This past Friday, the #SMEMChat on Twitter focused on the development of social media policies.
And while a number of great links and sample policies were shared, I thought it might be of value to talk about some of the key components you might want to consider if you happen to be tasked with drafting such a policy for a public agency.
First of all, know the difference between a policy and a procedure.
A “policy” or ”directive” governs agency behavior at a relatively strategic level. You may already have some policies and directives in your agency that simply should be amended to include social media forms of communication. Keep these as open-ended and non-tech specific as possible. In order to keep your policies relevant and flexible, identify the type of sharing generically with words like ”messaging”, “social networking”, “picture-based platforms” and “video-based platforms”.
For example, in my agency, we reviewed both our “Electronic Communications” and our “Privacy/Confidentiality” directives. Both of these policies already outlined expectations for employee conduct, information-sharing and privacy expectations among personnel.
A “procedure” covers the “how we do social media” more specifically. Procedures or protocols can identify platforms specifically. Though, the more specific you are, the more regularly your procedure will need to be review to ensure it continues to be relevant.
Procedures should identify:
- The parameters of social media use among employees (which should directly relate to your agency’s goals or purpose in using social media),
- Who speaks on behalf of the agency,
- When messages require additional approval or review,
- What is considered “confidential information” that should not be shared (this may include HIPPA issues, identity-based information or other products created in your work environment)
- Your agency’s methods for archiving and ensuring social records are available for public discloure,
- Your agency’s “take-down” criteria for removing or deletion of social content.
There were some policy samples shared during Friday’s chat which include:
- The International Association of Police Chief’s Model Social Media Policy
- Fire/EMS Social Media Policy
- 10 guidelines for Social Media Policies
Also, on the “Getting Started” page of this blog, you’ll find 3 wiki’s that have many different social media policy samples for many different types of organizations. Find one you like and use it as a base for your agency.
After you get your social media policy and/or procedures developed, there are few other things to consider in their implementation:
- Train your employees. Not just once, but over and over again. In fact, the more conversations you have about your social media policies, the more your agency will ensure that it stays relevant to the behaviors and ways employees might be interacting with social media.
- Be clear about how to report emergencies. If you are an emergency response agency, ensure that all of your social sites clearly identify how your residents can report emergencies. Because you’ll never want to give the impression that your sites are monitored 24/7 unless your social sites truly are monitored around the clock and information is shared with response personnel.
- Plan to review your social media policies regularly. I would recommend reviewing these policies annually to see if your goals, behaviors and/or social media expectations have changed. It is not uncommon for agencies to begin rather restrictively and then become more flexible as their comfort level improves with social sharing.
If, however, you want to jump right into the world of social media with a very open-minded policy, read through two of my favorites: The Navy and the Air Force Social Media Handbooks.
Remember, you aren’t the first person to be tasked with writing a social media policy. And, just like the world of technology, your agency policies and procedures will be very dynamic. Think about how you want personnel and volunteers to represent the values and mission of your agency in social spheres. Your reputation is worth it.