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Governments Increasingly A-Twitter

Two CTG researchers are finding the keys to how municipal and other local governments can best employ social media for the benefit of their citizens.

ALBANY, N.Y. (February 13, 2017) — A study by a Center for Technology in Government (CTG) researcher reveals the factors that are making social media successful in Spanish local governments — results that could very well be applicable to municipal governments in the U.S.

J. Ramon Gil-Garcia finds a direct correlation between the governments’ characteristics and their overall success in using social media. With approximately 2.44 billion active social media users worldwide, in the past 15 years governments have also begun to see value in its use. Municipalities, for instance, use social media for a variety of purposes — transparency, open dialogue with citizens, transmission of information in an emergency, and more.

Recognizing the increased role of social media in local governments worldwide, Gil-Garcia, a research director with CTG and associate professor in Public Administration & Policy, along with J. Ignacio Criado, a CTG research fellow and associate professor with Autonomous University in Madrid, and Francisco Rojas-Martin, also of Autonomous University, set out to find the factors that make social media use successful in government. They knew that, while social media services grew fast in government and were early objects of study, such as SixDegrees, many have since disappeared.

Gil-Garcia and Criado looked at Spanish governments with populations of over 50,000 and who had, at a minimum, an active profile on Facebook and Twitter. These credentials yielded 124 research subjects.

GATHERING THE DATA

The theoretical model Gil-Garcia and Criado used, called the Enacting Electronic Government Success model, was previously developed by Gil-Garcia for the study of electronic government and focuses on the interactions between government and information technologies.

CTG Researchers
J. Ramon Gil-Garcia, at left, and J. Ignacio Criado.

Looking at organizational factors (such as the existence of a social media plan, or access to training), institutional factors (such as laws, regulations, political control), and environmental factors (technological development, political stability, and demographics), the two researchers analyzed data from three main sources:

  • Primary data from a 21-question survey they designed and sent to social media managers in the municipalities;
  • Analyzation of country-level statistics, such as figures from the National Institute of Statistics, the Electronic Administration Observatory, and the Ministry of Finance and Public Administrations; and
  • The local governments’ Klout Scores, a web based analytical tool that determines users’ overall online social influence.

Their 12-question survey received a 97.6% response rate.

RESULTS

The data confirmed that there is great importance in having an internal leader to achieve social media success. Such a leader can be a staff, dedicated to managing the profiles. Gil-Garcia and Criado also noticed a relationship between the success of social media and the size of a staff and the staff’s access to training opportunities.

In addition, they found that governments successful in social media were deemed by their constituents as being more transparent. Finally, their study found that the political party of the mayors in the Spanish municipalities was relevant, with left-leaning parties producing higher success levels than right-leaning municipalities.

CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE E-GOVERNMENT ARENA

Gil-Garcia and Criado focus much of their research in the larger field of e-government, and their findings could open an important door for future research. Additionally, because Spain has three levels of government, they believe these results could be applicable in the U.S.

The analysis of the data shows coincidences with leading research in the e-government field, and thus the researchers believe there is a relationship between the size of the organization, the size of the population, transparency, IT development, having an internal leader, and staff training with success of IT use and social media in public administration. The authors caution, however, that further research must be done in order to better understand traditional IT and social media similarities and differences.

To read the research study and academic paper, click here.

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