Local government institutions seem to have grasped the value of maintaining a presence on social networks as a way of reaching out to their citizens. Research indicates that the Twitter formula for sharing and informing has the most appeal.
On the evidence that municipal authorities such as the City of New York now have Facebook accounts, government organisations are getting in tune with their citizens and private enterprise by adopting the use of social networks. And, according to a study carried out by a research team at the Heinrich Heine University, in Düsseldorf, Germany, when it comes to projecting a public image to residents, Twitter is the network that government institutions prefer to use. The team’s investigations reveal that out of 31 cities* which the report has dubbed ‘Informational World Cities’ – i.e. those with enhanced ICT infrastructures and high Internet penetration rates – 24 have a Twitter account. This figure means that the micro-blogging network takes top ranking among media most used by government, ahead of YouTube, used by 21 cities, and Facebook – on which 20 cities currently have their own page.
More posts, more followers
In order to carry out their research, the Heinrich Heine University team mainly used the number of accounts on social networks provided as links from the local government website. However, the enthusiasm of the local authorities for this approach to communication cannot be judged by their mere presence on the network; the researchers also looked at the amount of content posted. They found that the 24 cities that have Twitter accounts show high rates of activity, publishing on average 135 tweets per month. The most active city authorities are those in Berlin (sending over 500 tweets a month), Seoul (more than 450 tweets per month), Barcelona (slightly less than 400 tweets a month) and Vienna with just under 300 tweets every month. And the tweeting trend seems to greatly appeal to citizens. Aggregating the followers on Twitter and the rival Chinese micro-blogging service Weibo, Hong Kong has over 600,000 followers and Shenzhen 300,000.
Lesser-known networks also rank high
Nor have the other social networks been ignored by local government organisations. This is especially true of the giant Facebook, whose Paris page alone numbers over 700,000 ‘likes’, with Munich’s Facebook account coming in second with just under 400,000 likes. Perhaps more surprisingly, Flickr is also proving popular in this field, reaching number two spot among sites with the most posts from the most active local governments. Although only seven authorities have a Flickr account, each of these posts an average of 39 photos per month. Government bodies also seem to set great store by blogs. Among the seven cities that boast a blog page, the average number of blogs posted is 22 per month. These results are only the first fruits of the Heinrich Heine University research work. The researchers reckon that when they have gathered more data on the use of social networks by local governments, they will be able to determine whether or not these sites are really succeeding in their bid to reach out to residents.
*These include, inter alia, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Beijing, Berlin, Boston, Chicago, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, London, Paris, Sao Paulo and Shanghai.