The Indian government has finally issued guidelines for its departments which was in a draft state from last year. The guidelines that have been published with no major changes to the draft is a half-baked effort from the government considering its own failure to understand social media.

The government seems to losing its grip on social media slowly. Why I am being harsh is for the following reasons:

1. Rampant blocking of sites without clear information.

2. Blocking journalists on Twitter.

3. And the latest one to add to the list is the releasing of the social media guidelines for its department using social media as reported by NDTV.

Early in the month of September, 2011, the Indian Government of Ministry of Communications and IT released a social media guidelines draft to be implemented at Government offices. It came as no surprise then that finally the Indian government has got serious about the powers of social media. This was soon after the India Against Corruption Movement where the government officials were found napping on the social media front.

In an exclusive interview with us in the month of October, 2011, Vineeta Dixit, Principal Consultant, National e-Governance, Ministry of Communications and IT, had shared her thoughts on the draft and the presence of government agencies on social media. It was also said that the draft will take the form of a final version pretty soon. However, yesterday out of the blue, Government released the guidelines with no major changes made to the draft. I couldn’t stop myself from thinking that it can’t just be a coincidence!

Highlights of the Social Media Guidelines

1. The document starts with emphasizing the critical characteristics of social media (4.1.1,Page 6) which has been summed up in the a diagram.

social_media_characterstics

With that, emphasis has been given to the need for using social media (4.2, Page 7) citing the need for real-time engagement. The way Ministry of External Affairs had handled the Libyan crisis via Twitter has been cited as an example. In addition to this, the draft shares how ‘Managing Perceptions’ can be addressed via social media. The government has stressed that social media can be used to kill counter perceptions like rumors, direct marketing, etc.

2. In the core values section(4.4, Page 9), the document clearly states that one needs to reveal their identity, officials shouldn’t engage in a discussion unless they have the authority and the urge has been made to be polite and respectful on social media.

3. How to engage has been further listed as a challenge in using social media (4.5, Page 10) along with other challenges such as platforms, who will engage, etc.

4. The social media framework has been adopted from Rossdawson blog (V,Page 11). On being asked what made the Government go for this particular framework, Vineeta had added this – The Rossdawson Blog had put up very succinctly the various elements of the framework. In my opinion, the elements and the components of the framework were useful to us and acted as a guiding tool for refining our own approach to the framework.

The pictorial representation of the framework can be seen below:

social media framework for government officials

5. The document also touches on content strategy, data security, etc. The officials have been advised that since it is a new form of communication so a pilot run or smaller projects should be executed to see the efficacy (5.1.5, Page 22).

6. Finally Social media monitoring has been given emphasis but how it should be done or what are the ways have been left out (5.1.6, Page 22).

Observations:

The government has released the guidelines in a hurry and the link that has been provided by NDTV is of the draft which was anyway accessible from last year. As I had shared last year, the guidelines are extremely well structured but I am not at all upbeat by the way the present government has used social media. I am quite confident that these guidelines won’t have much of an impact when the Government itself is defying most of them while communicating with people. The document talks about constant engagement but the PMO’s Twitter account is out there as a news bulletin to publish the PM’s mundane activities!

When the draft was made public last year I was quite upbeat about the whole initiative. I was positive that the government will adopt social media effectively. However today, when the Government itself has no grip on the nuances of social media, how can one be positive about the introduction of such a set of social media guidelines?

It is a desperate approach from the government to save its reputation. What are your thoughts?

Prasant Naidu

Founder and Blogger at Lighthouse Insights.

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