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Using Facebook to Engage Citizens in Your Community

Written by Jessica Marabella

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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. According to Brandwatch, it’s estimated that over 1.71 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

Social media has become an acceptably reliable channel for adults of all ages to consume news. According to a study performed by the Pew Research Center, use of Facebook as a source of news is on the rise, as Americans are actively seeking information about local and national news from social platforms. The Pew Research Center also reports that according to a study it conducted in 2016, 66 percent of Facebook users get news on the site.

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
  • Business
  • Sports
  • Entertainment
  • People and events in their communities
  • Local government
  • Local weather
  • Traffic
  • Crime
  • 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.


Facebook as a Tool to Enable Civic Activism

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.

Many Americans are engaging with their local governments via social channels like Facebook. According to the Pew Research Center:

  • 32% of Facebook users report that they post about government and politics, while 28% comment on such posts by others.
  • 39% of American adults are participating in political or civic activities on social networking sites.
  • 43% of social networking site users say they have decided to learn more about a political or social issue because of something they read on a social networking site.
  • 18% of social networking site users say they have decided to take action involving a political or social issue because of something they read on a social networking site.
  • 39% of American adults have used social media to engage in at least one of eight civic or political activities.

An important way that local governments are connecting with citizens to enable civic action is during election season. In fact, 35 percent of American adults have used social media to encourage others to vote.

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.

CivicSend, the powerful CivicEngage communication creation and distribution module, can help you manage your social media, and other citizen messages. CivicSend allows you to send multi-channel communications from one easy-to-use platform. Click here for more information on CivicSend.