Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Does the President Know What He's In For?

When I heard that President Jonathan Goodluck promised to engage young Nigerians by opening a Facebook page focused on electoral reforms, I was impressed. However, I couldn't help but wonder whether he realised what he is in for.

Social media is not like the usual websites. On a website, you can still, to some extent, get away with static information. On social media sites like Facebook everything is about the conversation. We will expect to see his policies, his plans, and read news items. However, the unspoken contract is he needs to hear us.

While images of the President scrolling down to see the latest posts on his wall play across my imagination, in reality I fully expect he will have a team of social media experts who will set it up and manage it for him. Their charge has to be keep the conversation going in both directions. For a few years now, Nigerians have used social media to express their hopes, their pain and their outrage. Groups like LightUpNigeria, National Online Assembly, Enough Is Enough Nigeria, and many others have been using social media for a while now. However, the political class has mostly been insulated from all that. The President needs to be exposed to the crashing roar of the wave that is online Nigeria. In his being exposed to it, our voices may flow down to influence the other levels of government.

At the same time, he needs to be insulated from it. He needs to be protected from the gale while he steers the ship of state in the right direction. His social media team needs to be able to make our voice coherent. They need to filter the signal from the noise and yet not sanitise it. They need to let him truly hear what we moan about the most, but also hear the sheer brilliance of the solutions that many a voice has proferred. Thankfully, there is an abundance of tools that are designed to curate actionable information from social media. If they will use them. It is all useless, of course, if they do not.

The beauty of social media is we can very easily see the outcome of the conversation and know if we are getting the silent treatment or if our words are taken into account.

All in all, it will be an interesting experiment to watch. Welcome to our world Mr. President, enjoy your stay.


P.S. My computer has crashed, so this was typed with one finger on my phone. So I wasn't able to create links, but you can follow me on Twitter and on Yarnable.com My handle is @the_dej on both sites.