Norman Ng

Archive for the ‘Social Media’ Category

Governments & Social Media Communications – Have We Progressed?

In Leadership, Social Media on March 5, 2012 at 12:26

ImageI was invited for a chat with representatives from the Singapore Public Service to discuss about “training” opportunities for an internal collaborative platform (much like Intranet 2.0 for the government).

One thing struck me was how dead serious and sincere their efforts was to juice the full potential of digital communications. Don’t believe me? Check out, and you’ll find more than a staggering 300 main / micro social media sites by the Singapore government.

And that’s just the beginning. 2009/2010 witnessed the Singapore government’s efforts to revamp it’s intranet – “where isolation is out, and collaboration is in”, says the Public Service Division. So my conversations explored how they were attempting to structure this. And they mentioned that in the spirit of social media, they wanted to create an intranet platform that works like “social media for the government”. They call it the “CUBE“.

So now they’re venturing into internal communications? I SAY AWESOME.

My optimism needed to be checked much sooner than later, because as we went through the conversation, because they were looking at rolling out training programmes to train portal managers to “engage” and “facilitate conversations” so that collaboration could fall into place. My heart sank deep.

Here, we’ve at the start of a really great portal, which has the propensity to genuinely strengthen communications and collaborations, but can we really expect magic to be created through this “socially engineered” effort? It’s akin to a production line. The Comms and Finanance ministry gives the first foundational roadblocks by giving resources and infra to build this up, and then passes the buck to the next assembly line to “train” people to engage, that’s it?

We’re talking about a huge investment going straight down to the titanic’s resting place.

You can’t socially engineer engagement, it needs to be cultivated from the bottom up, generated by a community of advocates and believers. A measure of success of any web 2.0 effort requires a huge mindset changes and shift in tact by the government to do away with a top-down approach. Individuals, with their “digital signatures” have the propensity to “influence” and shape action to greater degrees. And in the Singapore government’s effort – intra collaboration.

And there’s one critical ingredient that’s left out in this Intranet 2.0 effort – Branding & Culture. What’s the value proposition to pockets of individuals and groups in the government to participate in CUBE? What difference can they make in participating, engaging and collaborating in CUBE? Who will listen? What will change?

People need to see value, intrinsic or not, to motivate active participation. People need to see a brand and identity on a platform that promotes collaboration. For Twitter platforms, it’s clearly seeing the conversations and thoughts in between a person’s life, or an organisation’s conduct of business. But what about the intranet? GovLoop, a US government social network, has thousands of “government innovators” sharing ideas for “improving the government”. Australia’s Victorian Public Service Hub, an open technology platform, gives employees virtual space to discuss ideas.

So in the case of Singapore’s public service, they are making a genuine effort in pushing social media communications further. They’ve seen successes such as crime fighting and enforcement education through its Police Force Facebook attracting almost than 300,000 likes, and makes great progress in sharing policies and government activities in more than 300 platforms of varying success.

But hey, like what Clint Eastwood said in Chrysler’s Superbowl 2012 Ad, “It’s halftime America”…the same goes here, Singapore’s “GovComms” effort are gaining traction. It would take a huge change in mindset and approach to progress further if it seeks to capitalise on the success of earlier social media communication efforts if it seeks extend it to internal government communications.

Lets see what progress we’ll make in the next half.


Social Media “Indigestion” – A Tipping Point in Communications

In Public Relations, Social Media on February 13, 2012 at 10:26

Among the constant stream of social media statistics that have rolled out, one particularly stood out for me in 2011/2012 –

“73% of people think employers overshare on social media”

I think we’ve reached a tipping point in enterprise communications, where enterprises become increasingly reliant on social media, where audiences are correspondingly more battered with asymmetrical information, or NOISE, as we call it.

Corporate marketers are jostling for Google Adwords space, PR folks are outwitting one another to run more interesting Twitter Campaigns, Facebook is increasingly crowded with 800 million followers and with advertisers hounding them with more messages. Talk about INDIGESTION.

It’s insanely crazy. I wonder what happened to direct f2f engagements? I wonder if the all too important aspect of direct communications has been marginalised? I hope not, because I know for sure that the time tested principles of Relationships and Stakeholder Experience are most influenced through bread and butter, personal communications.

For enterprises, it’s always important to take stock of where you’re heading in PR & Branding in today’s dynamic communication landscape. Don’t be too razzled when everyone says “social media is great”, because that’s when you know it’s time to reconsolidate and head the other direction when everyone is missing the point altogether.

So as the saying goes, “too much of a good thing never goes well”.

Social Media Leadership – X Factors (Part 1)

In Leadership, Social Media on October 4, 2011 at 10:44

“The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday”, motto of the US Navy SEALs, best sums up the challenges that enterprises face in today’s evolving communications landscape. With unprecedented access to troves of information, and the modes of engagement, enterprise stakeholders and their employees are increasingly (mis)informed; (dis)engaged and (dis)connected. Social media has presented risky branding / PR challenges, yet presents immense opportunities to strengthen brand equity and stakeholder engagement.

This series of articles on Leadership Strategies & Evolving Communications seeks to address one complex fundamental – Leadership. On how it can remain relevant, on how it needs to reinvent and adapt to a shifting communication landscape, to be able to continually invoke and exert social influence, inspiring people to contribute / commit in extra-ordinary situations. These articles seek to explore the traits of a Social Media Leader, and hopes to inspire leadership for tomorrow’s communication challenges. 


This first two X Factors will focus on a situational based leadership, in good times and bad times. The next series will focus on leadership & relationships. Here it goes:

X Factor 1 – Leadership in Adversity 

A true leader is one who shines during adversity, and lets others assume the limelight in good times. In a crisis, this leader will stand up at the front and say, “I take full accountability, responsibility for the current state of affairs, intended or not….as a leader…I LEAD from the front..” The leader will take responsibility, take action, and express humility – In that order. The buck stops here.

In the rise of corporations, we have been seeing all too many impersonal communications, especially in crisis events.  “It is our policy not to comment not speculate on unverified rumours”, as textbook corporate lingo would put it. But these enterprises might want to think otherwise, since 90% of people trust peer recommendations.  Certainly, quite impossible to respond to all claims especially with the volumes from social media platforms, which may be expressly exaggerated, but nevertheless, be prepared to be at the front in the most dire situations. Not so much for public lynching, but to rally your organisation, inspire leadership that you are prepared to make this happen.

X Factor 2 – Leadership in Positive Organisational Climate

A good leader gives space to his rank and files to take credit when it’s due, and gives them their shining spotlight moments. Its tempting for leaders to leverage on the almighty networking prowess of social media to convey their messages, values and statements in person. But it’s a great opportunity to take it a few notches higher in the same spirit, letting stakeholders and audiences know more about your brand / organisation, through the faces and people behind the scenes. It’s more compelling, and its expresses humility of a good leader who lets his people board the bullet train forward.

Common in this two situations are that intimate communications, having a person in the loop is essential, despite the onset of social media. It’s convenient to convey a message in 140 characters via tweets, but it can never replace the emotional and direct engagements trough personal leadership in communications. So its important that in the faced paced communications landscape, enterprises do not lose their souls through impersonal communications. “If you’re a leader….Lead”


Social Media Passports for Netizen Societies?

In Social Media on October 3, 2011 at 12:11

So, in the immense hours spend on social media communications, I think quite a fair bit of folks have earned adequate brownie points to seriously think about denouncing their existing nationalities and form new netizen identities, of course with social media passports to boot.Unthinkable? Not so much, as I draw inspiration from Burson-Marsteller’s Social Media Infographic on social networks in Asia-Pac. Imagine this – 6 Social Media Continents, consisting of Social Networks, Micro-Blogs, Blog Platforms, Video Sharing Sites, Reference / Collaboration Sites, and Professional Networking Sites, each with its own netizens.

Top Social Networks - Asia Pac 2011 (Burson-Marsteller)

So it’s of course not surprising to see that Social Networking Sites such as Facebook get the largest pie of the netizen population. Strength in numbers? You bet. But how well can we really relate to one another in this new social milieu?

Social media TODAY, has become a way of life. We wake up, check our facebook statuses before the weeklong routines, we tweet everyday life as we commute and move through our paces, we read the news, from toilets to elevators, from mobile devices. Aren’t we new citizens of virtual societies? The significance is not so much in the numbers, rather, from a socio-cultural standpoint, it REVOLUTIONISES the way personal and professional relationships are established, maintained and sustained.

I admit, in the good and open spirit of social media, it has created boundless opportunities in learning, sharing, collaborating etc. I learn more about people, issues and subjects I have never batted my eyelid to understand like never before.

On further reflection, how much can we really understand about people, cultures and issues within a 1280 x 800 pixel wall post on facebook, or a 140 character tweets, or 100 sec youtube videos? Have we developed a high index social culture, with deep and intricate “Social Media Identities”, worthy of forming a new virtual societies?

I have doubts that while we can arrange ourselves with social media presence and identities to relate and communicate, in its current state, the level of intimacy, understanding and relationships will not replace the existing socio-cultural intricacies, not even with the much acclaimed enhancements to Facebook nor launch of Google+. Social Media is in a consolidation phase. It is evolving, making calibrated adjustments to aid us in our communication needs.

So as much excitement and brouhahas are abound with each social media platform’s launch, its important for us to reflect and think hard on how they will impact our lives and society. It is maturing, but not at a stage where it is a high-index social milieu, to overtake existing socio-cultural identities. But then again, no know knows for sure when this revolution will take place..meanwhile, lets cherish our grubby, ink stamped passports while we can.

Infographics on Social Media Stats 2011 – Asia Pacific

In Social Media on September 26, 2011 at 15:29

Mind blowing stuff from the folks at Burson-Marsteller. Will talk about key issues and challenges in upcoming post. Enjoy!

How to Achieve 2.5 Millions Youtube Hits with 100 Seconds

In Public Relations, Social Media on September 21, 2011 at 12:30

To celebrate the it’s opening as Europe’s largest urban shopping centre, Westfield Stratford City, a British Mall got The Viral Factory to produce this instantaneous youtube hit on 100 Years of East London Fashion in 100 Seconds. Brilliant tagline and media campaign which as of today, exceeds 2.5million viewership in a mere 3 weeks.

Peeking a little deeper into this, I asked myself, what’s the formula behind it? I think there are 3 core reasons that can help  PR / Marketing Ad campaigns to achieve high leverage:

Give Audiences Reasons to Celebrate – It’s about understanding primal and raw emotions and psychologies that youtube offers us instantaneous bits of happiness in palm sized iPhone screens to 40″ TVs, where we escape for brief moments into the social media sphere, at times to relieve the daily grinds and monotonies though accessing viral videos that give us good reasons to celebrate, or simply, to be Happy.

It’s not about how cool, hip, trend, or comparatively / competitively advantageous a brand, person or product is. And while I truly enjoy watching some of these ads, for some reason, I remember ads that make me inspire happiness. It’s the “Feel Good” Aha moments that are essential, in effective viral video campaigns.

Being Bold & InnovativeIt’s ridiculously tedious to make this video. Dancing 100 times in different costumes, countless locations stitching them together in at least 100 frames etc. But it’s innovative, and it gets the message across. Compressing 100 years of fashion in bite sized pieces, how much better can it get?

Subtleness & Simplicity – I’ve never been favourable of hollywood stunts / effects that can give you space age 3D / 4D high-definition-that-you-can-even-see-the-eyeballs-of-mosquito. We don’t need those. Nice? – Yes. Must Have – No. Good to Have? – Maybe. It’s the cleanest, simplest videos that get the messages across – HARD. I like the one by Purplefeather on “The Power of Words”. Simple, subtle and inspiring.

So yes, it’s possible to get millions of hits with 100 seconds. At the end of the day, you need not have the best cutting edge technologies to achieve this…instead, it takes intellectual magic and effective communication strategies to save the day.

What are you favourite videos that makes us celebrate, is innovative and simple? Share it!

%d bloggers like this: