Social Media in the Public Sector

Having previously worked for a government organisation, I understand far more than most the importance of how the government uses their social media pages. Even more so is the importance of what workers for the government choose to say on their pages – whether made private or public. What they choose to say and the way they are perceived is of great importance – they are the people who lead us after all. Governments carefully need to consider what they use their social media pages for and what purpose it may have.

For example, think about the process of a government election, whether it be a local election or a national one. Various candidates would surely have their own social media platform – Facebook and Twitter probably being the two most commonly used ones. There, they have the ability to post on certain issues of importance regarding their campaign and answer any questions the public may have for them to help them make their decisions on who to vote for.

However, although this is an advantage of utilising social media in the election process, some may not use it in this way, but still create a lot of publicity. Think about the most recent U.S. Presidential Election. Think about all the tweets made by various candidates and other influential people in society (celebrities for example). Tweets that supported one candidate, but some at the same time would be ruthless towards the opposition. Think about the comments made by candidates that created waves in society by discriminating against certain groups in the world. But despite all the mess, given how the election ended, in some cases any publicity can be good publicity, right?

Another use of social media in the public sector which is quite useful is the use of pages by local council (for example). Most councils would have a public Facebook page, which they can use to post updates on various things in the community, from a water outage to the next concert (or other major event) that may be happening in the area. They can also update the public on any new projects and initiatives they may be starting up and answer any questions or get public feedback on these. These pages are useful to inform the community about what is going on and where the council is heading in both the short term and long term future.

Although social media in the public sector can be useful, it does too come with a couple obvious risks. Firstly, there needs to be careful consideration over who can post on the pages of say local government to ensure that not too much information is being shared, and the person with control over the page is posting appropriately. There is also a risk (as with any page) of someone hacking into their page and posting on their behalf, which for a government organisation is more risky than if just a private account was hacked into (as what they post can be seen as the opinion of the government).

Despite these risks, social media usage in the public sector is worthwhile – well depending on how they use it I guess!

Works referred to:
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0740624X10000201

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