I am a big fan of modern social media like Facebook, Twitter and blogs – it is the most powerful communication means of the history of the world, and if used smartly can (and often does) change the world.  Still it more often gets hijacked by old world communication strategies and purpose, clutters our life with meaningless information, and creates more havoc it seems than good.  However, you know social media is everywhere and its impact is only escalating – more and more people engage and rely on social media channels every day – in fact its use is so pervasive in our society that to not engage it would mean your certain exclusion and disconnection from your friends, family, and Community.

In 2010, 80% of individuals aged 16 years and older used the Internet for personal use (86% of British Columbians)…almost all (92%) had a Facebook profile…and among Internet users, one-third (33%) went online with a wireless handheld device. Source – Statistics Canada

In the past effective communications took place in community meetings, with family/clan heads, newsletters and other social and cultural gatherings where the message was received and then shared orally from one family/community member to the next and then to the next and so on – in what we oft refer to as the moccasin telegraph. Granted…the message authenticity would be slightly modified with each successive messenger recital, but it was amazingly fast and could still be considered reputable enough…and being an oral culture we were excellent at populating the moccasin telegraph with huge amounts of information, stories and news.

Today – we continue to use modern social media like FaceBook and Twitter in exactly the same way would the old world moccasin telegraph.  In fact the evolution of these technologies has if anything intensified our ability to share and extended our ability to reach more friends and family more rapidly and at almost zero cost.  It has also, and this part of the challenge, removed many of the cultural and social filters that moderated the moccasin telegraph message. With so much more sharing now (it was pretty hard to send a photo through the moccasin telegraph) and because anyone and everyone can do it, it sometime feels more like clutter than helpful messaging and sharing.

There in lies the challenge in using social media during your First Nation election processes effectively and with purpose – and for that matter your Nations ongoing communications and messaging.  The biggest challenge will be to cut through all the clutter and voices – and find a place for your election process message and story to take root, find a following, build a discussion, and grow.  Here’s the thing…it takes time and it requires patience and perseverance, and most of all it demands faith that the effort will find a life of its own…a social movement.

“But even though social media has great potential, many organizations do not properly integrate social media in their marketing and communication efforts, or only use it as a one-way communication channel instead of listening, analysing, and driving conversations. .” – Anne Herngaard

The central underlying message of this elections manifesto has been to start the conversation early.  It’s important to realize that a half-hearted or delayed effort will likely cause more harm and not reach many of your members/electors, and make the next effort even harder to launch because of lost credibility and significance.  If your First Nation website is stale and out-of-date or the last post made on Nation’s FaceBook page is 6 months old…pause and give some thought and time to consider how you will proceed.  Remember that modern social media is permission based – meaning members/electors can just switch you off – so proceed with purpose, a plan and commitment.

I wish I could tell you that there is a magic formula for a successful social media strategy – one that would reach and engage all your members and prove to be the perfect communication tool it is unfailingly touted to be…unfortunately I must advise that none exists (and anyone who says they have the magic formula is a charlatan).  What I can suggest, as it has been shared with me through dozens of books, CD’s, seminars and conversations are these following tenets:

  1. Start the conversation now – tomorrow is too late.
  2. Tell a story – do not sell (a product, a brand or an agenda).
  3. Be honest, transparent and invite feedback.
  4. Listen.
  5. Share meaningful information – become a trusted resource not a sales agent.
  6. Invite ‘Seezers’ to participate (see Chapter 3).
  7. Engage regularly and often.
  8. Be “Remarkable” (generate content that will others will remark on).
  9. Drive the conversation (not to be confused with forcing an agenda or stifling discussion).
  10. Nurture and reward participation.
  11. Never stop.

Using modern social media effectively for your next elections process is not something that can be a last minute consideration…start now – tomorrow is too late.  Use this next election cycle as the opportunity to plant and nurture an effective social media communications channel and then continue using it beyond the election date and continuous until the next election and so on…never stop.  It could just be the thing that unifies your Nation like never before, saves your culture and language, builds wealth and prosperity…CHANGES YOUR WORLD.

It might seem daunting, labour intensive and expensive – but do this right it shouldn’t be.  In fact, it can done for less than the printing costs you presently incur for the newsletters you probably publish on at least a monthly basis now!

Still unsure…give me a ring and I’ll be happy to provide a consult at no charge to map it out for your First Nation.

Lawrence Lewis

“When you give everyone a voice and give people power, the system usually ends up in a really good place.” – Mark Zuckerberg, CEO & Founder of Facebook

About Lawrence Lewis

I do a number of things professionally...but most of all and the true purpose of what I do through "my work" is to provide for my family, be a good husband and great father, and try to make a difference as a world citizen...I guess it's not much more complicated than that 🙂