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How constructive is the debate on social media? How does your municipality make the most of the opportunities available on social media?
Public authorities have long since opened their eyes to the effectiveness of social media, which is why more and more organisations are implementing channels like Facebook in their digital media strategy. Municipalities are no exception, and they make greater use of social media for citizen involvement, but how constructive is the debate really when it takes place on social media?
The Danes' use of social media is still growing, and more players are still buying into this trend. Several municipalities, if any, have embraced this, as social media can help make it easier to reach the citizens. But how can social media be a beneficial tool for municipalities to communicate with their citizens? By implementing social media in your digital media strategy, a wide range of new facets can be opened up for how your company communicates with its stakeholders. The municipalities will thus have a better opportunity to communicate at eye level with the citizens, which is why the relationship between them has better conditions for flourishing.
As a municipality, you should consider how social media is implemented and how exactly you communicate. In the long run, the sender needs to map several KPIs for the communication. In this way, it can be followed up on whether the communication is performing as planned. Communication on social media should focus on nurturing relationships through eye-level conversations with users. In general, municipal communication on social media can deal with everything from conveying the good stories from everyday life in the municipality to creating a more nuanced picture of the municipality through citizen involvement.
One municipality that has particularly excelled in the use of social media is Odder Municipality. Here, Facebook is used as the preferred channel to interact with citizens. Here, everything from what is happening in the municipality to citizen involvement is communicated by encouraging the citizens to register with any improvements in the municipality. Furthermore, Odder Municipality has a clear media strategy and several KPIs that they can constantly measure against. For example, they have a goal of being one of the country's leading municipalities on Facebook regarding the number of fans and the degree of interactivity. In this way, communication is based on a clear purpose, and therefore not just impersonal mass communication is posted. At the time of writing, Odder Municipality has 9.8 thousand followers out of their 22,979 citizens in the municipality.
The tone on social media tends to be harsh and unhealthy for how we interact with each other. For example, more and more people use postings to get rid of their negative attitudes to topics that do not relate to the post at all. In this way, a herd culture can quickly arise. Something intended for knowledge sharing about a given case suddenly takes the form of criticism of the municipality's asphalting of cycle paths.
Facebook's algorithm is designed to generate the most engagement in cases that arouse the most emotions. That way, the algorithm ranks these cases significantly higher than those, at times, more matter-of-fact and solution-oriented by kind. Therefore, a worrying development is seen in those who shout the loudest, too ranked highest. This is no exception for how municipalities involve their citizens in interactions. As a result of the algorithm of Facebook, there is a chance that municipal offers will drown in noise and very few solution-oriented debates. A mayor of an unspecified municipality was out with an encouraging Christmas greeting to the citizens in a lonely and challenging corona time. The intention was a devoted greeting to draw attention to the good things there continued to happen around the municipality. This was met by a hateful comment from a citizen who demanded more focus on critical issues such as bullying and better canteen conditions. Notable cases that had no connection with the notice but which are helping to create a contentious debate. Furthermore, there is, unfortunately, a development in the fact that classical media tend to excite these cases and thus give them editorial legitimacy. This is even done based on a superficial claim about the number of interactions.
It takes far more to make one's position known at physical citizens' meetings than online. Therefore, more citizens are speaking out, which can create a better reach for communication and a greater degree of citizen involvement. However, at the other end of the spectrum, it is also easier for more people to express their negative attitudes towards municipal projects when citizen involvement no longer depends on physical presence. The harsh tone was significantly described in the case of the wind turbine set up in Jammerbugt Municipality, which further ended in a lawsuit based on a citizen's reluctance to delete defamatory notices against employees in the municipality. Noise can thus ultimately influence political decisions in the municipalities. This case was also a clear example of how debates take shape when they move into the private sphere.
In summary, it can be deduced that the municipalities' use of social media has many advantages. Still, if the communication is not planned carefully, these advantages can quickly end as disadvantages.