use of social media has become an increasing trend within government agencies. According
to Merriam Webster, “Social Media is a form of electronic communication through
which users create online communities to share information, ideas, and other
content.” In the government sector, Social media is used as a tool to connect
the government with who is being served. This may refer to connecting others to
sources, and even helping government management engage in production which is
vital to engage with who’s being served.
media is especially important for research into computational social science
that investigates questions (Lazer et al., 2009). Most decisions made within
government agencies are made through data that collected and analyzed. As the
number of social media users increase, government agencies have been able to
use this tool as a stepping stone to effectively communicate with the public. This
paper explores the benefits and challenges faced by using social media in the
government as well as proposed solutions for the challenges/risks faced.
For years, social media has modernizing the way we
communicate. Today, social media is now a leading outlet for communication.
Social media has made it easier for citizens to air their grievances and for
government to respond fast. This applies
in every facet of government media where you will find citizens quering and
government responding. Social media has provided a highway for speedy
information. According to the PEW
Research Center, 6 in 10 (62%) Americans
get news via social media. The data received through social media provides
policy makers with information to help engage and better serve citizens.
Agencies are also using social media as a platform to share information to the
of Social Media Use in the Government
collection is one of the biggest advantages of social media use in the
government. One of the most important advantages of social media is the simplicity
in transmission of information. It makes it easier for citizens/subscribers to
voice their opinions and for the government to adhere to them. According to Sociamerica INC, approximately
every hour data is collected to analyze how and where they are reaching online
users. Social media an effective way to collect information and give feedback.
Collecting data from subscribers allows managers to compile and analyze
information to give their agency direction.
Data is used as a way to gain
information and feedback from citizens. Social media has become dominant in
global communications. As per Hootsuite, by the end of 2016 2.8 billion people
were using social media. Data collection also enables the agency to promote
awareness and engagement. According to Hootsuite, a social media research that
was conducted in 2015 found that 76 percent of American government stakeholders
cited social media being the reason for more connections with electorate. When
connecting with constituents you serve, you receive feedback that becomes a
platform aiding with departmental changes. Social media generally makes it
easier for electorate to share their views.
Social media has been at the forefront of
commercial success, social trends, and even political change. With the need for
immediacy, social media’s role in government has been met with a series of
studies and evaluations in hopes of providing the public with accurate
government information without compromising national security or violating
citizens first amendment rights.
According to “A Review of Social Media Use
in E-Government,” there are four potential benefits: collaboration,
participation, empowerment, and time. Social media is a never-ending sharing of
ideas. Although users are not always met with feedback, they are contributing
to a larger conversation that later leads to an exchange of perspectives.
Virtual social interactions is the foundation of social media. Users are
collaborating and participating in a realm with limited censorship. Although
the lack of censorship can taint how information is given and received, it
provides users with the ability to unapologetically communicate. Users are no
longer concerned with being politically correct; they are more concerned with
the core of their thoughts being understood.
The idea of having a platform where users
can express themselves immediately gives users a sense of empowerment. They are being heard and depending on their
social media influence; they have the power to make a change. Making a difference in ones’ community is no
longer viewed as a time-consuming task that has very little success. With
social media, users can address the issues within their communities immediately
and gain the support they need to make change. Social media can be attributed
to one of the reasons why crowd raising is successful. Users can now conduct
fundraiser without leaving their homes. Social media has also given users the
ability to communicate during emergencies. From Facebook creating a check-in
option to mark users safe during national disasters to Twitter being used to
notify students of active shooters. Social media has created a space for users
to interact without leaving their homes.
Challenges of Social Media in the
Collaboration, participation, empowerment,
and time are all potential positives the government can indulge in when using
social media. However, those positives create a threat to national security because it exposes government agencies to cyber
attacks; foreign and domestic. Hackers are a true threat to the government.
Some of these barriers relate to records management, privacy and
security issues, and accuracy (Gutierrez-Martinez, Luna-Reyes,
Picazo-Vela,2012). If government agencies do not properly protect their
networks, sensitive information can be exposed to enemies of the state. This
can lead to stock market crashes, terroristic threats, and even challenge
government policies. A governmental security breach can be detrimental to the
As previously mentioned, social media has limited censorship.
The unfiltered thoughts of it’s’ users can sometimes be problematic, but
without threatening the first amendment, government agencies are tasked with
filtering platforms without silencing its users. All social media users can
hide content or prevent particular users from being able to contribute. With
millions of users comes millions of colorful perspectives that can be deemed
unprofessional or offensive. Government agencies have to be mindful of the
comments that are omitted from their social media accounts. It cannot be
determined that comments have been omitted in hopes of coursing the opinions of
others. “Governments must also follow other laws including privacy laws,
(Newman, 2009). Failing to follow any of these laws or accompanying procedures
puts the agency at risk of a lawsuit,” said Kathryn Anne Cardenas in “An
Implementation Guide for Public Officials: A Thesis.”
challenge that hass been faced by government in the use of social media regards
record keeping. Social media has revolutianised how government communicates
with its citizens, but such communication is public record that has to be
stored securely. This is not only for accountability purposes, but also to comply
with laws regarding accessability to public information. Retaining such vast
information becomes a challenge on many fronts. To begin with, not many
government agencies allocate funds to store these vast amounts of data. It then becomes extremely cumbersome for
government agencies to operate fully under such limited resources. Deciding on what needs to be stored has also
been an issue that has not been settled on. Many government sectors still use hardcopy
forms and it becomes a challenge to decide on whether to keep hard or soft
copies, where legislation is silent. The issue of time is another challenge.
Managing an effective media presence requires that a lot of time is spent
interacting with users, determining what information is relevant to be stored,
running backups to ensure that this information is not lost and ensuring any
information requested is able to be retrieved at a moments notice. Once an
agency has understood the challenges that come with managing digital records,
it becomes easier to better plan for those challenges (Ambrose, 2017).
between citizens and government has increased as law enforcement continues to
request social media companies to provide information on some of its members as
pertains investigation of crime.
Although such requests fall within law, most members of the public view
them with mistrust. There have been reports of federal agents posing as friends
on facebook to solicit for and collect information on potential suspects (Lardner,
2017). Such stories may lead citizens to view to view social media with
suspicion, or even shun government social media outlets altogether.
as pertains social media has been a challenge too as it means government cannot
reach everyone using this tool. Socio economic issues, as well as age groups
has meant that even with the best social media presence, there are people who
will not be reached. This includes the elderly and people without access to the
internet. The youth, who have the most access to social media, sometimes avoid
government related pages. More resources are needed to better empower the
citizens, and also educate youth on the importance of public participation.
Social media is inexpensive yet impactful.
The potential positives of governmental use are met with concerns of national
security, unconditional censorship, and potential lawsuits. However, if
government agencies can continue to be compliant and diligent in their security
efforts, social media can assist in an increase in citizen involvement and
strengthen the relationship between government officials and the very communities
they’d are in power to serve.