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Social media ‘the world’s largest democracy’

Forum considers how governments and companies can give their narrative in an unregulated environment

Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News
From left: Rajai El Khadem, Suhel Seth, Rajiv. K Luthra, Navdeep Suri and the moderator Kim Kelaita, at the Forum ‘The Responsibility protocol for new media’, during the 10th Anniversary Edition of the Asian Business Leadership Forum (ABLF).
Gulf News


Don’t tweet irresponsibly like Donald Trump, but take time to build credibility, branding expert Suhel Seth told delegates to the Asian Business Leadership Forum 2017.

Seth, managing partner at Indian strategic brand consultancy Counselage, and a Twitter user with 4.5 million followers, praised social media for showing allowing the US president to demonstrate irresponsibility in a lively panel discussing the responsibility protocol for new media.

Describing social media as the most effective consumer listening and answering device, and the world’s largest democracy, he said, “It allows people to vent. Consumers want to vent grievances.”

But it was down to the individual to use the platforms responsibly. Seth said he always retweeted blood donation requests, and described Indian foreign minister Sushma Swuraj as a “modern-day Mother Teresa” on social media, always seeking to help.

“This is exactly what social media is about,” he said. “And we obviously have the leader of the free world who goes nuts with social media — but then he goes nuts with everything else. So his irresponsibility is not confined to social media. You can see irresponsibility across the spectrum.”

Rajiv Luthra, founder and managing partner of Luthra & Luthra Law Offices of India, said attempts to regulate social media tended to be reactive, rather than proactive. “My fear is that when you start to regulate this impossible monstrosity, if we can call it that, is you add more bad than good, because it’s very difficult to regulate.”

Instead, he felt self-regulation was the only way forward.

“The whole thing about the desire to regulate in today’s transparent world is ridiculous,” Seth said, “unless it incites violence, creates communal disharmony or for that matter is abusive. If it takes care of these three things, don’t regulate. Please understand that social media is about three things: inform, involve and engage. If you only do one or two and not all three, you’ll suffer.”

The immediacy of social media gives government officials the opportunity to be the first person to give a narrative, updating even from a meeting, said Navdeep Suri, Ambassador of India to the UAE.

“For me, having a Twitter handle means you are now a 24/7 diplomat on duty,” he added. “The medium doesn’t recognise time zones, and it doesn’t recognise weekends, and you are expected to be responsive.”

Rajai Al Khadem, Head of Public Sector at LinkedIn Mena, said his firm adopted as member-first policy to ensure it did not misuse data it collected, but instead help communities.

“We are working today with governments and the private sector to, in a way, predict the future,” he said. “What’s coming ahead, what are the jobs that are coming, what are the trends, what are the skills and where we are today and calculate the gap.

“The beauty about this is because this data is live and dynamic we are able to crunch it immediately in initial reports.”