Skip directly to content


Out in the open: social media brings citizens into political debates

You share because you care. Municipalities can use social media to make political debates and policy-making more open. Citizens rarely turn out for council meetings these days. But web streaming and social media help people to engage in the political process.


Politicians thrive on traditional ways of “doing business”. They talk to lobby groups and meet their constituents and citizens to discuss their concerns and ideas. They are probably among the few people who still spend significant amounts of time drafting letters and correspondence.

And they love to debate, testing policies and ideas through logic and argument. The debating chamber is where their work gives them a real buzz.

But for most citizens, debates, discussions and committee meetings seem rather out-of-date. The public gallery of most council chambers rarely welcomes more than one lonely local reporter, perhaps the occasional vociferous and passionate citizen campaigning for change.

Citizens care

It isn’t that citizens aren’t interested in their local community and how it is run. Most people are proud of where they live and want to see it improve. But long speeches? It’s time politicians found new ways to make their points, state their positions – and listen to others.

How about speeches of 140 characters or less? Yes, Twitter has become the new debating hall and a brilliant channel for gathering points of view and forming opinions. Most politicians know this already. They are already using Twitter – for self-promotion at the very least – so are open to other initiatives to open up the political process.

Municipal Facebook pages, for example, provide an excellent neutral “venue” for citizens to meet with politicians. They can ask questions about policies or items on the agenda for debate. It is easy to open up public meetings too: web streaming and live tweets with an “official” hashtag will let people listen in from the comfort and convenience of their own homes. You could even allow people to ask questions in meetings through social media instant messaging channels.

As part of the Opening Up project several municipalities have piloted the use of social media for political purposes. We have seen good traffic on dedicated political discussion pages, where politicians can answer citizen’s questions. Municipalities have really used Facebook as a key platform during elections to promote voter engagement and stimulate discussions.

“Long speeches? Perhaps there are better ways for politicians to make their points – and listen to others”

Summary of benefits

  • Politicians are open to using social media – most already use it

  • Increasing citizen awareness and engagement in political processes

  • Live tweets and webstreaming brings public meetings to larger audiences

  • Municipal Facebook pages are a neutral platform for debate and discussion

Next steps

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

Further reading

  • Facebook guidelines – Karlstad

  • Facebook guidelines - Groningen

Web links


Birgitte Städe, Communication Consultant, Høje-Taastrup Municipality, Denmark. Email:

Birgitte Städe has been leading the Opening Up project in Høje-Taastrup and has worked with colleagues to launch Høje-Taastrup on social media, primarily the municipality’s official Facebook-page.