Using Twitter to Engage Citizens [2020 Updates]

Written by Jessica Marabella

Master the tweet, re-tweet, and hashtag to engage your citizens.
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Twitter is a microblogging platform utilized by an estimated 330 million people around the world. Do you feel confident leveraging Twitter to engage with citizens? We have what you need to help you familiarize yourself with the blue bird’s role in the realm of special media, and eight best practices for how you can utilize tweets in the twitterverse to #engage with citizens.

The Twitter Value Proposition: As-it-Happens News Updates

Twitter's primary role in the social sphere is to serve as a breaking news outlet, making news one of the top reasons that users engage with the platform. In fact, nearly a quarter of all verified accounts on Twitter belong to members of the media.

For local governments, Twitter allows civic leaders to tap into this utilization of the platform for breaking news to share immediate community news and gauge citizen reactions and feedback. Twitter is also valuable to local government leaders in providing as-it-happens coverage and commentary on live community events.

Tweeting Community Examples

Here are two examples of communities leveraging Twitter to keep their citizens informed:

Athens-Clarke County, Georgia leverages its official Twitter account as an additional channel to share important community news and updates.


The Town of Banff in Canada also uses its Twitter account to share news. It adds popular local hashtags and links to additional content available on its website to maximize the reach of its messages. In the example below, during the first major storm fall of the season, the administrators in Banff included a link to their civic website’s available traffic cameras to prepare citizens for dangerous road conditions.



Eight Twitter Best Practices for Local Governments

If you’re ready to start leveraging Twitter to update your community on breaking local news, follow our eight best practices:

1. Be active. Post frequently as you create and share news content on your civic website. Plan to tweet at least three times per week.

2. #Hashtag. Add relevant hashtags so that citizens not already following you, but interested in a specific topic, can find your tweets. For example, add a hashtag of your community name to the end of tweets so that members of your community are more likely to find and follow your account.

3. Rewteet. To “retweet’ means to repost or forward a tweet posted by another user. Retweet relevant news and information from other regional news sources or community partners, such as your local school district. Retweeting is a great way for prospective new followers to find you.

4. Be Responsive. Engage with citizens by responding to their direct tweets. Seventy-seven percent of Twitter users feel more positive about a brand when they tweet at that brand and receive a response. If a Twitter user sends a direct message to your Twitter account, or mentions your profile by name in one of their tweets, be sure to respond timely.

5. Tweet breaking news. Tweet whenever there is breaking news in your community, whether the news be election results, power outages, or anticipated inclement weather approaching. Since you only have a maximum of 280 characters per tweet, add a link to your municipal website’s blog for more information.

6. Include photos in every tweet. Photos are impactful and will better engage users scrolling through their lengthy Twitter feeds. For example, citizens used to winter weather disruptions may disregard a winter weather advisory text communication as just another routine update, but seeing a photo of the major highway they travel to get home buried under snow, with cars crawling in a single lane, will get their attention, enabling them to make alternate, safer travel plans.

7. Tweet about upcoming community events. Link to your municipal website’s community calendar for more information.

8. Tweet the resolution. When posting about breaking news, remember to post when an issue impacting your community has been resolved. Your citizens will want to know not just that the light at a four-way stop is out, but that it’s been restored.

Time-Saving Tip: Save time and optimize the reach of your messages by utilizing a subscription-based multi-channel communication distribution system. If news is breaking, you won’t be able to rely on social media alone to notify your community. For maximum reach, you’ll want to send updates via social media, email, text message, and your municipal website.

Save time by using a system that will allow you to craft one message and distribute it to multiple channels. The most powerful systems will integrate with a subscription service so that citizens can opt-in to your communications by content type, and choose their preferred communication method (e.g., email, text/SMS, phone).

CivicEngage Send® is the CivicEngage communication creation and distribution module that allows you to coordinate social media posts as part of your muti-channel citizen communication strategy. Click here to learn more about CivicEngage Send.