The emergence and use of social media has redefined the nature and reach of vocal minorities. It has meant that communities are better engaged, informed, and networked than ever before. It can take a long time to build the trust necessary for social license, and today’s digital citizen expects engagement across many platforms in order for that trust to be maintained.

Though social media sites are comparatively recent phenomena, the sheer weight of statistics means they are a potent force in the information age. Pipeline companies may strategize to be passive monitors of social media or to be active and engaged participants. Companies should bear in mind, however, that poorly-formulated strategies may be as damaging as having no social media presence at all.

This paper will highlight some of the hazards of an inability to evolve in the area of social media; such as the dangers leaving information voids, potential disproportionate representation of opposition versus support, and the potential of the regulatory bar being raised with each new application that includes social media statistics as a measure of the efficacy of a stakeholder engagement program.

The paper employs case-study analysis of successful utilization of social media, and focuses on challenges from activists and project opponents whose astute use of social media has mobilized previously disconnected groups, and shaped debates in a way that places the resource and pipeline industry at a potential disadvantage.

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