The continually and rapidly changing nature of communications has radically altered the way people interact, businesses market their products and services and in many ways has left government behind. Politics has changed with candidates happily (or not) jumping on the social media bandwagon out of a necessity to connect with voters, and in the case of the United States – a result likely of the success, and promise, of the 2008 Obama campaign – the US Government has been notably proactive using social media platforms for information, policy discussions and engaging citizens. That trend has not impacted Canada to the same extent, with little consistency at any level of Government – Federal, Provincial or
Municipal. It’s largely hit and miss even within a single level, say the BC Provincial Government, with some ministries and departments proactive online, others languishing in pre-internet norms.
A reason often touted, especially when it comes to video, is cost. That was true even a few years ago when producers of online video had to pay for space and bandwidth on their own servers, but with the recent launch of YouTube branded channels for Government, it is no longer a barrier. YouTube channels used to be for top end brands with a startup cost of $50 000, but Google, the owners of YouTube, are now offering the high end service free of charge, a huge benefit for especially municipal governments who are often cash-strapped for communications.
Here’s what Google has to say for the advantages:
Provide useful and relevant content.
People search YouTube all the time-provide timely information by uploading speeches, TV appearances, and campaign footage.
Control the story.
Media sources often incorporate YouTube videos into their stories. Stay ahead of the news cycle by posting videos in response to current events.
Start a conversation.
Use free Google Moderator on your YouTube channel to hold Q&A sessions open to the public.
Turn supporters into evangelists.
Get supporters to subscribe to your channel so when you post new material they’ll spread it for you. Embed videos on your site or automatically share them on Twitter and Facebook.
Learn about your viewers.
Use YouTube Insight to find out who is paying attention to your videos
One service offered that incorporates the best of social media engagement, with a branded channel is Google Moderator.
Google Moderator allows you to build an audience around a particular topic or event. It’s a free online tool you can embed on your YouTube channel or website that allows you to solicit questions from your audience. After you pose the topic, your audience submits questions, either as text or video, and then votes on which questions they’d most like you to answer.
With these high end and free tools now available for any level of government to engage with citizens there is little excuse for the oft heard refrain – ‘no one is listening’. A list of Canadian Government Channels can be found here.
Video – Government on YouTube – Governor Chris Christie (Channel)