As public administration has evolved with the technological advances in today's society, it can be challenging to ensure the demands of the public are being met in terms of efficiency, effectiveness, and engagement. Nonetheless, a focus on community remains at the forefront of public administration. When looking at technology and the community, the tool known as social media emerges. Social media has allowed people to interact in new ways and therefore, has allowed the government to interact with citizens in ways they have not been able to in the past. In addition to attempting to modernize public administration, there has been an increased focus on building citizen trust through providing a more open government structure. The Open Government Directive issued by President Barack Obama focused on three tenets, which included transparency, participation, and collaboration. One of the ways government entities within the United States are strengthening these areas is through the implementation of various social media sites as a means to stay connected with citizens. With an increase of users utilizing social media tools for both information and connection, many government departments and agencies have incorporated social media use into their workplace as a function for their department. However, it is elected officials that are the ones who represent the citizens from their governmental role and thus, can aid in bridging the gap between citizens and government. Yet, there is little research on how elected officials, specifically in municipalities, are utilizing social media to connect with their constituents. This study discusses social media use by municipal elected officials and how it relates to open government community engagement. Open government community engagement is defined in terms of the three tenets of the Open Government Directive: transparency, participation, and collaboration encompassing the rungs of Arnstein's ladder of citizen participation. For this qualitative study, fifty-seven Florida municipal elected officials were interviewed regarding their social media use or lack thereof in terms of engagement with citizens. The interviews are followed-up with content analysis of social media sites. An ethnographic approach is utilized to uncover and develop common themes related to open government community engagement. The findings suggest while some municipal elected officials are utilizing social media well in terms of open government community engagement, there is a lack of clear understanding of social media use within the context of the Sunshine Law, as well as other barriers prohibiting utilizing social media for more of the participation and collaboration components. There are several reasons municipal elected officials opt to avoid social media altogether, while additional concepts related to open government limited engagement and closed government community engagement are explored. The concept of avoidance was addressed, especially as it pertained to the practical implications for both city administrators and elected officials.


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Graduation Date





Bryer, Thomas


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Community Innovation and Education

Degree Program

Public Affairs; Public Administration









Release Date

December 2018

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)