How Facebook’s Newest # Feature Can Help Guide Governmental Decision-Making

Government entities from small town councils to the White House have begun to harness the power of social networks to generate the data they need to drive sound decision-making. The New York Times reports that “Facebook has joined the hashtag revolution, introducing a tool….that allows users to add the # symbol before a word to signify its topic. The topic would then be easily searchable by other users of the social network.”

Facebook has just made organizing data to support decision-making easier and more direct. Now in line with Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest (and soon likely Google+), Facebook added hashtag functionality to its list of features. The use of hashtags to organize and group large blocks of media related to a single theme has a number of advantages for government entities. 

Millions of Facebook users post status updates to their pages on a daily basis. Many of those posts are in response to major breaking news in politics and governance. 

In the past, assembling professionally led focus groups or launching major, costly phone surveys represented the primary means of securing up-to-the-minute data on citizens’ responses to proposed or recently implemented changes in government.

Thanks to Facebook’s new hashtag system, it may soon be possible to gauge citizen response with the click of a button.

For example, consider a hypothetical scenario in which a town council is considering implementation of a new parking ordinance. Though few citizens actually attend the open meeting in which the new ordinance is discussed, the local paper writes up a story. Many citizens read about the ordinance in the newspaper, but few bother to contact their town council members to express their opinions. Though they may not pick up the phone or write an email to their town council members, they are discussing it.

And they are discussing it on Facebook and other social media outlets.

If the local paper includes a suggested hashtag for starting a conversation about the ordinance on social media websites, that same town council who formerly had little feedback from its citizens could well find itself awash in data at the click of a button on Facebook.

This valuable data harvested from the humble hashtag can guide government decision-making by illuminating constituents’ wants and needs in real time.

For more ideas and insights on how government entities can use social media strategies to function more effectively, contact us.

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