Theuse of social media has become an increasing trend within government agencies. Accordingto Merriam Webster, “Social Media is a form of electronic communication throughwhich users create online communities to share information, ideas, and othercontent.” In the government sector, Social media is used as a tool to connectthe government with who is being served. This may refer to connecting others tosources, and even helping government management engage in production which isvital to engage with who’s being served. Socialmedia is especially important for research into computational social sciencethat investigates questions (Lazer et al.
, 2009). Most decisions made withingovernment agencies are made through data that collected and analyzed. As thenumber of social media users increase, government agencies have been able touse this tool as a stepping stone to effectively communicate with the public. Thispaper explores the benefits and challenges faced by using social media in thegovernment as well as proposed solutions for the challenges/risks faced. For years, social media has modernizing the way wecommunicate. Today, social media is now a leading outlet for communication.
Social media has made it easier for citizens to air their grievances and forgovernment to respond fast. This appliesin every facet of government media where you will find citizens quering andgovernment responding. Social media has provided a highway for speedyinformation. According to the PEWResearch Center, 6 in 10 (62%) Americansget news via social media. The data received through social media providespolicy makers with information to help engage and better serve citizens.Agencies are also using social media as a platform to share information to thepublic efficiently.
Advantagesof Social Media Use in the Government Datacollection is one of the biggest advantages of social media use in thegovernment. One of the most important advantages of social media is the simplicityin transmission of information. It makes it easier for citizens/subscribers tovoice their opinions and for the government to adhere to them.
According to Sociamerica INC, approximatelyevery hour data is collected to analyze how and where they are reaching onlineusers. Social media an effective way to collect information and give feedback.Collecting data from subscribers allows managers to compile and analyzeinformation to give their agency direction. Data is used as a way to gaininformation and feedback from citizens. Social media has become dominant inglobal communications. As per Hootsuite, by the end of 2016 2.8 billion peoplewere using social media.
Data collection also enables the agency to promoteawareness and engagement. According to Hootsuite, a social media research thatwas conducted in 2015 found that 76 percent of American government stakeholderscited social media being the reason for more connections with electorate. Whenconnecting with constituents you serve, you receive feedback that becomes aplatform aiding with departmental changes. Social media generally makes iteasier for electorate to share their views. Social media has been at the forefront ofcommercial success, social trends, and even political change. With the need forimmediacy, social media’s role in government has been met with a series ofstudies and evaluations in hopes of providing the public with accurategovernment information without compromising national security or violatingcitizens first amendment rights.
According to “A Review of Social Media Usein E-Government,” there are four potential benefits: collaboration,participation, empowerment, and time. Social media is a never-ending sharing ofideas. Although users are not always met with feedback, they are contributingto a larger conversation that later leads to an exchange of perspectives.Virtual social interactions is the foundation of social media. Users arecollaborating and participating in a realm with limited censorship. Althoughthe lack of censorship can taint how information is given and received, itprovides users with the ability to unapologetically communicate. Users are nolonger concerned with being politically correct; they are more concerned withthe core of their thoughts being understood.
The idea of having a platform where userscan express themselves immediately gives users a sense of empowerment. They are being heard and depending on theirsocial media influence; they have the power to make a change. Making a difference in ones’ community is nolonger viewed as a time-consuming task that has very little success. Withsocial media, users can address the issues within their communities immediatelyand gain the support they need to make change. Social media can be attributedto one of the reasons why crowd raising is successful. Users can now conductfundraiser without leaving their homes.
Social media has also given users theability to communicate during emergencies. From Facebook creating a check-inoption to mark users safe during national disasters to Twitter being used tonotify students of active shooters. Social media has created a space for usersto interact without leaving their homes. Challenges of Social Media in theGovernment Collaboration, participation, empowerment,and time are all potential positives the government can indulge in when usingsocial media.
However, those positives create a threat to national security because it exposes government agencies to cyberattacks; foreign and domestic. Hackers are a true threat to the government.Some of these barriers relate to records management, privacy andsecurity issues, and accuracy (Gutierrez-Martinez, Luna-Reyes,Picazo-Vela,2012).
If government agencies do not properly protect theirnetworks, sensitive information can be exposed to enemies of the state. Thiscan lead to stock market crashes, terroristic threats, and even challengegovernment policies. A governmental security breach can be detrimental to thenation. As previously mentioned, social media has limited censorship.The unfiltered thoughts of it’s’ users can sometimes be problematic, butwithout threatening the first amendment, government agencies are tasked withfiltering platforms without silencing its users.
” Anotherchallenge that hass been faced by government in the use of social media regardsrecord keeping. Social media has revolutianised how government communicateswith its citizens, but such communication is public record that has to bestored securely. This is not only for accountability purposes, but also to complywith laws regarding accessability to public information. Retaining such vastinformation becomes a challenge on many fronts.
To begin with, not manygovernment agencies allocate funds to store these vast amounts of data. It then becomes extremely cumbersome forgovernment agencies to operate fully under such limited resources. Deciding on what needs to be stored has alsobeen an issue that has not been settled on.
Many government sectors still use hardcopyforms and it becomes a challenge to decide on whether to keep hard or softcopies, where legislation is silent. The issue of time is another challenge.Managing an effective media presence requires that a lot of time is spentinteracting with users, determining what information is relevant to be stored,running backups to ensure that this information is not lost and ensuring anyinformation requested is able to be retrieved at a moments notice. Once anagency has understood the challenges that come with managing digital records,it becomes easier to better plan for those challenges (Ambrose, 2017).Mistrustbetween citizens and government has increased as law enforcement continues torequest social media companies to provide information on some of its members aspertains investigation of crime. Although such requests fall within law, most members of the public viewthem with mistrust.
There have been reports of federal agents posing as friendson facebook to solicit for and collect information on potential suspects (Lardner,2017). Such stories may lead citizens to view to view social media withsuspicion, or even shun government social media outlets altogether.Demographicsas pertains social media has been a challenge too as it means government cannotreach everyone using this tool. Socio economic issues, as well as age groupshas meant that even with the best social media presence, there are people whowill not be reached. This includes the elderly and people without access to theinternet. The youth, who have the most access to social media, sometimes avoidgovernment related pages.
More resources are needed to better empower thecitizens, 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 nationalsecurity, unconditional censorship, and potential lawsuits. However, ifgovernment agencies can continue to be compliant and diligent in their securityefforts, social media can assist in an increase in citizen involvement andstrengthen the relationship between government officials and the very communitiesthey’d are in power to serve.