Greek Politicians and the Use of Online Technologies for Citizen Engagement

Greek Politicians and the Use of Online Technologies for Citizen Engagement

Savvas Papagiannidis (Newcastle University, UK), Teta Stamati (National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece) and Hartmut Behr (Newcastle University, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6182-0.ch007
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Abstract

This chapter examines how politicians utilise Internet technologies to create an online presence, the motivating and hindering factors for doing so, and the perceived significance such a presence can have. The authors present empirical data collected via in-depth interviews with Greek politicians taking part in the general elections of 2012. The findings suggest that although politicians are increasingly interested in engaging with citizens using online technologies, their efforts are not always focused on achieving measurable and tangible results. Consequently, they do not make full use of the potential online technologies offer. Instead, the authors conclude, online strategies need to be organised around predefined objectives and based on clear communication and engagement plans.
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1. Introduction

Although political parties and their affiliated politicians may have often reacted slowly in grasping and adopting technological developments, they are gradually recognising the importance that online technologies have and the opportunities and challenges they may give rise to. An example of this can be seen in Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and the way social media were utilised (Luck, Beaton, & Moffatt, 2010; Sevin, Kimball, & Khalil). Having a web site and organising a page on Facebook, which were considered an innovation just a few years ago, are now becoming an essential ingredient of any campaign, as they enable not only the promotion of the candidate, but also more active engagement with voters. Undertaken effectively, online campaigning can yield great returns. Undertaken poorly, it can backfire, creating irreversible damage to a candidate’s profile. It is not unusual to come across web sites, blogs, Facebook pages and other online spaces created just for the sake of campaigning, signalling to visitors the lack of real interest in and understanding of such technologies by the candidates. Such late efforts would have a limited impact anyway. This work’s main objective is to study how politicians use their Internet presence (e.g. their web sites and social media) to engage with citizens during different circumstances. More specifically, the questions it sets out to answer are firstly what is the perceived significance of establishing an online presence for politicians and what are the motivating and hindering factors for doing so, secondly what is the role of social media within the context of a politician’s online presence and thirdly how do politicians form their online presence strategies and how do they plan and implement their engagement plans.

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