Determinants of Social Media Impact in Local Government

Determinants of Social Media Impact in Local Government

Mohd Hisham Mohd Sharif (University of Adelaide, Australia), Indrit Troshani (The University of Adelaide, Australia) and Robyn Davidson (University of Adelaide, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5201-7.ch025
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Limited attention has been directed towards understanding the impact of social media in the public sector, particularly in local government organisations. Although social media offer substantial benefits and opportunities to local government, research into the impact of social media remains scant. To address this gap, the authors draw on the technology, organisation, and environment (TOE) framework and propose a model of the determinants of social media impact in local government. The model is tested with data collected via a survey with 173 Australian local government organisations using social media. Data were analysed using the partial least squares-structural equation modelling (PLS-SEM) technique. The results indicate that TOE factors including perceived benefits, perceived security risks, compatibility, and degree of formalisation are important predictors of social media impact in local government.
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The use of social media applications is growing rapidly. As of April 2014, the total number of active Facebook users exceeded 1,310,000,000 (Statistic Brain Research Institute, 2014). In Australia1, an estimated 12 million individuals actively use Facebook and YouTube, while other social media such as Wordpress, Blogspot, Twitter, Instagram and Flickr, have between one and five million active users in a given month (Cowling, 2013). Driven by this growth, many Australian public sector organisations are adopting social media for various purposes including business, education, health and administration (Culnan, McHugh & Zubillaga, 2010; Saldanha & Krishnan, 2012) with early evidence emerging that social media can help these organisations to improve their service performance, engage with the public and promote accountability and transparency, community relationships and information exchanges and dissemination (Accenture, 2009; Alam & Walker, 2011; Anttiroiko, 2010; Aral, Dellarocas & Godes, 2013; Eggers, 2007; Herriman, 2011; Howard, 2012; Purser, 2012; Sharif, Troshani & Davidson, 2014; Singh & Peszynski, 2013).

Nevertheless, despite the rapid growth and the espoused social media benefits, research available in this domain remains limited (Ellison & Hardey, 2012; Steward, 2012). Specifically, although various studies (Chang & Kannan, 2008; Howard, 2012; Meijer & Thaens, 2010; Osimo, 2008; Purser, 2012; Wigand, 2010) exist concerning social media use for enhancing service delivery and the many benefits they can offer, there is agreement among scholars that their adoption across public sector organisations and local government in particular remains under-researched (Millard, 2010; Nah & Saxton, 2012; Wigand, 2010).

Specifically, only limited studies have been found examining social media impact in local government. Notable examples include the work of James & Clarke (2010) who explored the factors for designing social media applications for Australian local government while Purser (2012) focused on exploring the benefits, risks and barriers of using social media in Australian local government and identified areas where social media could be used effectively. In Japan, Schellong (2008) explored the effect of online social networking services in improving and re-building communities during natural disasters, including emergency management during earthquakes.

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