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The Dunedin City Council and the Otago Regional Council have been given a "could do better" remark on their report cards, following University of Otago research on local council social media engagement.
Geography lecturer and lead-investigator Dr Ashraful Alam said the local councils could have higher social media engagement by posting content that invited interaction.
The study was the first of its kind in New Zealand and focused on the Dunedin City Council and the Otago Regional Council, using data from 2019.
It examined how local governments used Facebook pages to communicate with citizens and how citizens engaged with these pages.
Dr Alam said the ORC had made 420 Facebook posts in 2019, and the DCC had made 267.
The posts primarily informed followers of various council-identified issues via "passive" posts.
However, there were relatively few "active" posts which had the potential to provide more meaningful engagement.
"Only 6% of the DCC and 5% of the ORC posts created opportunities for a consultative engagement that invited user feedback," he said.
"Neither of the councils provided any opportunity for user-generated content and there was a relative absence of te reo Maori use and minority languages."
Dr Alam said engagement was vital for councils to inform "bottom-up" urban planning and development decision-making.
"Good citizen engagement tools promote participatory decision-making, where citizens can deliberate over issues affecting their future.
"In general, the inclusion of the public in decision making has been perceived as resource-intensive and costly, but the rapid adoption of social media technologies has created a fundamental shift in the way civic engagement takes place."
To promote inclusive social media, the study recommended councils invite citizens to co-create content, rather than only respond to council-created content.
It also recommended councils employ double-loop strategies for content-creation to sustain followers’ interest and reduce superficial interaction with posts; promote a mix of active and passive posts to increase engagement; and include multilingual posts to encourage citizen engagement and retain followers.