Panel Paper: Digital Wash: What Leads Public Organizations to Use Social Media As a Legitimacy-Seeking Tool?

Saturday, November 10, 2018
8229 - Lobby Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Haneul Choi1, Eric Welch2 and Sang Eun Lee1, (1)Arizona State University, (2)University of Illinois, Chicago

This study investigates factors that affect the use of social media in the public sector. The main argument of the study is three-fold: First, in the public sector, where multiple and possibly competing norms co-exist, organizational actors make strategic decisions to retain organizational legitimacy considering the different norms. Second, utilization of social media, especially in the public sector, is linked with democratic values. Third, public organizations that have lower legitimacy in its functional aspect try to seek legitimacy through more frequent use of social media to compensate for the lack of its functional legitimacy.

To corroborate the arguments, the study outline a theoretical model that links legitimacy-seeking behavior and social media use of public organizations and illustrates how social media can be utilized to enhance organizational legitimacy in the public sector. Then the social media use behavior of public and private organizations are analyzed and compared based on a survey data collected through NASP-Citizen project developed by the Center for Organization Research and Design (CORD) at Arizona State University in 2015. The independent variables are excessive red-tape burden imposed on citizens and the recent adoption of functional innovation by the organization.

The result shows the followings: 1) the relationship between red-tape burden on citizens and the social media use exhibits an inverse-U shape, and 2) Recent adoption of functional innovation negatively affects the social media use of public organizations. The indication of the results and the comparisons with the private organizations are suggested. The study is expected to contribute to the literature by providing a perspective of legitimacy to explore the use of social media in the public sector, about which few studies have paid attention to.