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Channel integration

Facebook gets political in Karlstad

Can you combine politics and municipal services on Facebook? With more than 12,000 Facebook followers (at the time) on its municipal page, Karlstad piloted a new page for political debate between citizens and politicians.


More than half of the citizens of Karlstad use Facebook, most of them logging in at least once a day to catch up on news, gossip and to share their thoughts and photos with friends. People use Facebook to connect with their social network; they expect interaction and want people to respond to posts with comments and “likes”.

The Swedish municipality of Karlstad has been using Facebook, Twitter and YouTube since 2010, enjoying good levels of interaction with citizens about local every day issues. The municipal Facebook page is used to update citizens on what is going on in the city, promote events, highlight issues and provide an additional channel for customer service.

The Facebook page is now the largest among the municipalities in Sweden. Over 23,000 people “like” the page and it receives on average 15 posts and comments each day.

With such a large audience, the city’s councillors and politicians saw Facebook as an attractive place to interact with citizens, highlight ideas or suggestions and discuss political issues.

“For a politician, the possibility to interact with so many people is a big draw,” says local government commissioner Maria Frisk. “There were potentially over 12,000 people on our main page who might respond with thoughts, comments and opinions. We were quite clear, though. The municipal page was not a place for self-promotion and party political activism. Everyone had to follow the same guidelines. Yet we were still keen to engage with this huge audience and open things up politically too.”

A political pilot

Karlstad decided to pilot a new Facebook page to see if it would work. All of the political parties in the council were represented on the page “Politics in the City of Karlstad”. They all had the intention to interact with citizens on all issues, from public service improvement to the city’s long-term development strategy.

According to Ms Frisk, the page got off to a good start. Questions and comments started to come in on a regular basis, but local governmental commissioners are very busy; they did not always have the opportunity to answer questions right away.

The people responsible for the page found they needed help with maintaining the dialogue and monitoring the page on a daily basis. It was also difficult to know how to handle the few citizens who tried to hijack the page and not let others in on the dialogue. Some citizens also struggled to understand the difference between politics (making decisions for the future) and municipal services (delivering what has already been decided).

Eventually the city realised that it had neither the time nor resources for political secretaries to spend so long monitoring the page. “We really believe in the two-way communication that social media allows us,” Ms Frisk says, “but we decided that it was better to have separate Facebook pages for each political party instead of one for the whole municipality. We had to choose where to put our resources.”


The pilot Facebook page was just one strand of Karlstad’s strategy to increase citizen participation and raise political dialogue. The municipality has also promoted Twitter for political debate, encouraging people to have their say using the hashtag “#054pol”. The Twitter stream and Facebook posts are displayed on a big screen during public meetings so councillors can see how people are reacting to discussions and respond to public opinion.

“For a politician, the possibility of a post being read by so many people is a big draw”

Summary of benefits

  • Reach new audiences, especially young people

  • Have conversations with citizens

  • Facilitate political debate

  • Opportunities for interaction and live streaming of public meetings

Next steps

Fancy Facebook? Analyse your municipality’s digital maturity and readiness for social media or play our social media game.


Maria Frisk, Local Government Commissioner, Municipality of Karlstad, Sweden. Email: Twitter: @Maria_Frisk