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Facebook: is there a strategy to use it?

A municipal Facebook page is essential for communication and interaction with citizens. At least half of people in your town probably use Facebook every day. Don’t miss out on this opportunities to engage.


It is fair to assume most municipalities throughout the North Sea Region will find most of their residents on Facebook. When we surveyed our residents back in 2010 we discovered that more than half of people – and young people especially – use Facebook; most users check their walls and news feeds several times a day.

Quite simply, this is too good an opportunity to miss. Every day you have a chance to reach out to the majority of your residents. They love Facebook so you will find them open and receptive to your posts and campaigns – if you can catch their interest and get them to ‘like’ your page.

A Facebook page also helps to boost your reputation. A survey in Denmark reveals that people who follow municipal Facebook pages feel more positive towards their council and about their area.

But don’t just jump right in without careful thought, planning, support and enough time to maintain your commitment. Facebook opens you up to levels of citizen engagement perhaps never before experienced, so you have to be prepared.

Plan first, post later

First, it is important that you know what you want to achieve with your presence on Facebook. Where does it fit into wider municipal strategies? Could it be a place for political debate? Do you want a hub for information and notifications about public events, culture and sport?

Of course you can plan to use Facebook just to send out information, but people will start to ask questions and comment on your content. Therefore, Facebook should also be seen as a part of your customer services no matter what intentions you might initially have for your page. Citizens will want to engage with you!

The measure of success

Once you know how Facebook fits with your wider municipal strategies, you need to ensure it is possible to measure its success. Agree on your key performance indicators (KPIs) because your paymaster will certainly want to know this: what has the Facebook page done for us?

Some KPIs – your page metrics - are easy to obtain. You will probably discover that posts on Facebook get far more views than the same stories on your website, so you can immediately show how Facebook reaches a much larger audience. Then you can count up the number of comments and “likes”; these metrics show some interaction with citizens, demonstrating that they have ready your story and responded positively.

You may also want to think about how you can use Facebook as a platform for politicians and councillors to engage with citizens and debate local issues and policies.

Facebook may change the way you engage with people too. Opening Up partner Høje-Taastrup in Denmark was unable to drive much traffic to its Facebook page for political discussions, despite a huge audience for its web streamed political debates in the run up to municipal elections in 2013. Perhaps you need to change the approach: instead of asking people to express themselves in words, why not run a photo competition to discover what people think about their town?


Do not underestimate how much work this all takes. As individuals we use Facebook all the time, as we travel, at home or during lunch. It’s free! It’s easy! But for organisations, a Facebook presence needs constant management; you need to invest in adequate resources so you can interact with people as they expect. People expect answers to questions; they want you to ‘like’ their posts and comments.

It may take just a few seconds to set up a page, but once you are live you need to be ready to respond to whatever comes your way.


“Facebook opens a whole new dimension of customer service.”

Further reading

  • Facebook guidelines - Karlstad

  • Facebook guidelines – Groningen

  • Measure your Social Media Maturity


Jenny Broden, Municipality of Karlstad, Sweden. Email:

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

Why your city should be on Facebook

Facebook is a popular social media platform – and citizens would like to use it to access municipal services. Facebook is a popular social media platform – and citizens would like to use it to access municipal services.


As part of its social media strategy, the Dutch city of Groningen uses social media to provide residents with information and public service updates. The local council also wants to use social media to increase engagement with citizens: it has just created a Facebook page and also uses Twitter for broadcasting municipal news and as a customer service channel. There is even a mobile app, MeldStad, for reporting potholes, faulty street lights and similar issues.

A student from Groningen’s Hanze University of Applied Sciences surveyed members of the city’s citizens’ panel to find out more about how they use social media and their thoughts on how the council should use social media channels to improve its service.

The research found that nearly three-quarters of residents used some form of social media, mostly Facebook (78%) and YouTube (84%). Only 28% of citizens said they used Twitter.

Almost half of respondents (44%) said they thought their municipality should be present on social media channels, saying the municipality needed to provide its citizens with as many ways to communicate as possible.

These finding suggest that municipalities should use Facebook to reach and interact with as many citizens as possible. Perhaps a YouTube channel might also be popular, perhaps for informational videos to promote products, or to encourage participation in events and discussions.

Since Groningen launched its municipal Facebook page, it has received nearly 7000 ‘likes’ – the highest number for municipal pages across the entire country.

Demand vs usage

Despite high expectations, most citizens have not used social media to contact their local council. Less than 7% of people surveyed had communicated with the municipality through social media; however, most people who had not used these channels were unaware of their availability. Most people also said they would prefer to use a smartphone app to report issues or get in touch rather than more visible social media posts.

“Aligning your channel strategy to the media use of your target audience seems like a logical thing to do,” remarks Selin Öztürk who carried out the research. “But obviously you need to know how your audiences use social media and other channels first.”

“44% of citizens expect their municipality to be on social media”

Story in numbers

Most popular social media channels in Groningen:

  • YouTube: 84%

  • Facebook: 78%

  • Twitter: 28%

Further reading

  • Full report: “Social Media for service delivery” (Selin Öztürk)

Web links

  • Are you ready for Facebook? Measure your organisation’s social media maturity


Renske Stumpel, Municipality of Groningen, Netherlands. Email:

Renske Stumpel is project leader for the municipality of Groningen in the Opening Up project.