Measuring or interpreting social media engagement? A few answers in a new GIQ article


Government Information Quarterly has just published in early view a special issue on “Social Media in Government”. The collection was edited by Dr. Rorigo Sandoval-Almazan, Dr. J. Ignacio Criado and Dr. Ramon Gil-Garcia. I contributed an article titled “A framework for interpreting social media interactions in the public sector”. Although a title such as social media metrics, social media performance measurement or similar titles might have been more attractive, I decided to avoid prescriptive metrics. Social media use is changing so fast, that I believe social media managers in the public sector have to be very flexible and constantly observe how both technology, but most importantly how online behavior of citizens is changing to be able to adapt government’s online tactics.

Here is the abstract of the article:

Social media applications are extending the information and communication technology landscape in the public sector and are used to increase government transparency, participation and collaboration in the U.S. federal government. The success, impact and performance of these new forms of bi-directional and networked interactions can provide insights to understand compliance with the mandate of the Open Government Initiative. Many government agencies are experimenting with the use of social media, however very few actively measure the impact of their digital interactions. This article builds on insights from social media directors in the U.S. federal government highlighting their current lack of measurement practices for social media interactions. Based on their articulated needs for measurement, existing rules regulating the extent of measurement practices and technological features of the main social media platforms, a framework is presented that traces online interactions to mission support and the resulting social media tactics. Implications for both researchers and practitioners are discussed.

Full reference:

Mergel, I. (2013): A framework for interpreting social media interactions in the public sector, in: Government Information Quarterly, doi:

Please email me for a copy!

Implementing Open Innovation in the Public Sector (new article)

ImageKevin Desouza and I just published an article in the Public Administration Review (PAR) highlighting how federal government agencies are implementing Open Innovation approaches. We used interviews conducted with two public manager, Tammi Marcoullier and Karen Trebon at GSA, who are supporting agencies in their efforts to use, a platform to implement prizes and challenges.

The article is available in Early View online.

Here is the abstract:

As part of the Open Government Initiative, the Barack Obama administration has called for new forms of collaboration with stakeholders to increase the innovativeness of public service delivery. Federal managers are employing a new policy instrument called to implement open innovation concepts invented in the private sector to crowdsource solutions from previously untapped problem solvers and to leverage collective intelligence to tackle complex social and technical public management problems. The authors highlight the work conducted by the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies at the General Services Administration, the administrator of the platform. Specifically, this Administrative Profile features the work of Tammi Marcoullier, program manager for, and Karen Trebon, deputy program manager, and their role as change agents who mediate collaborative practices between policy makers and public agencies as they navigate the political and legal environments of their local agencies. The profile provides insights into the implementation process of crowdsourcing solutions for public management problems, as well as lessons learned for designing open innovation processes in the public sector.

Full reference:

Mergel, I. and Desouza, K. (2013): Implementing Open Innovation in the Public Sector: The Case of, in: Public Administration Review, doi: 10.1111/puar.12141.

The new C-Class – article in German about Chief Data Officers in the U.S.

I wrote a short piece for the German magazine of the “Deutscher Staedte und Gemeindebund” (rough translation: German Cities and Communities Association). I talked about insights I gained when I interviewed Mark Headd, the Chief Data Officer of the City of Philadelphia and his amazing work connecting government data with audiences who want to innovate using the data. The article is written in German, but an earlier version appeared here on my blog and on

Social media innovations: Wake County provides sanitation scores to Yelp

Bill Greeves, CIO of Wake County, has joined my ‘Social Media in the Public Sector’ class this week (follow along on Twitter #maxmedia13). He talked about how the county seeks to innovate with social media and make government data available in places of high value for citizens.

One example he showed was the county’s new partnership with Yelp, an “online urban city guide that helps people find cool places to eat, shop, drink, relax and play, based on the informed opinions of a vibrant and active community of locals in the know.”

The county provides sanitation scores to Yelp that are calculated based on routine inspections by the county’s inspectors of restaurants. At the same time, citizens who are visiting restaurants are leaving their own reviews and in combination with the formal county scores future restaurant visitors might gain a more complete picture than using individual insights from citizens only.

This looks like a great use of already collected and published government data: The county makes an effort to move the data from a government website that citizens might not readily find to an online destination where citizens are already talking about restaurants scores and where government data can gain additional value.

However, on Yelp a restaurant owner mentioned that score might not be reported correctly. This gives business owners an opportunity  to review scores and directly interact with government:

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Government Alone Can’t Solve Society’s Biggest Problems

Harvard Business Review:

William Eggers and and Paul Macmillan talk about new forms of problem solving in government: “New problem-solving innovators and investors power this solution economy”.

Originally posted on HBR Blog Network - Harvard Business Review:

Rising obesity. Human Trafficking. Re-skilling the workforce. A lack of quality education and safe water for the poor in the developing world. Whose job is it to solve these problems?

For decades, the answer to that question has been simple: government. Until relatively recently, governments provided for the public good, while the private sector largely stuck with Milton Friedman’s admonition that the social responsibility of business was to increase its profits. Thinking beyond the bottom line was considered unfocused or, even worse, a disservice to shareholders.

Today, the landscape has changed dramatically.

A new economy has emerged at the borderlands where traditional sectors overlap. This economy trades in social outcomes; its currencies include public data, reputation, and social impact. Previously untapped markets drive financial returns. The business models are unusual. The motivations range from moral obligation to new notions of public accountability, or even shareholder value. This “solution economy

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Make social media part of your standard operating procedure

I came across an interesting Twitter exchange between a user and the official account of the National Transportation Safety Board after one of the recent airline crashes. The user was wondering if NTSB is always using their Twitter account to update the public and it turns out that the NTSB has already adopted this tactics into their existing standard operating procedures:

“Take a Risk, Save a Life”: Social Media in Emergency Management

PA Times Logo

The PA Times, published by the American Society for Public Administration, has just published a short article I wrote that is based on what I observed during Hurricane Sandy and the flooding in Calgary.

I uploaded the article to Slideshare:

Here is the full reference:
Mergel, I.: “Take a Risk, Save a Life”: Social Media in Emergency Management, in: PA Times, 36:3, p. 13.