To fully grasp the potential of using social media, one must know what governments and citizens are communicating in these media. Despite much statistics published, there is a dearth of research analyzing information content in detail. The purpose of this paper is to identify the kind of information exchange that occurs between a local government and its constituent citizens using social media.
This paper presents a qualitative single case study of the Facebook presence of the municipality and city of Karlstad, Sweden, one of the most prominent local governments on Facebook in the country. Facebook page data were collected between May 2015 and July 2015. A content analysis was performed on the data to explore new and existing categories that drive the analysis.
The paper identifies 11 content categories for municipality posts and 13 content categories for user posts (citizen or organization). The frequency for each content category reveals that the page owner is first of all using its Facebook page to promote different happenings in the municipality while the page user is asking questions to the municipality or other users.
The study is limited to one municipality, but achieves analytical generalizability in its findings. In other words, the categories and mode of communication are a finding in and of itself that in future research may be validated in terms of commonality on a national scale.
Management concerns about opening up a municipality Facebook page for user posting may be exaggerated: positive posts are as common as complaints. If an organization wants to use the Facebook page for increased user participation and collaboration, it seems that users, both citizens and organizations, welcome such opportunities. However, such posts are not likely to receive many comments or shares from other users.
The paper is one of the first that uses content analysis to categorize both page owner posts and user posts on a local government Facebook page. The content categories identified in the paper provide novel and detailed insights on what types of information exchange occur on social media between a local government and citizens but also highlight the need to distinguish organizations from citizens among the visitors to the government Facebook page. Different types of user will post different types of content. The identified content categories can serve as a basis for future empirical research within e-government research.
Bellström, P., Magnusson, M., Pettersson, J.S. and Thorén, C. (2016), "Facebook usage in a local government: A content analysis of page owner posts and user posts", Transforming Government: People, Process and Policy, Vol. 10 No. 4, pp. 548-567. https://doi.org/10.1108/TG-12-2015-0061
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