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Roles and responsibilities

Social media guidelines: Karlstad keeps it low key

Karlstad’s policies on the use of social media focus on trusting employees to practice common sense. Posting comments for thousands of residents to read sounds like a big risk, but Karlstad’s guidelines and training find the balance between control and common sense.


Karlstad has been using Facebook since 2010. Now with more than 23,000 “likes” for its main municipality page, it has become a key two-way communication channel for the city.

“We are really keen on Facebook because it pushes information out to people and has a wide and diverse reach,” explains Jenny Broden, Karlstad’s project manager for Opening Up. “Facebook is really effective; people choose to follow particular pages because they are interested in the subject – these are just the people you want to engage with so it works well.”

But how does the city maintain its corporate identity and reputation across these pages with such devolved management?

The communications department created a set of guidelines that everyone posting on municipal Facebook pages must follow.

Know why

The first level of control happens in the planning phase. If a group wants to start a new Facebook page, it must justify why by completing a “Facebook order form”. This questionnaire asks questions to help people understand why they are using Facebook and guide what content they choose to post.

Questions include:

  • Why do you want this page?

  • Who do you want to reach?

  • What do you want to talk about?

  • What do you want to ask these people or find out?

  • Why should anyone “like” your page?

  • What do you want other people to post?

  • How will you promote the page?

  • What tone and style will you adopt?

Once approved by the communications department, employees are free – more or less – to post whatever they want in order to implement their strategy. There are just a few basic principles they have to follow.

The basics: common sense

The communications department acts as editor-in-chief and takes responsibility for the city’s main Facebook page. It also runs training and supports other administrations that use Facebook. The contact centre, meanwhile, monitors and answers all incoming questions as part of its daily routine. The guidelines also ask editors to take a screenshot of their page every six months for the municipal archive.

“Posts on our main page are made by one of our communicators; our editor-in-chief makes sure that our followers feel the page is active and that we are posting enough each week,” says Ms Broden.

“Our guidelines aren’t very prescriptive,” she adds, “because you need to be able to interact freely and informally with your citizens – that’s the whole point of Facebook. Our communications department helps to highlight the key issues and questions staff should ask themselves before they post.”

“The guidelines are designed to empower employees to make good decisions. We support them with training so they feel confident about posting, but also know when to ask for a second opinion or seek advice or approval. Facebook has to be responsive and reactive, so you simply have to trust your staff to make good decisions.

“It is a bit like first aid: you need some theory, and plenty of practice, but nothing beats having to draw on your training in real-world situations. Beyond just a few set rules, we give employees the freedom to enter into dialogue with citizens and trust them to use good judgement.”


“Give employees freedom to engage with citizens. Trust them to use good judgement.”

Summary of benefits

  • Encourage employees to use their own judgement

  • Invest in training

  • Provide clear procedures for identifying a crisis and how to respond

  • Avoid hierarchical approval workflows

Next steps

Fancy Facebook? Analyse your municipality’s digital maturity and readiness for social media

Further reading

  • Facebook guidelines – Groningen

  • Elections


Jenny Broden, Municipality of Karlstad, Sweden. Email:

Jenny Broden is a Project Manager for the Municipality of Karlstad in Sweden.