Harnessing Social Media for Citizen Engagement

Harnessing Social Media for Citizen Engagement
Posted on 06/25/2018
CivicLive Blog - Harnessing Social Media for Citizen Engagement

Social media can be a great tool for civic engagement if you know how to use it to its full advantage. While social sites differ in style, all of them ultimately serve the same purpose: make it easy for people everywhere to connect. Despite this, many local governments continue to struggle when it comes to using social media to improve citizen engagement.

Social media’s versatility and reach make it easy to engage with your constituents in many ways, allowing you to:

Start Conversations

What better way to engage people than to start a conversation? Social media is the perfect vehicle for making conversation. Use your social sites to ask questions, run polls and respond to questions and concerns. Create hashtags to use as conversation starters and to collect posts about a particular topic in one space.

Share Valuable Information

For many people, social media is often their first source for news. In fact, research during the 2016 presidential campaign determined that “90% of all 18–49 year old adults use at least one form of social media, and 49% use these accounts on a weekly basis to update their friends with news, links, and photos.” This research proves the power of social media when it comes to building engagement.

As a local government, it’s important you know what your citizens are talking about so you can better share information that interests them. Residents and visitors alike look to a municipality’s government to be a reliable source for up-to-date news and information. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that every bit of information you share on your social sites is factual and timely.

Tag Sources and Experts

One way to add value to the posts you share is to tag sources and experts. When you tag others in your posts you confirm its value and provide opportunity for more conversation and engagement. Tagging a third party also opens your post up to their followers, growing the overall reach of your message.


There are a variety of social media management apps out there, (ex. Hootsuite, Buffer) to help you preschedule posts. Not all of your posts, of course. Organic engagement is the key to success on social media. However you can’t always be online. By prescheduling some posts you ensure constant updating and engagement while freeing up your time for other, possibly more pressing matters.


When you incorporate hashtags into your posts you make them discoverable by other users on the site, increasing your post’s awareness. For the most part hashtags help with discovery and categorization, but how you should use hashtags on different social platforms varies slightly:

  • Twitter: Used to start conversation or to join in.
  • Instagram: Hashtags on Instagram organize photos using the same hashtag in one place, making it easier for users to find new content and accounts to follow.
  • Facebook: Since most Facebook accounts are private, hashtags don’t necessarily help with making content discoverable, but for public accounts users can click on hashtags to find related posts.

Breaking Down Barriers

Using social media to foster civic engagement is a great way to remove the barriers between local governments and the citizens they work for. Social media’s reach allows you to connect with residents, businesses and visitors on a more personal level. Taking the simple steps required to encourage that engagement will result in better conversations, shared transfer of knowledge and a more connected municipality.

West’s CivicLive solutions offer a complete suite of eGovernment products designed to help local governments foster better civic engagement, contact us today to learn more.

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