Government as Part of the Revolution: Using Social Media to Achieve Public Goals

Landsbergen, David
January 2010
Proceedings of the European Conference on e-Government;2010, p243
Conference Proceeding
Social media, like Twitter and Facebook, is more of a communications tool than an IT application. Social media is growing rapidly because it supports social needs. Government will need to understand these social needs before government can use social media to improve both government and governance. Social media supports the social need for increased reliance on human networks; insists upon interactive communications; and blurs what is private and public. As a result, social media presents novel and challenging strategic, policy, and managerial issues for many US governments. These issues are explored in two ways. First, the paper reports on a participant-observation study of the use of social media by several departments within the City of Columbus, State of Ohio, USA. In addition, this paper presents a framework of how other governments are using social media. Many interesting issues emerged including whether social media communications are public records, and if so, how are these records are to be managed? With the blurring of the public and private, how should government seek and manage this information? Social media is about fast, interactive communications. How will bureaucracies adapt to these increased pressures for timely responses? These, and many other issues, increase the perceived risk in adopting these new technologies. For example, many organizations avoid social media for fear that it will make heavy demands upon their resources. Fieldwork and interviews reveal, however, that when there is a clear strategy for how to use social media, costs are below feared expectations. Given the importance of metrics and coordinated communications in social media, one recommendation is that departments should focus on small, well-defined projects. This recommendation aligns with the best practices suggested for both the private and non-profit sectors.


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