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Social Media

Social media is an important source of information which has greatly expanded in the last decade. As many places see a decrease in traditional journalists and news outlets, social media’s importance grows.

In 2018, more than 3.1 billion people actively used social media worldwide, and the number is increasing. The social media platforms you use may depend on your location, but, with a few exceptions, most social media platforms appeal to a broad cross section of users.

Part of the appeal of social media is how it allows for direct engagement with your audience. But to make that effective, you must establish an audience, and then maintain it. Social media also brings with it attendant risks and challenges. To successfully integrate social media into your media strategy, establish a realistic social media plan, as it is easy to become enslaved to meeting its demands without established priorities.

Social media offers options for delivering messages and benefiting from the feedback from specific audiences. For example, some users rely on social media for breaking news and mass media for in-depth coverage. Regardless of how social media fits into the communication plan, apply the same ground rules by which other communication activities are conducted. The need for accuracy and clarity, and clearance of messages, remains unchanged.

Rules for engaging social media, such as designated staff managers, must be established. For some guidance on this, see the UN Department of Public Information guidelines for using social media.

Social media can:

  • Offer diverse opportunities to promote news about your organization – to media, the public and other stakeholders
  • Generate greater awareness of the goals, technologies and culture of a nuclear organization
  • Bring traffic to your organisation’s website
  • Build and deepen relationships with target audiences
  • Provide more information about your target audiences
  • Monitor the responses of different audiences and issues relevant to the organization
  • Build awareness with limited budget
  • Increase brand recognition

Effective Use and Pitfalls

Social media is a powerful tool for engaging stakeholders, driving traffic to websites and other key resources, and building awareness of an organization. But it is important to use it wisely to ensure positive and effective outcomes. Otherwise it will fail to live up to its potential or may even damage an organization’s reputation.

Key considerations for effective social media include:

Planning Outreach – As with all communication activities, it is important to develop a comprehensive plan for social media, otherwise the risk of failure and compromising mistakes will increase. Develop a plan that outlines the types of social media that will be used and the primary goal for both the social media campaign in general and for each platform that will be used. Additionally, the plan should identify the individuals managing the social media campaign and platforms and the approval process for content.

Understanding Limits – There are hundreds of social media platforms available, and it is important to stay focused on those where an organization’s resources should be channelled to achieve the most impact. By understanding capabilities and needs, an organization can limit itself to a robust presence on a handful of platforms instead of presenting a weak front on a lot. 

Growing a Base – A social media campaign is directly dependent on having an engaged follower base, those who are liking, sharing, following and commenting on posted content. This does not happen immediately and to ensure effectiveness of social media platforms, an organization needs to work to attract them. This can be done through encouraging others in the field to follow the various platforms, using paid advertising to increase followers and developing engaging content that can be shared to organically increase followers.

Establishing a Conversation – Social media should not be used to simply post and distribute content, as it is designed to incubate two-way conversation. Create engaging posts and content that followers will want to share or comment on and reply to questions, remarks and concerns on social media in a timely manner.

Designating Management – As sophisticated and popular engagement tools, the direction of the social media platforms needs to be treated with the same scrutiny and professional approach as other more traditional communications. The manager in charge should maintain understanding of the content and any possible issues or concerns. 

Integrating – Although social media is a recent addition to external communications, it is a necessary component of most modern outreach campaigns. As such, it should be included as a vital and high priority tactic in most, if not all marketing, public relations, stakeholder outreach and other related strategies.

Posting Wisely – Make sure post content is thoroughly vetted for accuracy and errors, as followers are often quick to point out these errors, which can damage credibility. Additionally, anticipate a wide range of responses, both positive and negative, to posted content and be ready to react in a complete and positive manner.

Social Media Platforms

Social networking

Social networking platforms are designed to provide users with comprehensive profiles and pages that allow broader interaction with other users. These platforms typically offer a variety of social media interactions, including opportunities for earned and paid growth.

These platforms work well for:

  • Promoting information and news from your organisations
  • Announcing and promoting upcoming meetings and events including, on some platforms, the possibility of creating an event
  • Linking to the pages of partner organizations
  • Encouraging discussions by posting opinion polls or similar engagement invitations
  • Posting pictures, videos and graphics related to substantive topics
  • Posting links to helpful resources on external websites

Among the leading social networking platforms are Facebook, which has more than 2.2 billion monthly active users (as of January 2019); Baidu Tieba and Renren, from China; Vkontokte, mainly used by Russian speakers; and Cyworld in South Korea.


Microblogging services allow users to send and read short text updates. Many journalists follow these platforms because it provides an early warning of breaking news. On the opposite side, it provides a direct contact for communication professionals to reach out to journalists.

Microblogging platforms are useful for:

  • Posting advance information for large events and conferences, including the use of hashtags as identifiers.
  • Releasing breaking news and announcements.
  • Highlighting or retweeting interesting news articles from external sources.
  • Providing emergency communication and up-to-date alerts on incidents and emergencies.

Among the leading platforms in microblogging are QQ, which combines microblogging with shopping and video game capabilities, and Sina Weibo, both from China; and Twitter, which allows users posts of up to 280 characters in length.

Instant Messaging

Instant messaging allows for direct peer-to-peer or peer-to-group electronic communication. These platforms allow for the sharing of text messages, links, images and news or information alerts.

Instant platforms are useful for:

  • Communicating directly with individuals and groups.
  • Releasing alerts and breaking news.
  • Sharing links to news and other informational articles.
  • Sharing photo and other graphic images.

Among the leading platforms in instant messaging are WhatsApp, Snapchat and Blackberry Messenger.

Professional Development Platforms

Professional development and networking social media platforms aid professionals and organizations by connecting them with business associates, clients and colleagues, who become part of a network. They can also allow for the creation of issue-specific groups.

Professional development platforms are useful for:

  • Posting news on employment opportunities.
  • Providing information about the latest industry trends.
  • Offering networking and professional development opportunities for those in the field.
  • Developing groups for brainstorming and feedback from professionals.

Among the leading platforms in professional development are LinkedIn and Xing, a popular network in Europe.

Photo Sharing

Photo sharing social media platforms allow users to share and host images, both copyrighted and open source that can demonstrate the work taking place at an organization and larger related topics.

Photo sharing platforms are useful for:

  • Hosting images for viewing and sharing by other users.
  • Promoting recent events and topics through images.
  • Distributing open source images to media and others.

Among the leading platforms in photo sharing are Flickr, which allows for the posting of images and provides links for embedding them on websites or sharing on other social media platforms; Instagram, which allows for the posting of images as well as the development of narrative storylines that relate directly to the images; and YouMaker, a Chinese photo and video sharing site.

Video Sharing

Video sharing social media platforms allow users to upload, view and share video clips. Many of these sites allow users to host video content and create dedicated channels, which they use to promote their programmes and activities.

  • Video sharing platforms are useful for providing videos of your programme and facilities to improve understanding of your organization.
  • Exploring and subscribing to nuclear and science-related video channels.
  • Encouraging interaction through the comments section of your videos.

Among the leading platforms in video sharing are YouTube, which allows for the posting of videos with the ability to create channels and interact with users through comments; Vimeo, which is similar to YouTube in creating channels and interacting with users; and YouMaker, a similar Chinese video sharing site.

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