On July 1st, 2015, the State Bank of Pakistan sent out its first tweet: “SBP is pleased to join the social media on its 67th anniversary. Governor SBP,” it tweeted from “@StateBank_Pak” account. And with that it took its first step into the world of social media.
This is indeed a good step, for there is no denying that we are living in the age of social media. Nearly all central banks in North America and Europe have embraced social media, whereas the trends in Asia, Africa, and Latin America is gradually picking up.
SBPs twitter account says that the account is primarily to inform about information dissemination, which means it will be tweeting about latest press releases, data or report dissemination. Thats all hunky dory. But the central bank shouldn just stop there. Over due course of time, it should embrace social media as a whole, instead of limiting itself to tweeting about information dissemination.
Elsewhere in the world, central banks have YouTube, Facebook and several other types of social media accounts including Flicker. The idea is that central banks can no longer afford to live behind iron walls of coded central bank speak, and appear as superhuman serious policy wonks. The world has changed drastically in the last fifteen years. Besides, the central banks in developing countries also have this quasi responsibility for increasing awareness, such as about financial inclusion, or counterfeit currency, or rights of banking consumers.
To achieve those ends, therefore, the State Bank of Pakistan would do well to roll out a social media policy for itself – one that includes Facebook and YouTube (or other video platform until such time YouTube is banned in Pakistan). Through these accounts, the SBP should eventually graduate from disseminating reports and press releases to using multilingual video, audio, info-graphic materials and blogs to inform the general public at large about economic trends, to calm sentiments, and to increase awareness about all to all and sundry.
The last leg for SBPs social media policy should deal with social media monitoring to start data mining social attitudes, where two obvious topics for which the SBP should start exploring social media mining are (a) inflation expectations, and (b) exchange rates.
Again, the idea is that social media has become so important that people discuss almost every aspect of their lives on Twitter, Facebook and other platforms, which can give valuable peek into micro economic trends. Moreover, the technology to meaningfully track all those tweets, and updates on social media has improved significantly; for instance the Indonesian government tracks tweets about prices to gain insights about price volatility and food inflation in general.
Here is hoping that the SBP would soon expand its social media footprint and embrace it for a much lasting imprint on Pakistans economy.