Community and Regional Planning Program


First Advisor

Zhenghong Tang

Date of this Version

Winter 12-2018


Zhao, L. (2018). Social Media Communication by Local Governments and Its Implications for Urban Planning (A Master's Thesis). University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE, USA.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Community and Regional Planning, Major: Community and Regional Planning, Under the Supervision of Professor Zhenghong Tang. Lincoln, Nebraska: December, 2018

Copyright 2018 Leiming Zhao


Social media has altered traditional communication and enriched traditional social networks. In addition to its use for personal communication and business marketing, social media has also been proved to be a valuable tool for urban planners and managers. However, there are relatively few studies about how social media communication may inform the design of urban master plans. The objectives of the thesis are to understand how the city governments have used social media to engage with the general public on urban planning issues, and assess if social media contents can be used to inform urban planning. The 10 top digital cities with mid-range population size rated by the Center for Digital Government (CDG) were selected as study sites. A combination of statistical analyses and manual topic classification were used to reveal the patterns of the social media discussion. The outputs were then compared with the comprehensive plans of these cities. The results showed that (1) social media contents encompass a broad range of planning issues, and have been used as supplemental information to improve the comprehensive plans; (2) there is no statistical difference between Facebook and Twitter discussion on planning issues percentage-wise; and (3) Overall, the comprehensive plan provides more detailed and structured visions and strategies to address planning issues compared with fragmented social media discussion.

Adviser: Zhenghong Tang