Social Media Round Table Discussion with Michael Hankey


Photo courtesy of Prasad Perera @budumalli

The US embassy of Sri Lanka (@USEmbSL) organised a round table discussion on the 21st of September with Michael Hankey, the Head of Social Media Outreach at South & Central Asian Affairs Bureau of US State Dept, who discussed on reaching people through virtual networks online. Tweeps in attendance were @indunan @Xelene @Milindat @Aye5ha @Nisald @ChristinaSyms @Udaraumd @NimanthieA  @moawesomesauce @mhmhisham @Sarathsc @NotJagath @Nazly @SueKiri and @budumalli

Mike discussed about important social media marketing tools. He said he managed posting content to 10,000 US embassies around the world via Hootsuite  alongside Mailchimp. He also introduced Strutta,  a social promotion platform that manages contests on Facebook. He highlighted the fact that contests on Facebook bring in more user-generated content that help fans in engaging and interacting with the brand.

An example of such a contest was “Sing Egyptian Women,” a women’s empowerment programme sponsored by the US Embassy in Cairo where Egyptian women were invited to submit videos of their singing, that were then uploaded to a Facebook page created for the purpose by the US Embassy. Targeting women only, the contest hoped to create a small copy of American Idol that relied on votes cast by Facebook users.

The most important use of Strutta is that the platform allows Facebook Page admins to review posts that fans have uploaded to their page thereby, eliminating posts by users with malicious intent.

Michael also talked about fan-gating (the equivalent of a welcome page for newcomers to your Facebook fan page. A landing page customized for anyone who has not yet “liked” you). This brought in the question of whether fan-gating is applicable to the new Timeline format of fan-pages. @MoAwesomeSauce explained that in order to gain the ‘Like’ before they see content, Facebook page admins can direct users to a specific app tab on the Facebook fan page that you have the landing page on.

He also discussed about two other important community based platforms such as Kickstarter which is a micromanaged funding based platform for creative projects. He said that although Kickstarter is a popular platform in the US, it is yet to gain popularity in Asia and elsewhere. For example, you can start a creative project on woven goods for a pledge of $ 20,000 and for every $ 10 you receive on your project, you can reward those fund providers with a postcard as an act of gratitude.

He then discussed about a global online-petition website where users can bring in engagement from entities in the government and private sector. He also said, that can be used as a vital as well as vicious tool for campaigns. Online marketers must also be aware of certain petitions that might harm their brands.

Michael also asked us about the impact of social media on traditional media and vice-versa. @milindat  and @mhmhisham briefed Mr. Hankey that people were impacted by news on traditional media such as TV and print media and posted their views online on social media. Traditional media also broadcasts views generated by social media users.

@mhmhisham further elaborated on the fact that social media was faster than mainstream media. Notable examples were the tweets on the results of the Eastern Provincial Elections which much faster than election results on TV and some Muslims had also tweeted their thoughts on the Dambulla mosque incident that were quite empathetic than views broadcasted on TV and print.

Mr. Hankey also discussed about citizen journalism that were created with videos which were effective in social media and based on a crowd sourced democracy. Example:  18 Days in Egypt

Four important rules while producing such videos are:

  • Rule of thirds
  • Blurring the interviewee’s face thereby affording them anonymity.
  • Making sure the video produced had fine picture quality.
  • Using a microphone to minimize background noise.

Towards the end, @xelene and @indunan talked about sexual harassment of women in public transport, streets and on roads. We were enlightened about that mapped certain areas in Egypt where acts of sexual harassment occurred to the fairer sex. He also discussed about community based maps, vital during the Arab Spring that were built to track down Tunisian secret prisons and mapping inflation dynamics and food prices in an agricultural economy.

In conclusion, he had suggested about creating videos with a positive impact on communities such as Coke’s video campaign, “Your vision for a better tomorrow in your community.”