Cities increasingly face challenges regarding participatory governance in order to become a “smart city”. The world’s best cities to live in are not the ones with the most advanced technological layers but cities that create an atmosphere where citizens, companies and government together build a vital and sustainable city. This study compares various definitions of smart cities and integrates current insights from the field of e-participation. Five best-practice examples from over the world illustrate the various ways participation can be developed from various leadership perspectives. A new conceptual framework, the Social Smart City framework, is derived from both e-participation theory and these best-practice examples. The framework comprises of a set of digital strategies for participatory governance in smart cities.