Social media is unavoidable today: James Ward, Incanus

Does social media have a role to play in Public Affairs? Yes, says James Ward of Incanus. In conversation with e4m, Ward talked about the ways in which Incanus has been able to use networks like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

e4m by Gopal Sathe
Updated: May 24, 2011 8:22 AM
Social media is unavoidable today: James Ward, Incanus

Using social media to connect people with brands is well known, but does social media also have a space in the realm of public affairs, which largely works behind the scenes and enables connections at a very different level?

According to James Ward, Director, Incanus, Public Affairs, a firm specialising in public affairs, social media allowed one to reach people in an effective and targeted fashion. He added, “At Incanus, we connect on multiple levels – both connect businesses with one another and also with the end users. Our areas of focus are on healthcare and education, so for example, we use social media to bring students to study abroad. There is a lot of interest and not enough information, and people don’t know how to get to it.”

In India for a short visit recently, Ward told exchange4media that given the growing reach of social media, no one could safely ignore it today. He felt that there was very little difference between offline and online connect. “Facebook and all social media are inevitable today. You need to observe the thought leaders, analyse their interactions and roll out a plan to interact with your consumers,” he remarked.

And while Facebook was unavoidable, according to him, “Twitter is the real gem”. He felt that Twitter had a wide spread demographic and there was huge engagement on it. Another tool that was underused, according to him, was YouTube, which was a great way of connecting with people. “And the best part of social media is that there is a lot of cross pollination, so people from Facebook go to Twitter and to YouTube and back,” he added.

He stressed that it was very important to establish a champion in the organisation, someone in-house. “This should be senior management, ideally at the executive level. This is because it’s a lot easier to teach someone how to use social media than to teach someone about every aspect of the business, which only the top people will already have,” he added.

Noting that the needs of the people were the same, Ward believed that today, social media allowed one to reach out to the right audience. He said, “For example, for education, the problem was a demographic challenge more than anything else. Private enterprise has to reach out to a certain audience, which isn’t well served by traditional media, but social media means that you can talk to the right students, the ones who are interested and who have the resources to take advantage of the opportunities created by globalisation.”

Incanus also does work with the governments of India, Canada and the US. Ward shared that for medicine, the flow was reversed. He divulged, “For medicine, we are doing something different. We’re working with hospitals here in India to help promote medical tourism in the US. There is a health disconnect, it’s become a very expensive proposition to get access to healthcare in the US, and the quality of the industry in India is very high.”

For this as well, social media is a useful tool. He said, “We connect the Indian hospitals to patients by creating platforms that allow them to show the quality of care, and we also connect the individuals who will use these services, so that they can share their experiences. Word of mouth is very important, but people aren’t always comfortable talking about something as personal as illness. Our job is to create a space where people can feel at ease and share their experiences.”

“For healthcare, the focus has been on helping people become less shy about their health, but there is also a lot of education that we do. The pharmaceutical industry has some of the greatest minds and a lot of information which people just don’t have. People need to know that their suffering is treatable, or they won’t even go talk to doctors,” he added.

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