Andy Sawford, the chief executive of the Local Government Information Unit, said that while such sites could play a key role in encouraging more people - especially the young - to play an active part in local decision-making, a concerted approach was needed to make the most of the opportunities they offered.
Speaking after the Local Government Information Unit’s launch of a pathfinder project into the phenomenon, Mr Sawford said that more work was necessary to ensure staff had the right skills to utilise social networking sites, and that people had access to them.
But he warned that sentiment so-far expressed suggested that engaging with younger web users needed to be more subtle than simply asking them to tell councils what they think.
He said submissions from young people suggested that adults were not the best people to engage with younger people.
“They were saying that if you do this through youth clubs, you will get taken up,” he said.
“We envisage that the pathfinder be between 10 and 15 authorities, involved in developing simple guidelines based on what works.”
Mr Sawford said that while younger residents were not exclusively the focus of the drive, children were “the most advanced users” of the technology, and spent the most time on social networking sites.