In the previous 15 years social media changed the management of community social performance in a number of ways. Any neglect of its influence can be disastrous for a company or a country for that matter.
In the not so distance past, news was restricted to newspapers and if you objected to something you wrote a letter to the newspaper or organised a demonstration.
Now social media has made it possible for everyone to have an individual voice through a large variety of mediums. Communication has become instantaneous and may lack veracity, images are easily transmitted (a picture is worth a thousand words). The range of communities that can become easily involved has expanded; from local to international; from environmental to financial. Communities can be easily polarized and segmented by the variety of views expressed.
The Russians recognised this and used social media for nefarious means, elaborated on, in an interesting book called ‘Battlegrounds, The Fight to Defend the Free World’ by H. R. McMaster that describes the new generation warfare between Russian and America. One of the chapters was how the Russians were using social media as a disruptive technology for psychological effect on America.
I extracted a few poignant quotes from the book (which follow) to demonstrate the power of social media and the consequences that can be wrought on society. Keep in mind the similar use that may be wrought on a company and the subsequent consequences that may arise.
“Russian propaganda has been described as a “firehose of falsehood’ that spews rapid, continuous and repetitive disinformation. Typically, successful disinformation and propaganda campaigns prioritize consistency in messaging. Russian under Putin, however abandoned consistency because the aim was not to make the audiences believe something new but to question just about everything they heard, the purpose was to disrupt, divide and weaken societies. …Russian disinformation is designed to shake citizens belief in their common identity and in their democratic principles, institutions and processes by manipulating social media”.
Social media abets propaganda evolving from “repetitive disinformation” to inconsistent disinformation because any person who that perceives themselves as a stakeholder operating in the social media space can express their views or initiate campaigns of inconsistent disinformation, similar to the Russians, and disrupt society of their common identity, and belief in its institutions and processes.
A stakeholder in a project is defined as, any person or entity or group of persons with an interest, right, claim, or ownership in a project, organisation or commercial venture. Or even more widely defined as those who may be, or perceive that they may be affected directly or indirectly by a decision. Social media allows stakeholders with limited interest in a project to coalesce into united body and be guided and influenced on a daily or hourly basis.
The Internet Research Agency (IRA) (a Russian agency) “used Facebook (including Instagram), Twitter, Google (including its YouTube, G+, Gmail and Google Voice) Reddit, Tumblr, Medium, Vine, and Meetup to post content or support false personas. Russian agents even used music apps and games like Pokémon Go to reinforce themes and messages. The IRA maximized the potential of Facebook’s features, including Ads, Pages, Events, Messenger and even Stickers. Cumulatively it reached 126 million on Facebook, posted 10.4 million tweets on Twitter, and uploaded more than 1000 videos on YouTube and connected to 20 million users on Instagram”
All the time causing division in American society and pushing groups to extreme positions. We saw this in the previous American elections. Social media has the possibility of affecting companies in Australia. Just the sheer volume of the messages being sent with the assistance of bots gives social media a coverage and an effectiveness that did not exist in the 20th Century.
“Russian manipulation was effective because of social media companies’ business models, blind avarice, and their narrow focus on functionality without due consideration for how their platform could be used for nefarious purposes. Because tech companies prioritize holding users’ attention to expose them to more ads, the companies’ algorithms do not prioritize truth or accuracy, but instead help disseminate fake news and disinformation. The algorithms that determine the presentation of content in the social media encouraged further polarization and extreme views”.
Stakeholders and the community, worry about a number of things that can be categorized under Maslow’s hierarchy of needs outlined in the paper “A Theory of Human Motivation”. Worrying about base needs such as their own livelihood, personal health, and property values. Worrying about physiological needs involving community concerns like cultural and racial identity, cultural history, economic vitality of the community and community freedom. Lastly, achieving self-fulfilment needs achieving prestige and self-actualisation.
A significant percentage of first world citizens have usually achieved their base needs and physiological needs and are wishing to achieve self-fulfilment needs.
It is easy to imagine a person with conflicting views to a company’s purpose and lacking ethics may attempt to achieve their self-fulfilment needs by using Russian tactics and using the social media to influence the wider community.
To negate the effect of social media a company must have processes in place to:
- Monitor social media so issues do not arise from left field, for example the negation of short selling as in the infamous “Gamestop” incident.
- Have the same level of response time, or pre-empting communication so it gets no legs.
- to respond appropriately to fake news from the operations manual; and
- address all stakeholders to prevent communities being polarized.
The Australian mining industry faces challenges in improving its social licence to operate in the face of mounting stakeholder scepticism and a demanding public. Globally, the mining industry has a mediocre reputation with community relations and environmental management, social media has the potential to alienate the community, even further, if it hasn’t already.
Is your company prepared to control the risk of social media?
Learn about this and more at LandTrack Systems’ Communities and Social Performance Workshop.
Register now at www.landtrack.com.au/training or call 1300 659454.
LandTrack Systems has been training the industry for the last 2 years in the following courses: