The revolution in information and communication technologies has been changing not only the daily lives of people but also the interactions between governments and citizens. The digital government or electronic government (e-government) has started as a new form of public organization that supports and redefines the existing and new information, communication and transaction-related interactions with stakeholders (e.g., citizens and businesses), especially through the Internet and Web technologies, with the purpose of improving government performance and processes (Bekkers & Hornsburg, 2005). Social media has become a central part of how people interact with friends, colleagues and communities.
While this initial stance kept politicians on the defensive, enough time has passed that individual politicians and even entire governments are starting to use social media to connect with their communities in new, open ways (Sniderman, 2011). However, as these social platforms are becoming more pervasive in society, studies of their influence on our lives has grown but have not kept pace with the use in government. Because social media is a relatively recent phenomenon, research on social media use in government is limited. Literature on the effectiveness of social media and government has increased but only in some areas. The purpose of this review is to understand governance through citizen engagement and provide a working context of the term social media. The literature review will provide a basis for what is known about the use of social media by government, in particular at the local level.
Community engagement is now a priority in many public sector agencies. Besides appealing to democratic principles, citizen engagement is seen as a way to shift power “from the policy experts, out-of-touch politicians, and distant bureaucrats to the public” (Campbell, 2005, p. 691), thus fundamentally changing the relationship between residents and government by placing authority back to the citizen. Citizen engagement, says Cynthia Gibson, happens when "ordinary citizens ... come together, deliberate, and take action collectively to address public problems or issues that citizens themselves define as important and in ways that citizens themselves decide are appropriate and/or needed" (Gibson, 2006, p. 7).
A critical factor of citizen engagement is making citizens aware of opportunities to become involved. Such opportunities are announced through notifications in newspapers, a newsletter sent to all residents, e-mail, and the local government Website. Using today’s technology, public administrators are expanding the use of social media to better understand and communicate with today’s digital citizen. According to a survey by Accenture of citizens in seven countries, including the United States, 50 percent believe that being able to interact digitally with government would encourage them to become more engaged (Rohleder, et.al). However,...