Taming Twitter Terrorism: Combating the Asymmetry of Social Media

John Sheridan - CIO & CISO
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This morning I am presenting at a conference entitled “Integrating Online Services with your existing Community Engagement Strategy”. It’s quite a mouthful and not necessarily the sort of thing that might readily attract the attention of Gov 2.0 aficionados. My keynote is described as “Reaching the people: Where are they?” The sub-titled questions are “The untapped potential of the online sphere” and “Social media as the new frontier of citizen”. They’re a bit of a mouthful too. While paying appropriate respect to the conference organisers, I’ve tried to use a title that might provoke a bit more interest. In the attached speech and presentation, I compare social media to counter-insurgency warfare. This isn’t intended to trivialise either subject but, rather, to indicate that things in our past experience can often provide pointers as to how to deal with things we might encounter in the future.

Not all of you will want to read through the speech (some 3000 words) or view the 18 slides, although I’d recommend you do to see the full context. As many of you are busy people, getting on with serving the public, I’ve reproduced my recommendations here:

  • When setting up your social media outpost, don’t just sit behind its walls and hope the audience comes to you. They may not and, even if they do, they might not be happy.
  • Find out what the audience needs and provide it. Listen to how they react and adjust your delivery accordingly.
  • You will need your staff to be involved. They will need training and encouragement. They don’t all have to take the point but those that do may need to be ready to react without recourse to their superiors. Empower them to do so.
  • Don’t overreact to the negative feedback or comments. Use the three Fs: facts, fences and forgetting.
  • Social media can get you straight to your audience but you need to be able to tell them the story in a way they will understand.
  • There are many social media tools – plan on Facebook, organise on Twitter, report on YouTube – use the right tool and don’t forget that traditional channels may still be required to complement the online campaign.
  • Avoid follower count metrics – people can unfollow as fast as they follow.
  • Plan and monitor and be ready to identify success or failure. You can regroup after a battle but it’s hard to recover if you’ve lost the war.
Full speech text and presentation slides

Please note that copyright in some of the images included in the presentation slides is owned by the original creators and does not fall under the blog's Creative Commons licence. I look forward to reading your comments. Regards, John


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Comments (4)

Listening to you in Melbourne now John, great title hook!

Hi John

Thanks for posting that up. Very informative and useful for those who are stepping off the precipice into the sometimes daunting social media space. As always you provide good, solid advice which APS employees and agencies can eassily follow. Bravo!


One gap between the campaign metaphor and effective online engagement (not just social media) is that a campaign ends, whereas a dialogue should be ongoing. If you're only online during your campaign, it's just another channel in an old school broadcast PR effort.

“Reaching the people: Where are they?”

We're right here keeping tabs on you, but we don't usually comment. Its more of a little brother thing. Can I please add:

Don't be condescending. Don't use jargon. Only use it when you have something important to say. Give us links to good qualiy information.

"Social media can get you straight to your audience but you need to be able to tell them the story in a way they will understand."

We are not an audience, but you can provide us with a valuable service if you don't dumb it down. Dumb it down and its worse than The Australian.

"identify success or failure. You can regroup after a battle but it’s hard to recover if you’ve lost the war."

This is definitely the wrong attitude. It's just a service for access to information. It's not a hostile action in enemy territory. Average citizens loathe that 'us vs them' corporate-state mentality.

Last updated: 01 August 2016