Today I’m turning my blog over to a new friend of mine, Michael Moore-Jones.

Michael Moore-Jones.

Michael Moore-Jones.

Mike comes highly recommended. As I mentioned back on April 1st, I had tea at my Residence for New Zealand’s former Ambassadors to the United States. As I was walking Ambassador and Mrs. Frank Corner to their car, Lynn suggested that I take a look at her social media guru grandson Mike’s websites.

So I did. And they impressed me.

Mike is currently 16 years old and attends Scots College here in Wellington. Over the course of his life thus far he has lived in five countries: the United States, New Zealand, the Cook Islands, the Philippines, and Spain.  I list the US first because that’s where he was born.

Mike is passionate about technology, business, and education, and he acts on those passions. He blogs, mentors, and gets involved in start-up companies. One of his projects is They Don’t Teach you This in School, a website that aims to help young people succeed by learning from the experiences of older folk. Among other things, the site runs 60-second videos of adults talking about the most important things they didn’t learn in school. It’s a great idea.

Mike, thanks for your guest appearance today. The floor is now yours …

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Why and How Leaders Should Use Social Media to Communicate with Young People

by Michael Moore-Jones

New Zealanders and Americans have a lot in common, but one of the most immediately obvious things is that in most cases we’re both incredibly passionate about our countries. Quite rightly, too – we both have a lot to be passionate about.

As a young Kiwi with strongly positive feelings for my country, I want to know where it’s heading. I want to know what kind of place New Zealand will be in fifty years. From here, lots of questions start coming to mind - Where are our leaders trying to guide our country? Where does New Zealand fit on an international stage? Who are our diplomats overseas talking to, and what partnerships are they working on? What decisions are on our leader’s minds? Simply – I want to know how my country is placed internationally, and how it is being made more influential.

Currently I have limited methods of going about answering those questions. I can read the newspaper, but I constantly find that our media only scratches the surface of these important topics. I could read books to better understand issues and decisions made in the past, but that information isn’t current. No existing methods of discovery allow me to hear it straight from our decision-makers’ mouths. And that’s the essence of what young people want – we want to be hearing how our country’s future is being shaped, straight from the people who are calling the shots.

President Obama tweeting. Click through for image source.

President Obama tweeting.

Ten – no, even five – years ago this would have been right near impossible. How could decision-makers have communicated instantly and effectively to every young person in the country who wants to listen? But now, with tools like Facebook and Twitter, it’s hardly a big ask. It would only take a few minutes a day for our leaders to post a few tweets or Facebook statuses and keep young people up to date on how their country’s future is being shaped.

We don’t need to hear absolutely everything our decision-makers are doing, and we’ll respect the fact that some things they simply can’t tell us. But to know what is being done on a day-to-day basis to create the future for our country is hugely important. Our MP’s can tell us about bills they’re working on, and explain the issues surrounding them so we can all formulate a view. Our diplomats can tell us about who they’re meeting and what they’re talking about, whether it be other diplomats or Kiwis doing business in the country they’re posted to. It’s about anyone who is making a decision on behalf of New Zealanders stepping up and using social media to tell young people about it.

If the above happens, what will it create? It will lead to a generation of New Zealanders who are actively involved in their country’s decisions. It will lead to a more informed public, and the result of this is that as a nation we can create more ideas and ensure the best option is being chosen. This is the type of thing that if done successfully over a long period of time can pull a country together and propel it further ahead internationally. And it’s something that leaders in every country worldwide can start doing right this instant.

There are a few things that our decision-makers should know, and give thought to, before they start using social media. Firstly and most importantly is to not mix audiences. By this I mean you have to keep in mind who you’re talking to, and not try to talk to two different audiences at once. As an example, think of a politician. Don’t go trying to talk to your political supporters, and young people, at the same time. If you do this, you’ll end up not connecting with either group – and your social media efforts will be wasted. You need to bear in mind who you’re trying to talk to at any one moment.

More e-communication. Click though for image source.

More e-communication.

Most importantly, you’ll need to remember that social media is a way to connect with people. Now, some people believe that using social media should just be used to connect with people online. Personally, I believe social media is a way to connect with people in the real world. In other words, you should give thought to how you can meet up with the people who are listening to you on Facebook or Twitter and get their opinions and feedback. It’s about talking and listening.

If countries around the world have leaders who are willing to speak to young people, and listen to what they have to say in response, we will see many valuable effects come out of it. Here are the three main benefits:

•   A future generation that is well informed and willing to give appropriate feedback on issues.

•   Leaders who understand how issues are affecting young people and can therefore ensure the best actions are being taken.

•   A higher chance that in fifty years’ time, New Zealand will be the country we want it to be.

Although I have spoken about New Zealand in this article, the same applies to any country around the world – including large countries like the United States. If both of our nations’ leaders can heed this advice, and begin speaking to young people, I am positive that we will only become prouder and more passionate about our countries as time wears on.

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Mike, thanks for the words of wisdom and for your perspective.

As Mike told me offline, one of the primary reasons he blogs is to get feedback and hear other people’s points of view. So, please be sure to share your thoughts with Mike, either here or on his blog.