Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Facebook of public organizations: Information delivery or communication?

Continue Devesh and Neeraj’s observations about Facebook, I would like to add some comments about using this widest-spread social media network. It is undeniable that Facebook is a miracle. It connects millions of millions of people all around the world. It helps friends and family member who are far way and haven’t met for years, meet every minutes in one shared destination. It brings people who haven’t met in their real life closer, making them know every detail about each other’s life through up-to-minute posts, pictures and video… as long as the Facebook account owner wants to share with the public.
Not limiting at people who know or already knew each other, Facebook works under a mechanism of concentric spectrum, in which people A connect to people B, people B connect to people C and make people A connect to people C and so on. Day by day, your Facebook spectrum amplifies, as long as you access to it daily and update it regularly. One status about your breakfast, your daily activities, or even your inner feeling, once was posted on your account, will be heard and responded immediately by persons you’ve never met in your life and are thousand miles away.
Grasping those preeminent features of social media in general and Facebook in particular, more and more public and non-profit organizations are using Facebook accounts as a tool of communicating with citizens. This trend varies depending on what level of democracy development the country is. In the US, we can easily search Facebook account of nearly all the state and local departments with thousands of people interested in (shown by the number of “likes”), including more than 3 millions like The White House’s Facebook, more than 941,000 people like the State Department and nearly 10 million people like Facebook of NASA. However, in middle-developed country like India, even though some public organizations manage Facebook accounts, they rarely update it. Consequently, just a handful of people, both state employees and citizens, know about the existence of those accounts. And in the less developed and opened country like Vietnam, while state officials are reluctant to see the citizens using Facebook, none of public organizations use Facebook as a tool of official information delivery.
From my observations, public organizations using Facebook account should be seen a kind of official information delivery rather than a tool of communication to citizens. Communication connotes a give-and-get information process, in which two or more parties exchange information and ideas. Once information was given, the recipient gets it, gives their ideas back and waits for more explanation or discussion. However, the next steps are missing in public organizations’ Facebook accounts. All that the public gets from those sites are official information, delivered under the form of a short press release. Readers, or public may read, like, comment, but never get any information from the account managers. For example, more than 5,000 people like the White House’s post 5 hours ago (up to 11:48pm, 2/3/2015) about ObamaCare. More than 1,700 people shared it. 870 comments were posted, but having a quick look, I realized that no comment came from the account administration.
Does it means that Facebook accounts are using as a mere tool of official information delivery by public organizations, but not a mean of public sector-citizen communication as I expected?

Trang DANG

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