Supporting Policy-Makers with Social Media Analysis Tools to Get Aware of Citizens’ Opinions

Wandhöfer, Timo; Taylor, Steve; Fernandez, Miriam; Allen, Beccy; Alani, Harith; Joshi, Somya; Walland, Paul; Sizov, Sergej; van Eeckhaute, Catherine; Thamm, Mark; Bleier, Arnim; Mutschke, Peter and Koulolias, Vasilis (2014). Supporting Policy-Makers with Social Media Analysis Tools to Get Aware of Citizens’ Opinions. In: Mahmood, Zaigham ed. IT in the Public Sphere: Applications in Administration, Government, Politics, and Planning. Hershey, PA: IGI Global, pp. 121–156.



The role of social media in politics has increased considerably. A particular challenge is how to deal with the deluge of information generated on social media: it is impractical to read lots of messages with the hope of finding useful information. In this chapter, the authors suggest an alternative approach: utilizing analysis software to extract the most relevant information of the discussions taking place. This chapter discusses the WeGov Toolbox as one concept for policy-makers to deal with the information overload on Social Media, and how it may be applied. Two complementary, in depth case studies were carried out to validate the usefulness of the analysis results of the WeGov Toolbox components’ within its target audience’s everyday life. Firstly, the authors used the “HeadsUp” forum, operated by the Hansard Society. Here,
they were able to compare the key themes and opinions extracted automatically by the Toolbox to a control group of manually pre-analyzed data sets. In parallel, results of analyses based on four weeks’ intensive monitoring on policy area-specific Facebook pages selected by German
policy makers, as well as topics on Twitter globally and local, were assessed by taking into account their existing experience with content discussed and user behavior in their respective public spheres. The cases show that there are interesting applications for policy-makers to use
the Toolbox in combination with online forums (blogs) and social networks, if behavioral userpatterns will be considered and the framework will be refined.

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