Local Governments’ Use of Social Media on the Rise

April 09, 2012

Social MediaBig city governments are using social media to reach citizens in a big way. Facebook use by governments in large cities increased by six times and YouTube and Twitter use has increased by four and three times, respectively.

The use of social media is a stark contrast for local governments, which are generally thought of as archaic, wrapped in fat red tape and slow to respond. But governments are embracing social media more and more, likely because of its ability to share information quickly, inexpensively and extensively.

A study out of the University of Illinois at Chicago, Civic Engagement and Local E-Government: Social Networking Comes of Age, analyzed and ranked the online interactivity, transparency and accessibility of the nation’s 75 largest cities in 2009 and again in 2011.

The cities’ rankings reflected opportunities for citizen participation and information, including:

  • hosting of open data portals
  • comments allowed on blogs and social networks
  • the extent to which online discussions concerned policy as well as city services
  • information on officials, budgets, city council meetings and neighborhood issues

Chicago ranked as number 17, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel solicited budget ideas via Twitter last summer. Chicagoland residents also have apps to help with traffic and parking, contribute ideas for parks, track lobbyists and more.

Twitter was used by 87 percent of the cities, compared with just 25 percent in 2009. Facebook also was used by 87 percent of the cities, up from 13 percent two years ago, and YouTube links appeared on the websites of 75 percent of the cities, up from 16 percent.

Here are the top 10 (some of the cities tied, according to the scoring system):

  1. New York and Seattle
  2. Virginia Beach
  3. Portland
  4. San Francisco
  5. Kansas City, MO
  6. Denver
  7. Mesa, AZ
  8. Louisville
  9. Philadelphia, Long Beach, CA and Sacramento
  10. San Jose

Click here for the full rankings.

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