Social media is not only used for personal use and business use, it is used by governments too. As social media became more popular through the years, governments realised that they can now communicate with the public and distribute their views, believes, debates and news more efficiently and also influence elections.
According to New Zealand Parliamentarians and Online Social Media (2011) most NZ Members of Parliament (MPs) use at least one of the popular NZ social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter or YouTube and this is used for better communication and interaction between MPs and the general public. Online social media has also influenced the NZ general election in 2008 and it is strongly believed to also have an impact on future campaigns.
The following graph from New Zealand Parliamentarians and Online Social Media (2011) shows the percentage of MPs (by party) using Facebook as at 2 November 2010. Facebook is one of the most popular sites used by the general public in New Zealand and therefore it is popular between MPs aswell.
Source: New Zealand Parliamentary Library
What are the positives and negatives of using social media in government?
Positives or drivers of social media in the government include:
- To communicate and share views, believes, debates and news
- To interact with the public in a comfortable environment
- To gain more followers, friends and fans
- To gain more election votes
- Social media is relatively free
- To improve government decision-making
- To be more transparent
MP’s use social media for mainly one reason, to communicate and interact with the public. Social media is a very efficient way to communicate with the general public as it provides a comfortable and easy platform for discussion and comments.
MPs interact with the public through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media sites to share party views, debates and news. The general public in return can communicate ideas and issues with the MPs which gives MPs more understanding of public needs. By communicating with the general public, MPs can gain more followers, friends, fans and views on for example YouTube. When interaction occurs between MPs and the general public it improves government decision-making.
Another driver for social media implementation in government is the ability to be more transparent. The general public are able to see discussions, debates and all information relating to changes, communities and policies on social media websites or MP pages.
Negatives or inhibitors of social media in the government include:
- Security issues
- Reaching a wide range of people on different social media sites
- Maintaining a positive image
- Negative comments
An important negative aspect of social media implementation in government relates to security. As social media profiles and pages contain so much information, from government information to personal MP information, it is prone to many security issues such as hacking, spyware.
As mentioned in my blog Week 4: Social media and small businesses, hacking and spyware can leak personal or government information on the internet which can cause serious issues.
Other negative aspects of social media is the difficulty for parties or MPs to reach a wide range of people on different social media sites, to maintain a good image and also to filter and deal with negative comments. A good image for parties and MPs is very important as it affects elections. If an MP does not filter or deal with negative comments on for example their Facebook or YouTube page, their image or the image of the party they represent can be damaged causing a decrease in followers, friends, likes, views and votes in election times.
What are the similarities and differences of government versus private sector social media implementation and adoption?
There are many similarities and differences in the way social media is used and implemented in government and the private sector (example small businesses). Similarities include interaction and communication with people, to be more transparent, to get ideas and also to make better decisions.
One important difference between government and private sector social media usage include government’s focus on general public and private sector’s focus on customers. As mentioned, government uses social media for communication and interaction with the general public where the private sector uses social media for marketing, to reach customers and for sales.
How does government affect social media use and how does social media affect governments?
Social media affects government and government affects social media. Government affects social media use through laws, rules and regulations. Examples of rules and regulations for social media use include copyright issues and referencing when other peoples work has been quoted or paraphrased (Baker, 2016).
Social media affects government through easier and more efficient communication and interaction with the general public via social media websites. Social media also affects government through a wide range of available public information that can aid in government decision making.