Policy-makers using social media: communication of public policies or political public relations?

While more policy-makers are embracing new tools such as Twitter and Facebook, an important question is what they are doing there. This thesis aims to explore this new field of study departing from the research question of why policy-makers are using social media and whether they are going online mostly for communicating public policies or political PR. The main hypothesis states that the usage will show blurred boundaries between these two concepts. Based on the literature review, an analytical framework is built conceptualizing the communication of public policies and political PR in a continuum. This framework is applied to three European case studies related to the policy area of information society: Commissioner Neelie Kroes, Digital Agenda for Europe and MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld. The thesis uses a triangulation methodology combining qualitative content analysis of a sample of 105 messages on Twitter and Facebook and a posterior quantification of the results. The findings confirmed the main hypothesis of blurred boundaries as the average result per account is situated in the middle of the continuum. There are some differences connected to the nature of the policy-maker as In ‘t Veld, as a Dutch MEP, was more involved in political PR than the two other cases.