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The mechanisms that make social media effective in building citizens’ trust on local government

Pedro Torres (Faculty of Economics, CeBER, University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal)
Mário Augusto (Faculty of Economics, CeBER, University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal)
Tatiana Rodrigues (Faculty of Economics, University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal)

Digital Policy, Regulation and Governance

ISSN: 2398-5038

Article publication date: 2 February 2023

Issue publication date: 7 March 2023

178

Abstract

Purpose

Focusing on municipalities, this study aims to examine whether citizens’ engagement with local public administration activities on Facebook can have a positive effect on citizens’ trust.

Design/methodology/approach

Using data from 333 citizens and resorting to structural equation modelling, a conceptual model is tested.

Findings

The results show that communicating directly with citizens through social media can enhance the citizens’ involvement in social issues and their identification with their city council. The effect of citizen engagement on trust propensity is mediated by citizens’ identification with the city council and by citizens’ involvement in social issues.

Practical implications

The study provides a conceptual model that can be used by practitioners to improve practices that enhance citizen engagement and build trust in the local government. City councils should promote activities on social media that encourage identification and citizens’ involvement. Furthermore, the findings suggest that municipalities can increase trust by involving citizens in social issues.

Originality/value

This study contributes to a better understanding of the government social media phenomenon, highlighting and empirically testing the effect of citizen engagement on institutional trust. In doing so, a process to build citizens’ trust in their city council through social media is unpacked. The findings show that communicating directly with citizens through social media can enhance the citizens’ involvement in social issues and their identification with the city council. The important role of identification to build institutional trust is emphasized.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Funding: This work has been funded by national funds through FCT – Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, I.P., Project UIDB/05037/2020.

Citation

Torres, P., Augusto, M. and Rodrigues, T. (2023), "The mechanisms that make social media effective in building citizens’ trust on local government", Digital Policy, Regulation and Governance, Vol. 25 No. 2, pp. 138-152. https://doi.org/10.1108/DPRG-06-2022-0069

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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