Prof. Lori Brainard Clarifies Research Mentioned in Article

May 19, 2016

On Thursday, May 19, Dr. Lori Brainard posted the following comment in response to James Toscano's May 12 article "Does social media help the government-citizen relationship? Depends who you ask." The original article appeared in The Conversation and other media outlets: 

Thanks so much for mentioning my keynote. I’d like to clarify a few points that I think you might have missed—points that I think will be useful to practitioners.

First, my speech noted that social media are not necessarily a cure-all for agencies’ relationships with citizens, despite what we may wish. It is not enough to launch a social media page and hope that transformation in the agency-citizen relationship will occur.

Second, to that effect, my advice was not that agencies should resist social media, but that they should think carefully and strategically about what they want to achieve and then convey that clearly to the public so as not to raise, and then let down, public expectations—thus making the relationship worse. I’m not sure how you heard otherwise. My empirical results do show that some agencies are dropping their social media sites.

Finally, I was disappointed that you mentioned the results from my research going back as far as 2007 without mentioning that I also showed results all the way through 2014—and not just for Yahoo! but for Facebook, Twitter and YouTube as well. Before denigrating Yahoo! you may recall my examples of DC Police using Yahoo! to good effect. The point is to do what works.

As a fan of social media I am enthusiastic about the possibilities they afford. And as a citizen and user of government services I appreciate the increase in timely information and service provision that many in the trenches are delivering using social media. But my research attempts to inform practitioners and foster practices that help agencies make the best decisions for their missions and their relationship with citizens.