This project aims at understanding if and how can social media contribute for digital democracy by studying the Portuguese case considering the national and international trends, standards and recommendations. We investigate the presence and activity of Portuguese local governments on social media, focusing on the uses and purposes of this type of strategic communication with the public. Through the mapping and analysis of the presence and use of social media by the 308 Portuguese municipalities, the goal is to understand how social media are used, with which objectives and with which underlying communication purposes and strategies. A countrywide observatory will provide an overall picture of the local government’s investment in the online sphere.
Based on the identification of the 10 municipalities that make the best use of social media, we will carry out an in-depth study in order to explore the ways these best practices are developed by the executives. We will conduct semi-structured interviews with local governments and/or those responsible for the municipalities’ communication strategies which will allow us to understand the organizational strategies for local government communication with citizens. In addition to being a fundamental method for mapping and evaluating best practices in the use of social media, this is an important resource to focus on the use of social media as a tool for civic engagement at the local level, which is also a significant part of UNU-EGOV’s Research Line 4 entitled “Digital Media and Digital Democracy”.
Departing from the results of our quantitative and qualitative research, we will develop a set of policy guidelines and best practices to aid local officials to implement the municipalities’ presence in social media. A workshop will be organized to promote the discussion of the project’s results with relevant actors in the field and local government officials/representatives (namely the guidelines for best practices, which include a list of recommendations to local officials and a roadmap for the strategic development of social media presence). This will lead us to conceive and develop a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) for other local governments based on best practices and guidelines.