Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Social Media in Government: Politics and Public Administration

When we think about using social media in government it seems that there is sometimes confusion whether we talk about the body of public administration, or if we also refer to using social media by elected officials and for political campaigning purposes. Although they all relate to government activities and assume some similar goals, there are critical differences in strategizing selection and use of social media channels.

If I wanted to name one thing that I learned about using social media in public administration this semester, it would be to always start with the agency's mission. It means that the choice of social media tools is based on what the agency is all about and what goals it tries to accomplish with the help of social media. So the strategy comes first, and the tools second.

In case of political campaigning it seems quite the opposite – the available channels choose the strategy. State Digital Director in Ohio for Obama campaign Ashley Bryant when presenting at Syracuse University said: “I didn’t spend time which platform to use but how to use every single platform that is out there.” A candidate or an individual elected official needs to capture attention of the entire audience, which is scattered around a full range of social media networks, so the goal then is to come up with a strategy to make best use of every one of them.

Although both government agencies and political leaders aim to raise awareness about their activities, wish to gain trust of their constituencies, and use the same messages for different social media channels, the former strives to achieve a range of outcomes (increasing productivity, decreasing costs, crowdsourcing new ideas, engaging citizens into decision-making process), while the latter seem to employ social media primarily (if not solely) for PR purposes.

1 comment:

  1. By the way, this was JUST a thought.. And I would like to invite everyone to discuss whether this is really a distinction or it can go either way: government agencies can try to utilize all social media channels possible, and politicians can go far beyond PR when employ social media tools. I have now thought of an example provided by Professor Mergel in class when an elected official (Mayor of New York City I believe) engages with the citizens to the point when he provides names and contacts of people who can help citizens who reach out to him solve the issues they draw his attention, too. Any other thoughts or examples?