Every day we talk to districts across the country that use Facebook as their primary (and often only) online presence.
We get it, Facebook is easy to set up, easy to manage, and easy to share updates. While Facebook can have many benefits, relying solely on a social media platform can create several issues for districts and their constituents.
Let's check out 3 things to consider when using Facebook as the primary online presence:
1. Not everyone has a Facebook account. According to a 2021 survey by the Pew Research Center, only 69% of American adults use Facebook, and the number of users is decreasing daily. This means that by relying solely on Facebook, districts are excluding a significant portion of their constituents from accessing important information and updates.
Additionally, even for those who do have a Facebook account, it can be challenging to navigate and find the information they need. Facebook’s algorithm typically prioritizes content based on engagement, which means that important updates from local governments can easily get lost in users’ newsfeeds. This can create a situation where crucial information is missed by residents, leading to confusion and frustration.
2. Facebook is not a reliable source of information. Facebook’s terms of service state that the company cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information shared on its platform. This means that districts run the risk of sharing inaccurate information, which can have serious consequences for their constituents and impact the credibility of the district. Or in a worst-case scenario, one port district in California was shocked to find out that a Facebook page with their name on it was posting about a beer festival. After some investigating, they determined that a resident created a false Facebook page and was posting updates as the district, but the community had no way of knowing that it was a fake account.
3. Relying on Facebook can lead to issues with transparency and accountability. Unlike a government website, which is owned and managed by the government itself, Facebook is a third-party platform. This means that districts have less control over how their information is presented and shared. Additionally, Facebook’s algorithm determines which posts are shown to users, which can create a situation where important updates are not seen by residents. If the community can’t see it, they won’t know you’re doing it. And because Facebook is a social media platform, there is nowhere to reliably share important documents like agendas, minutes, and budgets - all of which are crucial in building trust and credibility with the community.
Instead of relying on Facebook alone, districts should focus on building a robust online presence that includes a website, social media platforms, and other digital channels that are accessible to all community members.
Stay tuned for the next iteration of our Facebook series where we cover best practices for using Facebook effectively.
1 Perrin, A. (2021, April 7). Social Media Fact Sheet. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/fact-sheet/social-media/.
2 Facebook Terms of Service. https://www.facebook.com/terms.php