The HRD ministry is using Twitter as a means to create a social media network that can be used to promote #DigitalIndia and connect with students online.
Most people in the online space have bashed the government as the letter that was reportedly sent out by the HRD ministry surfaced online a few days ago. The letter asks the higher educational institutions to encourage students to link their social media accounts with those of the ministry. A majority of opinions shared online have termed the step as an invasion of privacy and something that would harm students in the long run. However, one college took to Twitter to declare their Social Media Champion.
Terming the letter baffling, Communications Consultant Karthik Srinivasan shared his views on LinkedIn saying, “I understand the intent — it is well-intended (to spread positivity), but the way he has gone about it is very high-handed and totally unlike how social media operates. Getting HEIs to start social handles and write positive stuff is a good thought, but the audience for such stories is earned, not demanded by a Government authority through an official letter and a deadline!”
With the letter doing rounds on social media where the HRD ministry has asked institutions to select a Social Media Champion, the digital presence of the ministry needs to be taken into account. A simple scroll is enough to understand that there have been efforts by the ministry to strengthen its presence in the social media space. Highly engaging visuals are shared with regular updates about events across the spectrum. Special schemes and initiatives by the government are pushed out and promoted here. At this point, getting students actively involved seems the most organic next step.
Setting the base
It is important to understand how a base has been set for a step like this to be thought of at all. A network of students can only be built after institutions have a concrete presence and a precedent has been set. While the HRD ministry is using both Facebook and Twitter well, the network on Twitter is one that is very visible, accessible and extensive.
Also Read: Know Your Leader: Cabinet Ministers 2019
The Human Resource Development ministry has an official account on Twitter that follows 197 accounts and has 1.6 million followers. The visible network begins here. Among the 197 accounts followed by the ministry are individuals who head NCERT and hold important positions in HRD ministry and other government departments and ministries.
Apart from this, almost all major IIT and IIMs are covered along with various regional accounts of Press Information Bureau of India. Lastly, all education-related initiative accounts are a part of the network. The ministry retweets the works of all these and more. A significant amount of policy and scheme-related educational information is also pushed, especially those covered by news outlets.
Optimising the network
The concept of #DigitalIndia is being promoted across the spectrum. Several initiatives have their own accounts, some of them are even verified. All these accounts are active and can be looked at as a branched setup where niche initiatives get a leg-up when re-tweeted by accounts that have a bigger follower count.
It is evident that individuals associated with these ministries and departments as well as students are being encouraged to push content on a day-to-day basis, prominently during events. Such tweets are then amplified, helping add a crowd-sourced feeling to the overall communication of the ministry.
While the ministry does not have an official Instagram account, its reach on Facebook is quite massive at 196K followers. They get likes and shares on all their posts. However, networking cannot be measured or be as visible as is in the case of Twitter. This is probably why Twitter is being used the most by ministries and politicians across the spectrum.
An important factor to be kept in mind while comprehending government decisions is that their communication is bound to have a language that is different from what is understood about social media in a colloquial or corporate environment. Thus, while the criticism is completely valid given the scale of impact this step would have, an insight into what led to this point is a must too.
While any prediction at this point is a guess, it can be assumed that this crowd-sourcing and networking will grow further if the letter turns into reality and all the students of higher education institutions, if they wish to, get connected with the official handles online.