More than two-thirds of public affairs professionals with responsibility for China believe that opinions expressed in social media have more influence over contemporary public policy than other media, according to the Edelman Public Affairs Asia survey, presented last week during a closed-door roundtable featuring senior government officials, foreign multinationals and state owned enterprises. 


“It is no longer adequate simply to monitor social media. It’s clearly impacting the development and implementation of public policy in China,” says Alan VanderMolen, president of Edelman’s Asia Pacific region.  “Foreign MNCs, SOEs and other organizations must get engaged to foster meaningful dialogue and relationships with stakeholders on an ongoing basis.”


Further highlighting the impact of social media, 66 percent of survey respondents believe that social media is “the most influential communications medium in modern China.”  In addition, respondents believe that the government is responsive to online opinion: almost 60 percent disagree with the statement that the Chinese government will not respond to suggestions and policy positions advanced through social media.


“The survey reveals the significance of social media in public policy in modern China. Yet just eight per cent of respondents state that their public affairs department is responsible for social media strategy,” says Craig Hoy, executive director, PublicAffairsAsia.  “To deliver meaningful outcomes, senior practitioners need to align medium and message and start taking responsibility for social media.”


Responses to the survey suggest that public affairs executives use social media but have not begun to approach it systematically.  Forty-three percent of respondents have started to utilize social media platforms as part of their public affairs strategy “but have not yet evaluated its impact.”  Only one in seven (17 percent) claim to use it as a fully integrated and evaluated tool in their public affairs work. 


When it comes to leveraging social media as a means to collect and disseminate information about their business, 59 percent of respondents use it at least several times during the week as an input device for news and information about their business. 


On the other hand, 37 percent use social media for putting messages about their business into public view at least several times a week.  Nearly half (46 percent) use it only infrequently (less than once a week) or not at all.