Nuclear Regulatory Organisations, the Internet and Social Media: The What, How and Why of Their Use as Communication Tools

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“Social media” is a term referring to various activities that integrate technology, social interaction and content creation. Social media can also be thought of as a way of using technology to “enable conversations” that take place outside of the constraints of time and location – people can access the information any time of the day or night, from anywhere. Social media builds on the communication advances – and advantages of the Internet – but has increasingly become a communication vehicle far surpassing its predecessor. It is fast, cheap to the consumer, easily available and part of the fabric of people’s lives. Social media also magnifies information as it enables conversation that everyone can participate in. Videos “go viral” and are seen by millions of people, tweets are re-tweeted again and again, and information is “shared” to multiplicities of friends on Facebook.

Public relations practitioners around the world have been paying attention to social media as an important communication tool. Research done in 2010 by the public relations firm Burston-Marsteller found that eight of 10 Fortune Global 100 companies used at least one of the most popular social media platforms i.e. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or corporate blogging. In the United States, virtually all of the major federal agencies use at least some of the “big four” platforms. Many, if not all, of the nuclear regulatory organisations (NROs) represented in the Working Group on Public Communication use at least some social media. At a minimum, they are monitoring social media as they are also monitoring traditional media. However, a post-Fukushima informal poll indicated many nations’ nuclear regulators are looking at broadening their social media use, although some may not know how to proceed, and everyone can benefit from the “lessons learned” by others.

This report outlines the most popular social media tools available today, provides tips and techniques that have worked for nuclear regulators around the world, and when appropriate, provides case studies and links to help regulators create, maintain or improve their social media usage. It is important to note that social media moves very quickly, and many of the statistics provided by the NROs for initial versions of this report are now outdated. In addition, in some instances, NROs not cited in this report are now using social media platforms as new additions to their communication and outreach programs. It is also expected that new social media platforms will be presenting themselves as future options, and some platforms may fall out of favour over time. With that in mind, this report will be fully updated with new information, statistics and case studies in a few years. To make it easy to access online, and to enhance readability, the websites cited throughout this report are embedded in the text rather than written out in their entirety.