New Report From Penn’s Fels Institute Explores Growth of Local Governments Using Social Media

PHILADELPHIA – The Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania has released a new report, “The Rise of Social Government: An Advanced Guide and Review of Social Media’s Role in Local Government Operations,” providing hard data about the growing use of social media in local governments.

Fels Research & Consulting surveyed more than 100 U.S. cities to examine how their governments utilize social media to engage the public in more personal and effective ways.

Authors and Fels alumnae, digital natives Lauren Hansen-Flaschen and Katherine Parker and Fels senior consultant Eric Rabe explain how local governments use platforms including Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare and more to meet operational goals and communicate beyond traditional methods while also saving time and money.

The report shows that followers of local governments’ social-media platforms get a new voice to engage, whether that means reporting problems like potholes, commenting on budget postings or promoting community events.

“We found that more than 90-percent of city and local governments are utilizing Facebook and Twitter to communicate today,” Rabe said, “and many are experimenting with other social media. This is a new, more conversational face of local government. Citizens are able to speak directly to community leaders and relay thoughts and concerns in real time.”

The report also offers insight and suggestions on building and further developing social-media campaigns for governments and serves as a go-to manual of terminology, case studies and resources.

“The findings in this new report could not be more relevant and timely, as each year the importance of social media grows within the realm of government and civic engagement,” said David Thornburgh, executive director of Fels. “Understanding and utilizing social-media platforms effectively strengthens cohesion of citizens and government and helps to bridge the gap between policy makers and those affected.”

“The Rise of Social Government” is a follow-up to the 2009 report “Making the Most of Social Media” and the fifth report in the Promising Practices Series created by the Fels Research & Consulting Group.  The series compiles public-sector solutions on timely subjects to provide evidence-based solutions for community problems.  

Additional information is available at  Visitors to the Web site can download “The Rise of Social Government” and other reports from the series.

Rabe will lead a free Fels webinar on the social-media report on Sept. 18 at 2 p.m. (EDT) through GovDelivery, the leading provider of government-to-citizen communications solutions.  The webinar will focus on effectively leveraging social media to elevate public engagement, solicit policy feedback, strengthen and streamline emergency response and establish greater transparency. Registration information for the webinar will be available at