Municipal managers and the complex reality of social media

Jaana Maria Leinonen, Antti Samuli Syväjärvi, Anu Maarit Pruikkonen

Tutkimustuotokset: KonferenssiesitysKonferenssipaperiTieteellinen


Social media is considered a technological innovation and transformation offering new possibilities to strengthen the openness and accountability in local government organizations, improve services and decision making, offer cost savings and flexibility, provide tools for gather information about citizens’ opinions and facilitate participation and engagement with the citizens. Some scholars have more critical views about the social media. These views emphasize that social media tools are ineffective and do harm to local democracy. There are also concerns that social media introduces new challenges related to privacy, security or data management. Some argue that in order to utilize social media tools effectively, the risks of social media should be more carefully studied and understood. It seems that there are expectations but also concerns among scholars and administrators about the possibilities of social media to gain the objectives related to service improvements and citizen engagement, for example. On the other hand, in local government organizations the utilization of social media is taking its first steps. Based on these experiences it seems that social media practices are yet undeveloped and the strategic position of social media in local government organizations is unclear. The possibilities of social media may not be fully understood or there are other barriers delaying the adoption of social media practices.

In this research paper, we study social media from the view of municipal managers, the managers of local government organizations. We argue that municipal manager’s focused utilization of social media can strengthen the citizens’ trust to the municipal manager and to the manager’s organization enhancing the communality of the whole local governance. As social media users, municipal managers have possibilities to strengthen the transparency of local government and facilitate interaction between local government and citizens. However, the utilization of social media among municipal managers is not very active or wide-spread. Furthermore, managers utilize social media mainly as a channel pushing information rather than providing possibilities for interaction with citizens and other stakeholders.

We are especially interested why the utilization of social media among municipal managers is rather elusive and unstructured. Our empirical material is gathered from Finnish municipal managers in 2016 consisting of both questionnaire (n=91) and 25 thematic interviews. According to our empirical results, reasons for the low and narrow utilization are environmental, organizational, cultural but also individual. Especially the complex nature of social media seem to be one of the main barriers in adopting social media practices. Managers may have fears and doubts on social media and its complex interactions and influences. That is, social media means less controllability, more unpredictability or even chaos in local governance. We stress that this complex nature and reality of social media should be further discussed. Municipal managers, as well as local government organizations, also need tools and support to coordinate, manage and adapt this complexity.
TilaJulkaistu - 2017
Tapahtuma21st International Research Society on Public Management Conference - Budapest, Unkari
Kesto: 19 huhtik. 201721 huhtik. 2017


Konferenssi21st International Research Society on Public Management Conference


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