During the coronavirus outbreak, governments need to communicate quickly and effectively with citizens. Finland has turned to social media influencers to distribute accurate information as the virus progresses, according to The Guardian. The Finnish government argues that social media influencers can help contain the coronavirus by spreading good information.
Great piece about ???????? approach to #FlattenTheCurve: Finland considers social media influencers as critical actors in the fight against #COVID19.@FinGovernment launched a public-private partnership campaign to disseminate reliable information to citizens.https://t.co/NcI37ySL5n
— Eeva Laavakari (@EevaLaavakari) March 31, 2020
While traditional, mainstream media outlets work well, the Finnish government worries that it does not reach all populations. To make use of new platforms during the pandemic, Finland has named social media influencers as “critical operators.”
The initiative has been created by several actors. Among them are Sanna Marin, Finland’s 34-year-old prime minister, a social media consultancy known as PING Helsinki and a network of media companies called Mediapool. The combination of these three partners ensures the success of the social media influencer project. The prime minister helps determine the measures Finland will take to stay safe. PING Helsinki edits the government’s releases into social media-length messages. Next, the consultancy sends those short, effective texts to a catalog of 1,500 influencers. Mediapool also helps provide citizens with access to reliable information.
“It’s about supporting social media influencers in sharing reliable information related to the coronavirus and helping ensure that the right information is available on all channels at the right time. By working together, we can prevent the spread of false information,” said PING Helsinki to The Guardian.
Emmi Nuorgam, a Finnish journalist and blogger, described how the pandemic has caused panic and stress to quickly spread through social media. If governmental messages do not effectively reach the public on their emotional level, the existing panic can be quite difficult to reign in. As panic heightens, false information might be shared too. The spread of bad information can also cause panic and fear to increase even more.
To combat the spread of false information during the coronavirus pandemic, PING Helsinki has also shared a guide to social media best practices. The guidelines ask social media users to pause and consider the post and information before sharing. It is important to review the post and determine if the information is based on fact or opinion. If it appears to be based on fact, double-check the information with a quick search before posting. Again, the goal is to avoid the spread of bad information whenever possible to prevent further panic during the coronavirus crisis.
Fortunately for Finland, PING Helsinki was tasked with increasing the credibility of social media influencers in 2018. While the company believed the goal might be an overreaction at the time, it has clearly paid off through the current pandemic.