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MATTER OF FACT – News, Views & Trends from the World of Public Relations

by Ahmad Itani, Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Cicero & Bernay Public Relations.


When Facebook — the titan of the social media sphere — first came on to the scene in 2004, it launched with an ambitious mission statement: to bring the world closer together. Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn & myriad other social platforms, including china’s QQ and Wechat, share the same fundamental mission: Connection. More than a decade later, it is worth considering whether or not social media has delivered on this mission.
I believe that social media platforms have reinstated the inspiringly broad dictionary definition of ‘connection’, which is not limited to family, friends or work colleagues as many of us may believe, but is in fact defined as: ‘a relationship in which a person or thing is linked or associated with something else’. Social media has shed light on these ‘links’, revealing many ‘associates’ that we never knew we had and connecting us with almost anyone or anything that we feel an affinity with across the world, whether it is a brand, a leader, an influencer or an organisation.
The fact that social media has enhanced our capability to connect is unquestionable, but at the same time these platforms have been accused of diminishing human connection. Where is the discrepancy between these two schools of thought? I am confident that it comes down to how consumers and brands are using these platforms.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, is a role model for how to connect via social media platforms and has said: “Social media channels created new opportunities, removed all barriers and made the audience part of our development plans. Having a tremendous influence, today social media channels serve as an open parliament and cannot be ignored or misled.”
With this approach, he has turned social media platforms into his modern day majlis, echoing the legacy of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan, who was renowned for his commitment to connecting with his people on a meaningful level. there are three key elements to Sheikh Mohammed’s social media approach that we can all learn from: realness, ethics and openness. When connection is lost, one of these rules has been violated.
This is why Sheikh Mohammed calls Dubai a ‘second home’ to social media influencers; he knows they are achieving unprecedented levels of connection because they share genuine content that reflects their true selves, hold fast to their principles and welcome followers from across the world with open arms. We must embrace these three tenets if we are to develop digital and social media strategies that go beyond reaching to connecting.