EPA Module 5: Pt. 2 Social Media in the Government

There have been so many incredible topics that have been discussed in this course that it was hard for me to pick one. Do I explore mobile apps? I bank on my phone now, it only makes sense to me that each city should have a mobile app that discusses bus routes, where you can pay your water bill and an event calendar you can download to the calendar on the phone. Do I look in development of city websites and critiquing the look and outline of them?

Finally, I realized it needed to deal with implementing social media into government and discussing effective ways to use it. Two of the optional readings (this one and this one) are what fully cemented my decision, but much of the required reading helped tip it in that direction as well. In Open Government (which I found to fantastic and once this course is over I will be reading the rest of it), there were a few chapters that highlighted applying social media strategies. One of the more interesting ones overviewed Tweet Congress. On Twitter, the two founders stated, “many saw it as an opportunity to get their message out to constituents, unfiltered by old media” (Netherland and McCroskey). In Chapter 9 of Open Government, Sifry stated “At least 58 agencies have official Twitter accounts (those were the ones the White House was following from its official Twitter account).”They are implying social media is a more effective way to share news than newspapers and television stations.

Is this true? We have seen several politicians use Twitter to the extent that Twitter updates and Facebook posts are reported on by the news. I will be looking at the value of social media sites in regards to politicians and agencies.

Another area I will explore in regards to social media is using these platforms to encourage citizen participation. People like to talk online whether it be commenting on a news article, interacting on a message board or posting a status update. According to the Preface of Open Government, “Participation means true engagement with citizens in the business of government and actual collaboration with citizens in the design of government programs.”

President Obama has understood the importance of participation early on, as Sifry states, “These are the words of someone who clearly understands the power and wisdom of a crowd and the axiom that all of us are smarter than any one of us.”

We have reached the point where we can use the web to interact with our city. According to Worley, “residents can communicate with a centrally managed service request system, learn about community events and employment opportunities, acquire city governing body agendas and minutes, while separate business websites offer relevant information concerning the local economic and fiscal environment” (p. 5). The cities have all of this on their websites but I feel if they could correctly learn the best practices in social media, they would be much more successful in encouraging engagement amongst their citizens. Jaeger stated, “Consistent Web site accessibility in federal e-government remains a goal rather than a reality” (p. 185), what if we could make this consistency come through social media? That is what I am going to look into for my topic, what are the best social media practices the government can use.

Note: I realize my topic at the moment is pretty broad and I may need to narrow it down.


  1. Joe West · · Reply

    Hi Jennifer,

    I thought you did a VERY good job of integrating the reading material into your project. You rambled your way from mobile apps to consistency in social media. In my blog post that examined the various government webpages, I noted that there seemed to be a consistent message across the sites; primarily, that of President Obama. I find it interesting that you are expanding this topic into social media.

    This topic begs the question; What do you mean by consistency? Is this consistency on a personal where elected officials such as Senators and Congressmen maintain a consistent message across their social sites? Is this a branch level or agency level consistency? Is this all of the above? I’m wondering how you’ll approach the topic of consistency when it seems to be very hard to come across these days. I’ll check in on your topic to see how you approach this.

    All in all… an excellent choice I think!


  2. Jenna Roundy · · Reply

    I really like the topic that you have chosen for your individual semester project. This is something that I am very interested in and my own projects is not all the different. The “Open Government” was my favorite (so far) and I am you also found it worthy of greater focus. I look forward to seeing your final project.

  3. Scott Perkofski · · Reply

    I really liked the CNN Tech article you will be using about “Cities embrace mobile apps”, its makes a great point about people taking a more active role in activities usually enforced/regulated by government. Apps like ‘SeeClickFix’ are a great start, but I wonder if there is more governments can do to encourage more private citizens to engage in community building and civil activism using web 2.0.

  4. Jen,

    as you mention at the end, you need to focus. I can see easily what area you will be speaking about, but what will make or break your paper is a clear thesis statement. For instance, “I will be exploring the evolution of trying to get people to vote and will look at whether the use of social media has changed voter turnout numbers related to different demographics that use social media differently.” I am not suggesting this be your topic, only that in reading your first statement I know exactly what you will do and it will not be a generalized discussion of places that social media is used in government.

  5. REGINA DORSEY · · Reply

    I think this is a good ideal. I have selected a similar approach in regards to President Obama. I too will have to narrow my semester project down. Obama used social media to enhance businesses and political candidates. This was a great strategy to pull together a community online to support your cause and to provide interaction around your cause. He provided leadership, inspires people through communication, and empowered them with social by networking. So Far, I am thinking about “President Barack Obama innovative use of Social Networking”. What do you think?

  6. I think that is a great idea. President Obama has changed the way candidates reach out to the public the way FDR transformed radio and JFK revolutionized television. The fact that news organizations use Tweets while reporting shows that social media is changing the way we are. It helps us relate to the candidates on a personal level because they seem so much closer than they were before.

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