Authored by: Reza Jamali
Affiliation: PhD (Strategic Management), Independent Scholar
Contact info: firstname.lastname@example.org
All concepts that are discussed in this paper relate to the country and government and not to political parties; however, parties can use the concepts where appropriate. Note that, owing to the specialized nature of the concepts discussed in this chapter, the questionnaire was not distributed among the public to confirm the indices and trends. Instead, the comments of 16 experts in the fields of marketing, sociology, political marketing and social media have been incorporated. The concept of social media intelligence is defined at the governmental level as follows: the ability to predict the behaviour of beneficiaries and lead them to the political goals of the government. However, the words ‘social intelligence’, which are at the root of this definition, have long been defined by Thorndike (1920) and Wawra (2009) as fol- lows: ‘the ability to understand and manage men and women, boys and girls – to act wisely in human relationships’. However, this definition is at the individual level and what is needed is far beyond that. In fact, we are trying to extend this definition in order to understand the political behaviour of individuals in a social media environment, and accordingly try to predict and change their behaviour, or, in line with the available information, make the best decision. In this case, there is a problem because there is the intermediary of social media technology between the beneficiaries and our technology. This behaviour is not something that we would normally see, but it can be feigned and may be far from the individual’s usual behaviour in a physical environment. Therefore we must find those indices that can shape the behaviour of individuals in a virtual environment. However, there are some advantages for the behaviour of individuals in a technological environment. People’s behaviour can be traced in a social media environment and particularly in social networks. For instance, any previous data that has been published by a person on social media can be considered a predictor of their behaviour. According to our study, people’s behaviour in the Internet environment is usually more stable than in the physical environment because our behaviour in a physical environment is also a function of our friend’s or partner’s behaviour. For instance, it is possible to exhibit a behaviour to please our partner in a certain set of circumstances that is not really in conformity with who we are, but there is no such limitation in the Internet environment. Therefore, contrary to what is expected, that a behaviour has further complications in a covert environment, we contend that such a behaviour assumes a greater simplicity that reflects the actual nature of individuals more than ever. Despite this simplicity, people try to show themselves at their best: only 26 percent of 1,507 people in Iran and the other five Arab countries believed that they would try to portray themselves differently from their real self. This percentage is highly significant and it can at least be hoped that the majority of individual behaviours exhibited in social and imaginary media are honest and can be relied on. When these factors are considered at the national level, country-social media intelligence (CSMI) will help governments predict future movements among the people and protesters so that they can take appropriate and timely action. Thus political intelli- gence is added to this scenario, with the result that governments must observe the international space of social media in addition to the internal policies that result in their control, because a major portion of the force applied to people movements is directed from outside the nation. However, this variable is usually uncontrollable and owing to the massive traffic volume on social media, the first point of CSMI focus is on the internal empowerment of the media and trying to control internal messages. On the other hand, how we can score the international environment and how many points we can give depend on the extent to which we have been able to control the internal environment and coordinate it with our policies. Thus for two main reasons – the need to protect the internal environment and the uncontrollability of the external environment – the focus is on the prediction of internal behaviours above all else. However, some governments regard social media intelligence as another form of traditional control. As mentioned in the previous chapter, people basically tend to take up social media in order to increase the range and quality of communications and if they feel such an environment is being controlled, they may exhibit unfavorable reactions.
Degree of virtual socialization
This section deals with whether introvert and extrovert people can be distinguished in virtual communities. It is clear that the type of reaction to any message can be a function of the introversion or extroversion of individuals; however, there is not sufficient evidence to claim that introvert people in the real world are also introvert in the virtual world because use of the secrecy feature in the social media can remove some of the obstacles presented by introversion. In this study, we divided 637 respondents to the questionnaire, all of whom were Iranian and members of Facebook and Twitter, into four groups. All respondents had been members of these networks for one to two years (with a current account).
- First group: between 1 and 10 friends (possibly between one and ten posts and or tweets).
- Second group: between 11 and 50 friends (possibly between 11 and 50 posts and or tweets).
- Third group: between 51 and 150 friends (possibly between 51 and 151 posts and or tweets).
- Fourth group: over 150 friends and over 150
Of the 1,831 people selected only 637 people responded to our online question- naire (the whole period of data collection was 23 days). In fact, we tried to under- stand which people can be called introvert and extrovert in a virtual environment. Although the number of friends and conversations within the virtual community was low, 34% of them claimed that they had more than one account in similar virtual networks. For instance, if their main account, which was the reason for their selection as a sample in the study, was in the social network of Facebook, 34% of these people had at least another account with their name (7%), with another name (22%) or with both (5%) in the same social network. This percentage was nearly equal to 1.4% for the fourth group but there was no significance between the second and third groups. Having more accounts is usually associated with some kind of secrecy and individuals can post an opinion in one account and then post the opposite in other accounts. What was of great importance for us was their type of reaction to a positive political message and a negative political mes- sage. There was no significant difference between groups in their type of reaction to the positive and negative messages; however, over 38% of individuals in both the third and fourth groups shared their messages and/or gave a comment on them. Content analysis of these comments indicated that the reaction to such messages was logical and only a few of them responded beyond the pale to the messages.
Similarly, in the first group, nearly 29% of individuals posted comments and a few also shared messages. However, content analysis of the messages in many cases (nearly half) indicated some type of agitation or extreme behaviour. Whether participants of the study are called introvert or extrovert, the results showed that those receiving the political messages must be classified according to the degree of action and reaction in the virtual environment so that appropriate messages can be designed for each group.
The producer or consumer of the content?
The experts in our study prioritized the factor of content production as the second important index of segmentation after the reference people and groups. They believed that a small number of people produced an important part of the content in the social networks and media. In order to prove the claim, 1,000 personal pages were closely investigated at random from only six countries in the Twitter network, that is, five Arab countries and Iran. The number of tweets (minus retweets) was important for the study. The investigation of the content showed that about 0.73% of these tweets belonged to 0.19% of users and 14 people out of the total 0.19% could be classified as popular, while others were ordinary. This indicated that people with greater content are a small part of the community in the social media. It should be noted that those producing content should not be confused with reference people or groups because a reference person or group may not produce a lot of con- tent and only be selected as a reference because of their fame or popularity. Thus, if the content producers are considered to be a market segment and the consumers of that content as another sector, were governments to focus on the investment in content producers they would take a majority of the market. Again, note that if the government can attract to their side in this case the maximum or at best 0.19% of users who are producing content, the whole community in fact is under control and the cultural concerns of the government will significantly decline (although that 0.19% seems almost impossible to control). Let us look at the issue from another angle. In Iran and the Arab countries being studied, more than half of the families in the country are dependent on the government (although they may not ideologically agree with that system) owing to the fact that the government keeps all personal affairs under constant surveillance and the private sector is not as active as in developed countries. Iran’s government, encourages government personnel to be present at important religious and civil ceremonies, so the same personnel must become content producers. This requires continuous training, but at least it is better than the overthrow of the government. What the experts involved in the study insisted upon was to create cultural content and try to preserve the culture of the people. They believed that maintaining cultural roots might prove an obstacle to the collapse of the state. However, when a home-grown technology competes at the local level over time and the community gradually becomes familiar with its different aspects, it prepares itself for the correct use of the technology. In contrast, when a state is a long way from the use of important knowledge and modern technology that appear so exciting for young people with regard to their communication capabilities, the development of such technology is achieved at great speed owing to the excessive increase in demand. In practice, it is a shock to the community while people are not still ready to digest and deal properly with the technology. As seen earlier, a majority of the users in Arab countries joined the social network in a very short time, which became the reason for the lack of culture creation, and many people did not give the government a chance. However, Iran and Saudi Arabia have successfully weathered the storm in the region and now have the opportunity for cultural creation and the production of healthy content in order to change public opinion. We might think of the Internet as a cultural pathway leading to a change in the culture in two ways. First, any technology basically has a culture with respect to its origin by which the culture transfers, such as the culture of open communications or the presence of critics in the social networks. Secondly, such a technology is a confluence of different cultures, in which the cultures change each other and the dominant culture will contain a set of the features of all cultures in it and will partly retain its root characteristics. However, how do we try to become the dominant culture? In our study, two factors – language and trust – account for the most important of the barriers to the cultural development of Arab countries and Iran. On the one hand, the language used in such countries, that is Persian and Arabic, is not the dominant language in social media. Therefore cultural products can cross those countries’ borders, but it may not be possible to penetrate the international market. On the other hand, trust in the news issued by the internal media of these countries is very low and people prefer to receive necessary content from British social media. This results in some difficulties in producing content for the government. Thus, the first step to promote the production of national content is to build trust in the content produced by the internal media and also to produce the content in an international language so that, in addition to the influence of other cultures, the internal culture can be affected by the content produced. Other factors, such as national identity, can also be seen to segment the political market. However, as this has been dealt with in a previous chapter, we will not consider it again here.
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