We often see municipalities having their own channels on Facebook, Twitter, etc. They are trying to inform communities via these platforms and start the conversation with citizens. While the intention behind these initiatives is clear, there are other solutions that are designed only for citizen engagement. Here, we want to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the different options and whether it makes sense to make the extra investment into a citizen engagement solution.
Everybody knows Facebook
And almost everybody uses it – 423 Million in Europe in the third quarter of 2021 alone (Statista, 2021) – which already presents its biggest advantage. Of course, Facebook is the biggest Social Media, so consider that most others probably have less users and hence engagement (Bonsón et al., 2015).
Nevertheless, it is a great channel to reach out to members and ask for their opinion, allowing them to raise their voices. Community heads can reach a large community via social media if done right and engage their members with posts, comments, polls, pictures and share relevant information via the platform.
Through an app, the platforms are easily accessible around the clock. Although there are the given advantages, using social media doesn’t always have the anticipated effect. People leave a lot of inappropriate and oftentimes falsified content on the internet and it can be hard for the organization to control all of that and make sure that all the content, which is not adding value to the discussion is discarded (Born, 2018). It comes with a lot of time that needs to be invested and might lead to confusion or demotivation.
Hence, it is easier to distribute information than having the full engagement via social media (Bonsón et al., 2015). But how can you make sure to engage your community on the next level?
Public Participation platforms
There are other options which ensure that discussions are fruitful and valuable for the community. Public participation platforms have been booming during recent years – they offer the engagement tool that solely focuses on bringing organizations or municipalities and their members, citizens respectively, together. They have many opportunities of engagement, might it be with surveys, questionnaires, polls, reporting of issues via maps, or even the possibility of participatory budgets.
To keep the community informed, organizations can share stories, discussions or challenges, which the community is able to interact with by commenting, asking questions or giving suggestions. You can see how easy the communication in both directions can be via these solutions. While members are contributing, most platforms also offer the opportunity to get data insights displayed in an easy-to-understand way. This is not connected to much administrative efforts from the organization but automatically done and easily accessible.
Our management panel for example enables the user to see how many people register, the number of ideas handed in or answers in the survey. Hence, there is a lot of time saving while keeping an overview is easier. Also the possibility to see inappropriate comments is simplified and those can be deleted if necessary.
While the member can specify whether they want to stay anonymous or share their name when contributing content, our solution also enables the usage of many different languages (like blogs) and their translation according to the user’s mother tongue. It becomes easier for both sides to stay engaged and informed, and also helps improve the satisfaction with organizations’ decisions and activities.
What does it mean?
This doesn’t mean that you should solely focus on public participation platforms without Social Media, but you can use them both as complementary to each other. While sharing things and discussing via these platforms is very easy and you can gain deep insights from them, the reach via social media still stays untouched. So take advantage of both! Why don’t you post updates, surveys, stories and forums on the platform and then share your activity on Social Media so everyone can follow and explore you and your activities.
Bonsón, E., Royo, S., & Ratkai, M. (2015). Citizens’ engagement on local governments’ Facebook sites. An empirical analysis: The impact of different media and content types in Western Europe. Government Information Quarterly, 32(1), Pages 52-62.
Born, K. (2018, June 21). Social Media: Driving or Diminishing Civic Engagement? | by Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE) | Infogagement. Medium. Retrieved December 13, 2021
Statista. (2021, October 1). Facebook: Europe monthly active users by quarter 2021. Statista. Retrieved December 1, 2021