One of the many interesting questions posed to the panelists was to describe how we reach one of our primary audiences through social media. The question made me reflect on who really is the primary audience of social media efforts when it comes to development related issues? Are we really reaching our donors, or for that matter our recipients - the poor rural people?
Quite frankly, I am not sure. And I do not think we are. For that matter I do not think we should be using social media to reach our primary audience, unless our primary audience is within 25-45 age group. I know this may sounds absolutely absurd and quite out of character for a social media junkie like me. But here is my rationale for this statement - and I stand to be corrected and challenged:
- As development workers, our primary audience - our donors and other development partners - are probably not in the millennial age bracket, and may not necessarily consider social media as their preferred communication means.
Yes, it is true that today many politicians and decision makers are at least "active" on one or more social media channels. However, this said, the majority of them have ghost writers and their aids are feeding the social media channel. This means that they are not reading updates posted on social media channels nor engaging with "their audience". Which means, they are not reading our posts or our tweets :(
- Moving on to our beneficiaries..... I am not sure we can claim to have a high percentage of them actively engaged on different social media channels. At best, we may reach farmers' organizations, grassroot organizations that work with them, but not Jane the farmer or Osvaldo the pastoralist - at least not yet.
So, why in heaven's name are development workers using social media? Based on my experience as a social media convert and dare I say a social media strategist, as development workers we are using social media to:
- raise awareness about our issues with the public at large, with the folks who know little or nothing about development
- make the voice of the people we work with and serve - the voice of the voice-less - heard
- mobilize social capital with the hope that it will translate into mobilizing financial resources
In a way social media for development as turned the table because our secondary audience - the public at large - becomes our primary audience and our primary audience - the donors and our beneficiaries - become our secondary audience.
And hello - what about the millennial - the future policy makers - they are and should be indeed OUR PRIMARY audience. We need to invest in the future and have them advocate for changing the present.