Analysing social media for better public policy

Research output: Book/ReportPolicy/Procedures/Guidelines

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University researchers have a role to play in working with public authorities to develop effective and efficient
approaches to gathering and analysing insights from social media that are useful in public policy
development and communication.
This one day symposium brought together academic researchers focused on uses and qualitative analysis of
social media in public decision-making, and people working in public policy, strategy, and communication.
The program was designed to present cases and new research, and to explore progress towards better
understanding of applications and approaches to the qualitative analysis of passively sourced, publicly
available social media data. More than 40 people attended.
This report is a record of the presentations and discussions.
The five cases studied showed that insights gained from research into public comments in social media have
already impacted policy recommendations, implementation, communication and evaluations.
The symposium discussions consistently indicated that social media provide a unique opportunity to listen in
real time to public debate, to identify changes and trends in public opinion as they happen, and to inform
decision making and educational campaigns.
This type of social listening has been associated with controversial and complex issues. Salient among
concerns was the development of ethical guidelines required to protect privacy, while simultaneously
enabling analysis of publicly available comment, to an extent that affords timely and thorough investigation of
perspectives not available when using more conventional methods.
Social media offers policy makers understanding not only of what people think, but more importantly ‘why’. It
provides insights into information and misinformation, benefits and disadvantages, lived experience, and
emotions and concerns that people have in relation to programmes and policies. Such insights can have
wide and significant impacts: financial, social and political.
The findings of the symposium indicated the need for systematic and rigorous research methods to provide
the kinds of evidence that policy makers can use to achieve policy goals successfully. Further, there is
potential to include a wider range of citizen voices by expanding inquiry into multimodal communication
platforms. These types of research can be part of a mixed-methods approach, complementing other sources
and types of data.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages90
Publication statusPublished - 09 Jan 2020


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