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Websites & Social Media

Websites and social media are rapidly becoming the main sources of information for a large segment of the public. They can provide interested stakeholders with project information, announcements, documents, and opportunities for input or discussion; allow stakeholders to share and obtain information quickly, effectively, and at low cost; inform a wide range of people about issues and invite them to become involved at the same time; and be more flexible than other forms of public information.

Social media sites -- such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter -- are increasingly becoming the first place people will look to find information on a topic or project. These sites have built-in features that can be used to identify and tap into existing networks; solicit feedback and input (e.g., comments and polls); and provide information on upcoming projects or events (e.g., events and ads).


  • Can serve as a complete and searchable information repository.
  • Can be used to obtain public input.
  • Reaches large numbers of people.
  • Offers a low cost way of distributing all types of documents and media.
  • Offers a highly accessible forum for advertising upcoming events and posting project updates.
  • Can be used to provide streaming video of events and activities which can enable participation of stakeholders in remote locations and those unable to attend meetings or events.

Challenges to Consider

  • Many people still do not have access to the web or are web-illiterate.
  • Some people still prefer face-to-face interaction.
  • The anonymous nature of many internet users presents challenges for honest and open interaction among stakeholders.
  • Information overload and poor design can prevent people from finding what they need.

Principles for Successful Planning

  • Design the website “architecture” thoughtfully - include all the levels of information, links and illustrations available and necessary to inform and engage the user.
  • Conduct background research by exploring the web in your chosen area or field. Discover what works well on other websites, what they cover, what they omit, and use this information to improve your own website and social media pages.
  • Conduct extensive trials of the website before releasing it to the public. People are unlikely to return to your website if they find it difficult to navigate or the information irrelevant.
  • Ensure all links are working, that information is easily found, and that the overall experience works smoothly.
  • With social media sites, plan posts in advance to ensure consistency of information.
  • Don't over-post or spam followers with too much information. Users are likely to unsubscribe or shut off notifications if you post too frequently.
  • Ensure that you have alternative communication options for those who are not web-literate or do not have access to the internet.
  • Consider a web address (url) that is simple and memorable.
  • Place the website and social media links on all correspondence and other printed material.


  • Knowledgeable and readily available staff to ensure it is designed well and kept up-to-date.


  • May need to create social media accounts for your department or the specific project. Check with others in your department first to avoid duplicate accounts.

Planning Time

  • Depending on the size of the project, designing and populating information can take days, weeks, or months.

Implementation Time

  • The website must be maintained throughout the life of the project.
  • Consider creating an archive site once the project is complete to allow future stakeholders to understand how the decision was made.