John Key did WHAAA?!

Even if you hide in the safe corners of the social media universe, chances are
you still will have been exposed to the hype around the upcoming action blockbuster, Captain America: Civil War (part of Marvel’s brilliant online marketing strategies). The beloved comic series is more than just swoon inducing superheros, it touches on two very different views on politics and how nations should be governed now that there is an infinite amount of information available. Social media is part of the reason there is so much information available. Question is, what should the government do with it.

Drivers of social media use for MP’s

A study of New Zealand members of Parliament (MP’s) and online social media showed that the majority of New Zealand MP’s (76%) have used the most popular social media site, which is Facebook.  This is because of the numbers from Statistics New Zealand, which have shown that over a million houses have broadband with 80% of individuals aged over 15 years using it to find information. This information on MP’s being available on social media accounts facilitates the formulation of opinions and attitudes and encourages interaction MP’s presence on social media roughly began in 2007 and since then, social media has influenced the General Election Campaigns and the success of MP’s in general. This is because social media facilitates better relationship between the people and MP’s, proving them relatable and engaging communication. Also, social media enables MP’s to communicate with the general public much faster than any other traditional media.

New Zealand First Leader and MP’s Facebook Page

Inhibitors of social media use for MP’s

A negative factor, potentially inhibiting the adoption of social media presence among MP’s is that there is a chance of adverse backlash. As social media is so rapid and happening in a public arena, there is a huge chance of an adverse ripple effect occurring if something goes wrong. Therefore it is important to have contingency plans and policies in order to deal with those publishing sensitive issues over the online sources so it remains in control. Some examples are Donald Trump being turned into a meme (internet joke) for his campaigning and the explosion of the PonyTail saga, where a waitress turned to her blog to express distaste towards John Key for repeatedly pulling her ponytail which had international ramification for Key. Social media being so unpredictable and it’s inability to be controlled plays a key part in slowing the implementation process among MP’s.

Public vs Private

The government’s use of social media differs and is similar to businesses in the private sector.

The similarities include that the government has adopted and implemented social media tools to help dismantle their previously rigid structures and rules regarding sha
ring of information.  Hierarchical approaches were common to restrict the information to predefined categories. Ines Mergel (2010) further explains that not all information and knowledge is even searchable or storable, with knowledge found in “handbooks, manuals, and standard operating procedures, or by experts within the focal agency.” Resulting in knowledge silos. To reduce the resulting silos of knowledge social media tools are being used to support information sharing needs which will lead the public sector into

“creating opportunities for increased transparency, accountability, participation, and collaboration” through benefits such as “access to solutions, metaknowledge, problem reformulation, validation”. – Ines Mergel

This is similar to businesses as they are providing, through the use of social media, information to the public which is increasing transparency which is raising their credibility.

Of course, governments can go the other way, as seen with the Great Firewall of China, where China has actually put a nation wide ban on social media, such as Facebook, and has even gone as far to block google and yahoo.

Businesses differ in their adoption and implementation of social media as they are trying to establish a community through the various platform that ultimately convert the potential consumers to purchase their offer. They are using social media strategies to optimise their bottom line and the end result is focused on business success not just the benefit of the public.

Thoughts on this:civ war.png

What is clear is that the use of social media is affecting even the governing of nations now. It’s not going away and will only continue to grow in the way that governments are using it. Which essentially leads to my thoughts this week, which reflect an already popular debate (even touched on in blockbuster movies).

  • Where is the future for government and online social media? There already is a concern among citizens that the government with their hands on information social media provides will cause an invasion of privacy. But who draws the line if the question lies with the government?

What do you think, are you team Captain America or team Iron Man? in the debate on government controlling privacy?

References in order of appearance:

A February 2011 New Zealand Parliamentary Library Research Paper, New Zealand Parliamentarians and Online Social Media

Mergel, I. (2010). The use of social media to dissolve knowledge silos in government. Accepted for publication in Public Administration Review

Bertot, J. C., Jaeger, P. T. & Grimes, J. M. (2010). Using ICTs to create a culture of transparency: E-government and social media as openness and anti-corruption tools for societies, Government Information Quarterly, 27, 264-271. Retrieved from ScienceDirect Journals database


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