her in the spotlight or put her life at risk, because she didn’t want what had happened to her to ever happen to her children or any other human being ever again.

Our amazing regional teams across five continents manage separate regional accounts. Our 170+ country offices maintain their own social accounts. They all have different sets of audience who are interested in regional issues or only about particular countries.

3. If UNDP could only use one social media channel, which one would you choose and why?

All of our social media platforms are well loved for different purposes so that’s a very tough question.

I love Twitter for the real-time interaction, behind the scenes feel, the challenge of getting up breaking news as it happens and for rapid information consumption. Twitter also challenges me to write better and think more strategically about  key messages I want the audience to walk away with into a single tweet—only 20% of our audience actually clicks on our links for more information so the tweets have to be super tight and informative so they walk away with knowledge. Colleagues who tweet at work, especially those in the field, may not be fully aware but our small social team does check out their handle and read their tweets to pull content from and to feature their work—we love when colleagues embrace Twitter, get the “social” behind social media and start to develop a distinct voice and personality (what is also called brand identity).

My favorite is still Facebook because I can really establish a relationship with our community. Those who engage with us on Twitter may change from day to day. But on Facebook, there’s a very dedicated community who engages daily, takes the time to read and give feedback.  We see what they want to learn more of. We also see what doesn’t work on that platform (top down approaches, speeches, meetings). The audience who engages is dedicated, expressive, curious and I am able to have longer dialogues with them to answer questions, thank them for their support, or clarify mis-information. If the dialogue is constructive criticism, we try to maintain a dialogue to show facts—but that’s also linked to our capacity and workload because we do a range of other functions related to social that goes beyond content writing, curation and community management.

4. Access to social media in the global south has significantly increased in recent years. Have you noticed more interaction on social media with recipients of UNDPs programmes? Do you think it is an area of growth in the near future?

We are getting more growth from Myanmar in the past year.

The top countries where our audience are based in are India, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Kenya and Egypt. US is third. UK is 10th. India is 1st. Bangladesh is 2nd. Pakistan is 3rd. We aren’t seeing a rise in interaction with recipients of our programming but there has always been an organic growth in audience from programme countries—many are members of the general public who want to know if we’re being effective in their countries, want project updates and want to see impact, or want us to do more (sometimes on issues that go beyond our scope and mandate)-others want to learn about job opportunities and NGOs want to explore ways to become implementing partners or receive aid.

We are actually struggling to grow our audience in the global north because reaching them and being accountable to the tax payers whose hard earned wages contribute to aid is vital. This is also a challenge that we are looking to tackle as we shape our new Communications Strategy.

5. Do you have a strategy to connect with more people in the global south via social media? If so what does it involve?

Be social. Be genuine. Engage. Have empathy in your storytelling. Be human. We try to put ourselves in the shoes of our audience. Continue to improve upon what’s working so far but don’t get comfortable. Innovation is vital to social media –just staying relevant doesn’t cut it. These are challenges because of limited human capacity and budgetary resources. Getting support to procure new tools and enabling tools that will increase our productivity, time or resources to grow existing skill sets, having time to think of non-monetary incentives and innovative mechanisms that will nurture intrepreneurs in the organization to open up a culture of social media and effective communications is necessary.

6. Helen Clark, Administrator at the UNDP is a big advocate of social media. How has this helped with your strategy?

helen-clark2

Helen Clark being an amazing advocate of social media has made all the difference with our strategy. She not only champions social media—she’s an avid champion of strategic and effective communications. This opens up the space for “converting” the skeptics when she leads by example, rather than when a younger, more junior staff like me attempt to go against the “this is how it is” approach to the system and lots and lots of bureaucratic red tape. Mila Rosenthal, our Director of Communications and Caroline Hooper-Box, our Deputy Director; both bring an amazing wealth of expertise and fresh perspective from having worked in Amnesty International, Oxfam and print media. We have plenty of positive disruptors and intrepreneurs with great, creative energy but we need more and more senior managers and established staff like our champions to push those doors open, nurture the creativity, and support a transformative culture of communications.

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Shamba Shape Up and the Use of Social Media

Shamba Shape Up is a reality style TV show designed to educate East Africa’s rapidly growing rural audience. The make over style show aims to give both farmer and the audience the tools they need to improve productivity and income on their farms. Each week the Shape Up team visit a different farm in a different area of the country. The team includes the film crew and a number of experts from partner organisations who specialize in the topics to be covered in the episode. The core of the series tackles issues surrounding livestock, poultry, crops and soil fertility. Other relevant topics include financial planning, solar power and harvesting rainwater.

The series is also supported online with a popular Facebook page which has around 44,500 fans, a Twitter page which has nearly 3,000 followers, a YouTube channel, and recently, a blog and Instagram. The interaction on the Facebook page is pretty impressive.

As well as online, viewers without internet or power can SMS a database and ask for information in the form of leaflets. These leaflets are posted to people free of charge once they SMS asking for them. So far 250,000 have been distributed. Recently, Shamba Shape Up has moved to mobile, with the starting of iShamba. iShamba is a mobile information service, which gives subscribers access to a call centre, SMS service, weather reports, farming tips and deals or advice form commercial partners.

Katharine MacMahon, Communications Officer for Shamba Shape Up said “The social media has been a great tool for us, with our Facebook page becoming a hub for farmers to get advice from either us or from other farmers on the group. We run regular competitions with our partners help, and also invite people to send in photos of their farm and get involved in discussions. In general, the Facebook page is farmer-focused.

In comparison, the Twitter page, which is much smaller, has more of a partner-focus. We interact with our partners and the information they have to offer much more on Twitter, with more of a complex nature (on the Facebook page, posts must not have words which are more than 7 letters long – keeping it easy to read for farmers who may be less educated).

Last month we held a Tweetchat on #TalkSoil, in the lead up to Global Soil Week, with the help of CIAT. It was successful in both discussing the issues surrounding soil health, and also to raise the profile of Shamba Shape Up in the agricultural community on Twitter. To increase the number of Twitter followers, we aim to tweet much more than we currently do, get involved with more discussions and tweet chats and engage more with #KOT (#KenyansOnTwitter – a huge hashtag in Kenya used by millions), and connect with more farmers here.”

The show is on TV in Kenya (4 million viewers), Uganda (2 million viewers) and Tanzania (4 million viewers). It was started in 2008, and became Kenya’s reality style TV show. It is the third “edu-tainment” production created by Mediae.

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Nepal earthquake: how social media has been used in the aftermath

A lot has been written in recent years about the use of social media in disaster relief , in particular platforms such as Ushahidi which is used to crowdsource data and visualise incidents which enables real-time response from relief agencies.

I first heard about the earthquake in Nepal on Saturday 25th April 2015 via a direct message on Twitter about a colleague in Kathmandu being safe despite damage to his house. I was meant to be visiting two weeks later.

I watched the news unfold on Twitter that day with horror, as the death toll continued to increase. Netizens were sharing awful images of the destruction.  

Within hours of the earthquake Mark Zuckerburg had announced the launch of Facebook Safety Check, which is a tool created in 2014 to link people in disasters.  Similarly, Google Person Finder had been launched. That day my social media timelines were awash with charities that had reacted immediately and set up fundraising campaigns. Those fundraising campaigns both on and offline have continued. This drone footage by filmmaker Paul Borrud, shows the devastating results of the earthquake around Kathmandu, and has been used as a fundraising tool by UNICEF UK. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yir6ArRZY4o One interesting development a week after the earthquake was a Twitter account set up by the Nepalese Government National Emergency Operation Center, which started to tweet the official number of people who had died and who were injured. The account also announced advice on information such as access to clean water and the relief that was being received from around the world. This account helps raise awareness of the tremendous support from the national and international community. Similarly, the infographic below, produced yesterday, shows how UK aid has been spent 

The impact of social media in the aftermath of the Nepal earthquake is merely a drop in the ocean, but it’s better than nothing. This excellent article on GlobalVoices written the day after the first earthquake, describes in more detail the global social media response to the disaster.

 

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