The value of social media data: Integrating crowd capabilities in evidence-based policy


Work data:

ISSN: 0740-624X

Alternate URL:
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Type of work: Article (academic)


e-Government & e-Administration | Social Media & Social Software


Social media have been widely embraced by governments for information dissemination and engagement but less is known about their value as information sources. Crowdsourced content from social media can improve inclusivity in policy development but it is not always clear how it can form part of policy evidence. The paper builds on the conceptual framework of crowd capabilities to examine the value of social media data in evidence-based policy. Acquisition and assimilation – the two elements of crowd capabilities – drive our exploratory case analysis in the context of agricultural policies in the UK. The study combined qualitative data from interviews and workshops with an analysis of networks of farmers on Twitter. Policy makers were broadly positive about the immediacy, cost-effectiveness and diversity of useful input that can be sourced from online sources. Limitations were identified in terms of representation and inclusion of participants in large datasets that are sourced from open platforms. We compare social media data to traditional sources of evidence and further reflect on the new capabilities that can support the needs of policy makers in this endeavor.



  • Social media data can form part of policy evidence but it is not always clear how.
  • Crowd capabilities refer to the acquisition and assimilation of social media data.
  • We examine new capabilities to support policy makers in using social media input.
  • We show an illustrative case of farming and agricultural conversations on Twitter.
  • We compare social media data with other sources in evidence-based policy.