Social Media Use in the Public Sector

Social Media Use in the Public Sector

Anteneh Ayanso (Brock University, Canada) and Darryl Moyers (Brock University, Canada)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 23
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8430-0.ch004
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With advances in the Internet and its associated technologies, more and more governments and their public service agencies are embracing social media as a key channel of communication and service provision. These easy-to-use applications encourage the public to actively participate and share constructive ideas in various government initiatives. At the same time, social media helps governments to actively engage with the public and monitor their existing services for continuous improvements. In this chapter, the authors explore the application of social media in the public sector and review how it has evolved over time and what lies ahead for the future. To this end, the authors explore existing and emerging platforms and tools that can be used in various public sector settings. The chapter also reviews social media best practices and initiatives in similar settings. Finally, it examines the critical challenges the public sector faces in integrating social media in its processes and services.
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Many academic researchers and technology pundits have attempted to define social media and/or Web 2.0 technologies in different ways (O’Reilly, 2005; Osimo, 2008; Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010; Parameswaran & Whinston 2007a, 2007b). For example, O’Reilly (2005) described the core competencies of Web 2.0 sites by highlighting new tools and approaches that enhanced the features and functionalities of the web. He emphasized that “Web 2.0 applications are those that make the most of the intrinsic advantages of that platform: delivering software as a continually-updated service that gets better the more people use it; consuming and remixing data from multiple sources; creating network effects through an ‘architecture of participation; and going beyond the page metaphor of Web 1.0 to deliver rich user experiences” (O’Reilly, 2005). Similarly, Parameswaran and Whinston (2007a, 2007b) described Web 2.0 as representing “social software” or “social computing” that shifts computing to the edges of the network, and empowers individual users with lightweight computing tools to manifest their creativity, engage in social interaction, and share knowledge. Osimo (2008) defined the scope of Web 2.0 as a combination of technologies (e.g., AJAX, XML, open API, microformats, flash/flex), applications (e.g., blog, wiki, podcast, RSS feeds, tagging, social networks, Mashups), and values (e.g., user as a producer, collective intelligence, perpetual beta, extreme ease of use). Kaplan and Haenlein (2010, p. 61.) also defined Web 2.0 as “a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and allow the creation and exchange of User Generated Content (UGC).”

The broad scope of the above definitions shows the prevalence of social media in all walks of lives. In fact, the commercial sector did not take much time to capitalize on the benefits of this new channel of communication and marketing. At the same time, the public sector is increasingly embracing Web 2.0 technologies and applications in an effort to raise performance and enhance transparency, accountability and citizen-engagement. Web 2.0 applications are creating new, effortless mechanisms to foster online engagement and dialogues between government (or civil servants) and citizens (Reece, 2006), and they can be used to bridge the gulf between citizens and public institutions (Johnston et al., 2008). Routine interactions and information exchanges with internal units as well as other government organizations constitute substantial part of the administrative expenses in the public sector, and Web 2.0 and social media applications can be used to improve internal collaboration and facilitate strategic knowledge-sharing among workers, managers, and partners in government organizations (Human Capital Institute, 2010). Long-term, strategic benefits are also pursued in many technology-based public services, such as eHealth and eLearning.

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