Uses of social media in government agencies: Content analyses of public relations strategies and message tactics comparison between South Korea and the United States of America in 2011 and 2014

Published date01 May 2018
AuthorMoon J. Lee,Hajin Cho
Date01 May 2018
Uses of social media in government agencies: Content analyses
of public relations strategies and message tactics comparison
between South Korea and the United States of America in 2011
and 2014
Moon J. Lee
|Hajin Cho
Department of Public Relations, University of
Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA
Jeju National University, Jeju, Korea
Moon J. Lee, Department of Public Relations,
College of Journalism and Communications,
University of Florida, PO Box 118400
Gainesville, FL 326118400, USA.
We investigated five different government organizations' uses of social media in two coun-
tries: South Korea and the United States. Two content analyses were conducted in two time
periods: 2011 and 2014. We found that the majority of government organizations in both
countries use social media within the public information model (for dissemination of informa-
tion), followed by the twoway asymmetrical model (for persuasion). As expected, the most
prevalent public relations strategy is informative strategy, followed by persuasive strategy.
The majority of government organizations use the information dissemination message strat-
egy. Specific differences were found between 2011 and 2014 as well as between two
Social media emerged as one of the major communication tools and
became a critical component of civic society. According to the Pew
Research Center's 2014 data, 71% of Internet users utilize social media
such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in the United States
(Hampton, Rainie, Lu, Dwyer, & Shin, & Purcell, K., 2014). The most
recent statistics estimate about 79% of online adults use Facebook
alone, and this is equivalent to 68% of the U.S. adult population
(Pew Research Center, 2016). Communication activities through social
media are prevalent not only among ordinary people but also many
organizations including governmental agencies (Shirky, 2011).
The U.S. government has been active in using social media as a
public relations tool to communicate with the public. For instance,
the majority of government organizations in the United States cur-
rently useTwitter to disseminate information and connect with citizens
(Waters & Williams, 2011). This is also the case in South Korea where
Internet activities have been dramatically increased with 41 million
Internet users, which ranks it as the 11th largest number of Internet
users in the world. Moreover, the number of social media users
reached 28 million in 2014, and South Korea has one of the fastest
growth rates of social media users in the world (Korea Internet & Secu-
rity Agency, 2014). In 2016, 83% of the South Korean population were
estimated to be active social media users, and the most popular social
media was YouTube with 72% penetration (Statista, 2016).
With this fastgrowing trend, the South Korean government
expends its effort utilizing social media for communication manage-
ment purposes. The first significant sign was seen in 2010 when the
president of South Korea hired a chief online communicator, advocat-
ing social media as one of the best communication tools to publicize
government policies (Lee, 2011). Various social media have been
utilized by government agencies in South Korea since then (Yi, Oh,
& Kim, 2013). Similarly, many American government agencies and pol-
iticians have also set up social media accounts to promote govern-
ment information and services. For instance, the 45th President of
the United States, Donald Trump's use of Twitter in American politics
has brought a new era of social media use in government affair when
he started usingTwitter to communicate directly with American public
rather than traditional media briefings that were utilized among his
Although social media have attracted much attention from
scholars in different fields (e.g., Eyrich, Padman, & Sweetser, 2008;
Wright & Hinson, 2008), social media in government public relations
have received little attention from scholars (Landsbergen, 2010). The
potential use of social media for relationship management has been
previously discussed in different contexts (e.g., Baird & Parasnis,
2011; Waters & Williams, 2011). In particular, its speed and flexibility
to customize usage of social media for twoway and multiway commu-
nication are identified as major advantages of social media use
(Fletcher & Lee, 2012). Despite a number of government organizations
Received: 26 September 2017 Accepted: 6 October 2017
DOI: 10.1002/pa.1687
J Public Affairs. 2018;18:e1687.
Copyright © 2017 John Wiley & Sons, 1of8

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