1 on 1 with Mishaal AlGergawi UAE’s Social Media Expert (Part 2 of 2):

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This article is a continuation of the discussion held here in part 1 With Mishaal AlGergawi, and is sponsored by the Government Social Media Conference (@govsmc) taking place in Dubai on June 7th – 8th.

After discussing how Mishaal felt about his personal experiences with Twitter we then moved on to discuss the state of Social Media in the region and especially in the government sector. I asked him whether if he thought social media was on the rise in the UAE or if it had plateaued, Mishaal responded saying “I think Social media is on the rise, this is only the beginning, the main point of these social media networks is communication and engagement” Mishaal Feels that in the GCC both corporations and government institutions don’t try to engage with people on social networks and fail to see the value of engaging directly in conversations with people “For example why doesn’t the RTA tweet about the traffic in the morning? Why doesn’t Emirates airlines tweet their flight schedule to see if a certain flight is on time or not?” exclaimed Mishaal, which I thought were pretty good questions. So I turned the questions to him to get an insight as to why he believes the RTA doesn’t tweet about the traffic in the morning.

“I think it comes down to not fully understanding social media and not having the appropriate procedures and resources that are aware of how to deal with it, I don’t believe that there is mandate from the upper management not too use social media”. He also provided me with an example from a colleague of his where their social media policy restricted employees to tweet or post any messages without the approval of upper management, which defies the point “because by the time the tweet (or post) is approved then its old news and not really relevant anymore!” Stated Mishaal.

I brought up the fact that a lot of corporations in the region don’t want to venture in social media because they were worried of negative feedback and wouldn’t know how to deal with it, Mishaal brushed that aside and asked me “Do you think people on Twitter aren’t already complaining about Du or Etisalat?” I laughed and agreed with him, people will complain no matter what you can’t really please everybody. But it matters how you deal with it, and I explained that maybe that is a reason why governmental institutions don’t want to get involved in this mess, so he decided to answer the question with a little role play, he asked me to give him an example of a negative comment and he’d play the role of the receiving party just to demonstrate that anyone can respond or react in any given situation.

So I pretended to tweet a negative comment to the RTA about the conditions of the roads in the Dubai. He replied very swiftly (and professionally) by:

  1. Thanking me for my comment
  2. Acknowledging my concern – “Yes we do realize this is an inconvenience at the moment”
  3. Explaining the situation – “However this is a necessary action for further growth of our city we appreciate your patience”
  4. Explaining the results or targets – “and all of these work are being done for the better of the community.”
  5. Giving back – “If you have more comments you can contact us at… or if would like to know more about the projects you can view our website at…”

In my mind that was a perfect answer, because all of the correct steps were taken to address my comment and prevent me from causing a bigger scene and adding more fuel to the fire. Acknowledging a consumer complaint usually solves half the problem; people just want to know they’re being heard. If my comment was totally ignored then that would have definitely escalated the issue and the RTA or any other entity would’ve been dealing with a bigger issue. Its as Mishaal puts it “You have to be transparent and you have to respond to people, you can’t ignore people and just hope the problem will go away, if there is a valid concern or criticism you must address it.”

Finally I had asked Mishaal if government entities would become more active on social networks in the coming year, he doesn’t believe so he that’s mainly due to social media still being a new medium that they’re still trying to grasp. “Unfortunately These entities are still thinking with the old mentality of controlling (or trying to control) the message” stated Mishaal, and we all know on twitter and other social networks the message is in the hands of the users, the sooner they realize that, the sooner they will participate in the conversation. “People will talk about you whether you’re on Twitter or not, so it would be better to participate and be involved in the conversation and address any issues as they surface” explained Mishaal.

I would like to thank Mishaal AlGergawi for taking the time to talk with me and sharing his views about social media in the region. And I would also like to thank the Government Social Media Conference for helping out if you would like to attend the conference and haven’t yet registered you can do so here.

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Having worked with top digital agencies in the MENA region for the past several of years I'm now looking now to venture on my own with small side projects in online, social and mobile. Things I like include: gaming, sports, technology, social media, start ups, funny things and reading about new bright ideas.