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Share, post, like – a trend in municipalities?

“The Internet is like a wave,” Bill Gates once said. “Either you learn to swim on it or you sink.” Many companies are increasingly working with social networks. Frequently, information about prices, opening hours and job advertisements are provided. From the year 2004, when Facebook first broke into the market as a hugely popular social network, they have since become an indispensable part of modern life. Nowadays, politicians in the Bundestag, the White House or the Élisée Palace also use this as a tool for communication. More than half of the politicians in our Bundestag use Facebook or Twitter as a means of communication and close contact with the population. But what is social media? Has this growing trend also penetrated local politics? What possibilities are there for using social networks?

Social media is a term for the use of digital media, technologies or applications on the Internet.

One way to interact with these forms of media is to use social networks. The special feature of other user communities is the function of communication. Users have the possibility to actively, but above all, interactively exchange news, pictures or comments with each other. Thus, information can be transmitted effortlessly, and decisions can be made more quickly. So, social media redefines itself completely from the previously known forms of mass media, such as print or television media, with media monologues now becoming social-medial dialogues.

Social networks have taken on a great deal of importance in the last decade. Their rapid development and the speed at which information is transmitted speaks for itself. Beyond that, social networks also provide people with the means to easily contact one another. It is particularly advantageous for people who are entering a new field of work or who have moved – contacts are quickly exchanged and connections are made. Furthermore, it is a fast and direct means of communication. It is therefore eminent for decisions, which must be made fast since feedback does not take long to receive. Another advantage for companies is the international exposure it provides, because social networks are present all over the world. In this way, international relations can be established and maintained with the exchange of ideas actively encouraged. In addition, social networks offer free registration. This means that there are no additional costs for, neither for companies nor normal users. 

Above all, however, social media and social networks represent a form of attention. Companies, politicians as well as everyday consumers can get into interactive contact with their customers in a fun and engaging way. The growing trend to use social media with the purpose of user targeting mentality has also arrived in municipalities and smaller communities. Municipalities and city administrations use them particularly in the areas of information transfer and crisis management. Examples include crises such as natural disasters or the housing of refugees. The latter in particular poses a major challenge for local authorities. In these exceptional circumstances, fast communication and professional appearance are not only sought by the local administrations, but required. Social networks form groups which are responsible for different areas or tasks. These tasks include, for example, food supply, accommodation or questions about general health care or social services.

Refugees are thus helped as quickly as possible and they find their first opportunities for integration into everyday life. Large cities like Dresden or Berlin use these social networks for clothing donations or collected food for the blackboard.

Another field of activity is crisis management. We live in a time where major fires, floods or hurricanes are no longer a rarity. Due to their wide reach and popularity, social networks have great potential to use them in a targeted way and to help those affected as quickly as possible. This means that relief operations can be well organised and carried out. In addition, they are used in attacks or mass murder. Countries such as America or Canada, for example, show the rapid rise of their implementation. Facebook integrated a feature that allows the secured people to enter whether they are in danger or safe. That information is then passed on to the secured person’s friends and family to inform them if they are indeed safe or not.

One last area of responsibility is the provision of information. Many authorities have recognized the trend and are also present in the media. They set up their own profiles on Facebook or Instagram. In this way they can inform citizens about opening hours, job offers or general news. The administrations can therefore draw attention to them in an almost playful way and present a good picture.

To summarize, you can refer back to the statement once more from Bill Gates “The Internet is like a wave: either you learn to swim on it or you sink” to conclude if he was indeed right. Companies have to use this opportunity because it offers many advantages. On the one hand, they can be a good way to counteract this in times of a shortage of skilled workers and, whilst providing companies with a means to shaping and developing their evolving public image. Nevertheless, there should always be a wider understanding as to the limit of what should and shouldn’t be published.

Sources

Universität Kassel. Einsatz von sozialen Medien in Kommunen. (2018),
https://www.uni-kassel.de/fb07/fileadmin/datas/fb07/5-Institute/IBWL/Veit/Publications/Social-Media-Studie2016_cassini-KGSt-UniKassel.pdf, date of research: 23.10.2019

https://www.pinterest.de/pin/182888434847559410/, date of research: 18.10.2019

Lisken, Sophie. Die Vorteile und Gefahren von sozialen Netzwerken. (2019) https://www.waz.de/mediacampus/best-of/die-vorteile-und-gefahren-sozialer-netze-id12005068.html, date of research: 08.11.2019