Governments, worldwide, are witnessing a surge in demand for better citizen centric initiatives and faster community services. Progressive government agencies and state bodies are looking to leverage social media technology in a big way to meet the ever increasing demands of people. Social media is changing the way local governments used to work, communicate and socialize by creating a host of new opportunities for government agencies to reach out to citizens through its inexpensive and readily accessible platform. It provides an interactive two way communication mechanism through which the local governments can not only inform citizens about their services and policies but also gather their viewpoint and feedback. By gathering public feedback, ideas, etc. and incorporating these into the policy-making process, governments can revitalize the concept of direct democracy. Local Government can also use social media to:
• Communicate emergencies
• Economic Development
• Political engagement/policy feedback
Social media has become increasingly important for communicating critical information in a short time span during emergencies. In case of disasters or natural calamities, it is extremely necessary for people in the affected regions to obtain accurate and timely information. Local governments can utilize social media to disseminate important information across a wide section of people in a quick time frame. . Through this innovative platform, people can not only seek information regarding the risks associated with the event but also learn about the preventive actions which can be taken. More importantly, people can utilize social media to seek information on how to obtain emergency aid.
An enormous mass of information is exchanged & shared though social media tools like Facebook®, Twitter™etc.. Local governments can share insights via Twitter and blogs to raise awareness and deliver their value proposition to a focused set of audience. They can organize and participate in conferences or interviews on social media platforms on a regular basis. Content sharing through social media tools allows local government to keep their citizens informed without waiting for media coverage. Local governments can use LinkedIn and Facebook for promoting new businesses and economic initiatives that can lure people back to the state.
Legal and regulatory compliance issues (open meeting laws, records retention for the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), freedom of speech through the First Amendment, privacy issues, copyright concerns) also need to be kept in mind while dealing with open communication platforms. Facebook page could create a public forum under which state’s open meeting laws, and all communication would be required to be made accessible to all. This entails no one-on-one messages or comments that only limited users can see. Hence, governments must comply with the laws while posting any content on the social media. A well-planned social media strategy can help local governments achieve their objectives of citizen empowerment in a cost-effective manner. Further, by hosting content on their own website and posting it on social media, government entities can comply with FOIA requests efficiently.
The use of Social Media to voice expectations, satisfaction and dissatisfaction towards initiatives and policies by citizens, helps Governments to read into citizen sentiments, leading to a change in policies and improvement in services. Using social medial, local governments can develop Gov-to-You to a Gov-with-You culture within their organizations. Saving time and money no longer remain the only reasons to use social media. Governments can also provide greater transparency, reach citizens where they are – online, and provide easier access to services and information.