The aim of this paper is to address changes in public communication following the advent of Internet social networking tools and the emerging web 2.0 technologies which are providing new ways of sharing information and knowledge. In particular public administrations are called upon to reinvent the governance of public affairs and to update the means for interacting with their communities. The paper develops an analysis of the distribution, diffusion and performance of the official profiles on Twitter adopted by the Italian municipalities (comuni) up to November 2013. It aims to identify the patterns of spatial distribution and the drivers of the diffusion of Twitter profiles; the performance of the profiles through an aggregated index, called the Twitter performance index (Twiperindex), which evaluates the profiles’ activity with reference to the gravitational areas of the municipalities in order to enable comparisons of the activity of municipalities with different demographic sizes and functional roles. The results show that only a small portion of innovative municipalities have adopted Twitter to enhance e-participation and e-governance and that the drivers of the diffusion seem to be related either to past experiences and existing conditions (i.e. civic networks, digital infrastructures) developed over time or to strong local community awareness. The better performances are achieved mainly by small and medium-sized municipalities. Of course, the phenomenon is very new and fluid, therefore this analysis should be considered as a first step in ongoing research which aims to grasp the dynamics of these new means of public communication.
Social networks, Italy, comuni, Twitter, public communication, public institutions, Twitter performance index.
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