When Facebook was first launched in 2004, it was intended only for students at Harvard University. Today, what started as a social tool for college students is the most heavily trafficked social media platform in the world. Today, it’s estimated that over 1.69 billion users post, share, and like, on Facebook.
For local governments, Facebook offers opportunities to build stronger community and social connections to citizens by sharing local news and offering a platform for civic engagement.
Facebook as a Platform for Local News
With traditional print news on the decline for the past decade, many citizens are obtaining local, national and global news where they are already spending hours every day—on social media. According to a 2019 study from the Pew Research Center, 55 percent of U.S. adults now get their news from social media either "often" or "sometimes"—an 8% increase from the year prior.
Pew Research studies have found that those who seek news on Facebook use the platform to learn about a wide variety of global, national, local, and hyperlocal topics, including:
- National government and politics
- International affairs
- People and events in their communities
- Local government
- Local weather
- Science and technology
- Health and medicine
Civic Tip: Use Facebook to post information about local events, major projects, and key developments in your community, linking back to your municipal website for more information. DeSoto County, Mississippi, for example, uses its Facebook page to keep citizens informed on news that impacts its citizens that they may not otherwise hear about through traditional media.
Social Media as a Tool to Foster Political Discussion
The trend of Americans using social media to learn about news, share information, and comment on topics, trends, and stories that impact their community, is changing how they take part in the democratic process. An increasing number of citizens are using Facebook and other social platforms to engage in social and political dialogue.
A passionate segment of Americans are engaging with their local government and each other via social channels like Facebook. According to the Pew Research Center:
- 15% of Americans like seeing lots of political posts and discussions on social media
- 27% of users today find social political discourse“interesting and informative
- 26% report finding out they have “more in common”with friends and followers than they thought
Facebook and Civic Activism
An important way that local governments are connecting with citizens to enable civic action is during election season. According to a poll of youth by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) after the 2018 mid-term elections, engaging in activism using social media and other online tools translated to offline activism.
The City of Eden, North Carolina, uses its Facebook page to solicit citizen feedback on its goal setting initiatives. In the post below, the City’s leaders asked its Facebook followers to complete a survey regarding its vision, and community evolution goals.
Civic Tip: Offer your citizens news and information about issues that impact your community and encourage them to share with their own followers. Be especially active on Facebook in the weeks leading up to election season. Use Facebook as a tool to help citizens learn about candidates and issues before the go to the polls.
If your municipal website prepared to Rock the Vote in 2020? Click here to find out how to optimize the performance of your election results page.