The findings show that social media includes tools for action and seems more effective when combined with other media:

"Working in collaboration, students from the London School of Economics (LSE) Master of Public Administration (MPA) programme and BBC Media Action examined the value that social media brings to governance programming aimed at influencing engagement and civic participation."

This briefing highlights the findings resulting from a literature review and analysis of BBC Media Action data from Palestinian Territories and Bangladesh on the use of social media and civic participation - published in a study undertaken by LSE students between October 2012 and March 2013 and entitled "Social Media and Civic Participation: Literature Review and Empirical Evidence from Bangladesh and Palestinian Territories."

Based on their review, students developed a model of pathways to offline civic participation in which use of informational media (that is, news consumption) from traditional and/or social media platforms leads to offline civic participation, mediated by knowledge, political efficacy, interpersonal discussion, and online participation. Civic participation available on social media can include: signing a petition; learning about an issue of interest; blogging; and tweeting on Twitter, among others. The media stimulus for participation might be: traditional media (TV, radio, and newspapers), especially in rural areas, or social media, including text messaging on mobile devices (SMS), Twitter, blogs, and Facebook.

"Offline civic participation" in this study included, for example: work for a political council; participation in an organised effort to solve a neighbourhood or community problem; contact with a local official; and/or donation to or membership in a charity or campaign organisation. "Online civic participation" included, for example: posting comments, queries, or information on Facebook about a political or current affairs issue; following someone on Twitter who tweets about political or current affairs issues; and/or watching clips or videos of political programming on Facebook or YouTube. A comparison graph on page 3 shows media use and access in Bangladesh and the Palestinian territories, giving background for students results.

The findings show that social media includes tools for action and seems more effective when combined with other media: "These findings imply that practitioners should engage purposefully with social media as a catalysing complement to traditional TV and radio programming. Current and future programming should consider social media an important, if not essential, platform for reaching audiences and motivating civic participation."

In terms of research methodology, BBC Media Action conducts baseline data gathering prior to instituting programming, such as: BBC Bangladesh Sanglap (Dialogue) - since November 2012; Aswat Min Filesteen (Voices from Palestine) and Hur el Kalam (Free to Speak) - since September and October 2012. Plans to conduct follow-up research include various methods: "Formative research conducted to inform programme makers about audiences and the issues that are important to them should consider audiences' access to and appreciation of social media platforms in project design, planning, and resourcing. Stratifying data by sex, to analyse distinctions between how men and women use social media and engage in offline participation, could be informative, particularly as the students' analysis found gender to be significantly associated with offline participation." Possible comparative data might be drawn from the impact of online interpersonal discussion, offline interpersonal discussion, and panel responses from groups consulted at various points in time.

Students' findings show that traditional media is still the dominant form in the two countries. "In Palestinian Territories, 47% of participants had visited any one of the social media sites and one in three people (33%) had undertaken an online civic participation activity in the last three months. In contrast, only 4% of Bangladeshis had visited social media sites and only 1% had undertaken an online civic participation activity." In the Palestinian Territories, offline civic participation was associated with multiplatform media use (both traditional and social media). BBC Media Action data showed that the use of social media was positively associated with political efficacy and offline participation.

Further analysis of the Palestinian Territories data showed, among other things, that:

  • Multiplatform users were more likely to participate offline than traditional media users.
  • Those who used social media and traditional media were no more likely than those who used social media alone to participate offline.
  • Offline participation was significantly associated with social media use and with interpersonal discussion.
  • Offline participation was positively associated with online participation.

According to BBC Media Action: "These findings imply that BBC Media Action should engage purposefully with social media as a catalysing complement to traditional TV and radio programming."

Direct Link to Full 4-Page 2013 Document: