Assessing the Social Media Presence and Activity of Major Greek Cities During 2014-2017: Towards Local Government 2.0?

Assessing the Social Media Presence and Activity of Major Greek Cities During 2014-2017: Towards Local Government 2.0?

Evika Karamagioli, Eleni Revekka Staiou, Dimitris Gouscos
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4197-4.ch016
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This chapter describes how little is known about how Greek local authorities capitalize on the potential of social media as a communication channel. The authors present the results of following up on a 2014 study assessing major Greek cities' presence on social media at the time. The authors check whether and how Greek cities may have improved their levels of acting and reacting via social media so as to identify eventual positive changes and/or patterns and discuss potential ways to implement comprehensive strategies for social media as civic interaction tools for local governments. A set of 52 major cities all over Greece (administrative capitals of the corresponding prefectures), has been chosen as the research population. Findings show that local authorities are advancing in the exploration of social media for communication with citizens, but have not yet reached a level at which they would use them as catalysts for citizen interaction in order to enhance civic engagement.
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Drawing on the existing literature of social media use in governments all around the world it becomes clear that they have the potential to introduce new forms of digital interaction between governments and their stakeholders (Bertot et al., 2010) as well as to increase democratic engagement, thus reaching a wide audience that has been traditionally characterized by apathy (Mergel, 2013).

Social media are also considered to enable governments in their effort to evaluate their own work and, as Noveck (2009) mentions in this line of thought, they also deliver a potential for playing an important role in the implementation of open government, so much so that they are widely used and adopted by the general public. These Web 2.0 platforms enable government agencies to ‘crowdsource’ useful fresh ideas from large numbers of citizens concerning possible solutions to social needs and problems, new public services or improvements of existing ones, or other types of innovations (Chun et al. 2010; Linders, 2012; Nam, 2012). This can lead to the application of open innovation ideas in the public sector (Hilgers & Ihl, 2010), and gradually result in ‘co-production’ of public services by government and citizens in cooperation (Linders, 2012).

This argumentation seems to be valid both for central government and local governments alike (Rutter, 2014) as local authorities are an important part of the everyday lives of citizens, both in the administrative and service delivery level as well as in the sphere of civic engagement and participation. They are considered as institutions that can more flexibly enable tools and processes towards more citizen-centric and participative forms of public policy-making with a stronger interaction with citizens, thus allowing the former to exploit the knowledge and the creative ideas of the latter with regards to pressing social problems, and at the same time increase transparency (Bertot et al., 2012; Snead, 2013) and accountability, in an effort to regain citizens’ trust (Azyan, 2012; Bryer & Zavattaro, 2011).

Or the adoption of social media by government has presented several constraints and in some cases disadvantages (Guillamón, 2016), linked to issues such as privacy and security; loss of control due to excessive transparency (Ferro &Molinari, 2010); low levels of participation as well as destructive behavior by users (Anttiroiko, 2010). Sound implementation of a social media adoption strategy is necessary in order for these tools to become powerful cost-effective ways that may effectively help to engage citizens.

Such a strategy would entail clear objectives, knowing the target audience, selecting the right social media for the task, and taking the time to develop the right policy that needs to be supported by traditional media channels. Social media evolves quickly, so it is a good practice to keep the social media policy platform-neutral, and subject it to frequent reviews and revisions in order to meet the needs of a changing environment. Recent findings, in this respect, show that the use of Facebook by Western European local governments has become commonplace, and the audiences of the official Facebook pages of Western European cities are rather high. Still, a high number of fans does not automatically mean an engaged audience, and citizen engagement in general is found to remain low (Bonsón et al 2017).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Transparency: Obligation of public bodies to ensure the civic right of access to public information.

Civic Participation: Involvement of everyday people in the political and public sphere directly or indirectly through civic action.

To Crowdsource: To use the internet to collect feedback, ideas and help from individuals and communities.

Active Citizenship: Mobilization and involvement of citizens in the political and social everyday life of the communities they live in and interact.

Accountability: Obligation of public bodies and authorities to be answerable for their actions in the framework of the duties and responsibilities foreseen for them by the state.

Social media: Types of interactive communication through which users not only create online communities to share the content of their choice but also consume it.

local government: Administrative and geographical division of cities and other entities smaller than the capital.

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