Information strategies and affective reactions: How citizens interact with government social media content

Nic DePaula, Ersin Dincelli


As social media use grows among the general population, government organizations around the world also widely adopt the platforms. While researchers on government use of social media first acknowledged the potential of these technologies for participatory democracy, transparency, and collaboration, we have come to learn that applications such as Facebook and Twitter are also sites for misinformation and highly driven by emotional content. To better understand the information strategies of governments and how citizens react on social media, we ask the following research questions: What do government organizations post on social media? How do citizens react to the content posted by government agencies? For this study, we collected Facebook posts of local government agencies and departments across the United States and categorized each post using a framework of government communication and information strategies on social media. We then analysed differences in users’ reactions in the form of likes, comments, and shares to the distinct types of content. We wanted to capture the effects of content type on user reactions to understand what drives social media responses. We found a number of statistically significant results, providing some evidence for how different types of information affect user interaction. Our results highlight how users are more engaged by the affective and symbolic nature of social media content, rather than more serious and emotionally neutral government information. We only provide generalized evidence of how users react to U.S. local government posts on Facebook. Nevertheless, we believe this study is important for scholars of government communication and government technology adoption more broadly as it provides evidence of the affective tendencies and biases within social media environments.


government communication; Facebook; affect; information strategies; social media

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