An important part of managing the impact of social media on an organisation is having an effective social media policy for staff.
A good policy helps staff understand what they can and can’t do with social media at work, as well as helping protect the organisation against some of the risks of using social media.
Written carefully a policy should be an enabler, rather than a hindrance. It should help encourage staff to use social media tools in a way that’s appropriate to their role and help managers have confidence in this use.
I’m also a firm believer that a social media policy needs to focus on behaviours, rather than tools. Regular review of policies is, of course, important, but focussing on desirable and undesirable behaviours gives a degree of “future-proofing” for a social media policy.
These guidelines do a good job on focussing on activities rather than specific tools. They reference other codes that staff need to be aware of and make the organisation’s expectations of its staff clear. They also offer positive guidance about what constitutes “good” and “meaningful” online engagement which should help encourage constructive use of social media.
I also like the way the Intel guidelines make clear that responsibility for what staff use social media for lies with staff – it makes ownership clear while also making strong links with the impact that staff use of social media can have on the organisation’s reputation as a whole.
UK Civil Service
Strictly speaking these aren’t a full set of guidelines, but advice to civil servants about how the existing Civil Service Code applies to social media. There’s nothing in there that’d I’d disagree with, but I’m not convinced how useful these would be in practice – although some guidance is better than none at all
However these have the feeling of something that’s been negotiated by numerous committees and through that process of negotiation and amendment has been oversimplified to reach agreement. I’d be interested to know how useful these guidelines are for civil servants working in this space – I suspect there may be departmental policies that provide more specific guidance on applications of social media relevant to a particular service.
Gartner public web participation guidelines
Similar to the Intel guidelines, these are focussed on ensuring productive use of social media and draw a clear link between use of social media and delivery of business benefits for the company. For public sector organisations writing a social media policy I think it’s important that this link is made – to reduce potentially time-wasting but well-intentioned use of social media that doesn’t contribute to productive outcomes for a particular service.
It also tackles the thorny issue of an individual posting content that could be seen to contradic a corporate position on a particular issue. While I like the approach, I think local government in particular may need a stronger line on this because of the role of non-political officers in delivering public service in line with policy – this makes the issue of personal points of view in contradiction to corporate policy more challenging.
Devon County Council social media and online participation policy and guidelines
A bit closer to home for public sector communicators, the Devon policy is one of the best I’ve come across in the local government sector. I like the fact they’ve got a clear definition of scope and some underlying principles that can be interpreted by officers depending on the tool they’re using.
The more detailed guidelines by channel are useful in helping officers interpreting what behaviours the organisation consider acceptable and unacceptable without being overly prescriptive.
The only aspect that I think is missing from the policy (and this may well be because it’s somewhere else in the organisation – that’s alluded to in the context of youth engagement) is how the council manages its service presences on social media – who is allowed to set up what presences? Can officers do their own thing or is there a approval or regulation process that needs to be followed?
For any organisation looking to draft a policy there’s a lot to learn from what other organisations have written, but equally a “copy and paste” approach won’t work either as every organisation is different and will have subtly differing things they need to achieve with their policy.
If these aren’t enough food for thought you can find even more information and comprehensive lists of social media policies here and here.
If you’ve got any more policies worth sharing, please post them in the comments here so the local public service communications community can benefit from your find!