Analysing social media for better public policy

Peter Denyer-Simmons, Kane Callaghan

Research output: Book/ReportOther report

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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
Place of PublicationBathurst, NSW
PublisherInstitute of Land Water and Society
Number of pages90
ISBN (Electronic)9781864673661
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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