Presenting #PromoteOpenData, a social media guide to publicizing open data policies

(Photo credit: Jason Howie/Flickr)

For policymakers, getting social media savvy is no longer an option. It’s a necessity. And it’s not just about knowing your tweets from your snaps and your #TBTs from your RTs: A cohesive social strategy is the most effective way for policymakers to meet constituents where they are. Cities across the country are developing social media policies to encourage new forms of engagement and set a cohesive strategy.

Since 2015, Sunlight has partnered with cities across the United States, from Anchorage to Fort Lauderdale, through the What Works Cities initiative. We have worked with them to develop and refine their open data policies. But we also recognize that the process doesn’t end at city hall.

After all, if there’s an open data policy but no one knows about it, can it really make a difference?

To that end, we’re publishing “#PromoteOpenData: How cities can use social media to publicize open data policy.” This guide will help cities get their policies, tools and datasets into the public eye on platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and others. The guide emphasizes ways to engage constituents and spark a back and forth conversation. That could mean setting up a Facebook Live stream to take questions from residents or posting about tools that make life easier, such as New York City’s map of WiFi hotspots and Seattle’s guide to the tree species on every block (in app form). It also stresses that each platform has its own quirks and a city’s tone should change to suit it: The casual fun of Snapchat differs from the fast-paced, interactive nature of Twitter.

The guide also emphasizes the people in policy: the staffers, the software developers, the civic coders, the activists who work with city hall to push for change. Through strategies like social media takeovers, or even the simple act of posting a team photo, cities can personalize their policies and encourage human-to-human interaction from residents. We hope that, from there, constituents can understand open data policies and feel a personal stake in making them even stronger.

So check out #PromoteOpenData and get tweeting! And if we missed something, we would love your feedback: Leave a comment on our draft here or contact us at

#PromoteOpenData: How cities can use social media to publicize open data policy by Sunlight Foundation on Scribd