Social media is now a significant part of many people’s daily lives. In fact, the Pew Research Center discovered that over 7 in 10 Americans connect with others through these platforms. These popular sites allow individuals and organizations alike to connect with others and share important news.
However, social media use for government offices and employees can be a tricky subject. Careless activity can lead to miscommunication, misinformation and public relations disasters. Therefore, agencies and their employees should keep certain principles in mind before posting.
Agency use of social media
In their official capacities, government representatives have a duty to observe appropriate behavior and communication standards. Municipalities can establish clear guidelines and policies for those who have permission to post to an official account. These rules can ensure posts are consistent with community values and adhere to standards of professional conduct.
Policies are often most effective when they include clear and specific provisions. These can outline expectations regarding the manner and frequency of social media use. Agencies also do well to limit the expression of personal opinions and views on official accounts.
Furthermore, social media is not the proper platform for conducting official business. These sites are not secure channels of communication, even in private settings. Workers must ensure that government business follows statutes regarding data protection, documentation and retention.
Additionally, agencies must continually watch out for lapses in professionalism. One vital protection can be designating trained personnel to review posts for accuracy and cultural sensitivity. These efforts can ensure the agency’s social media feed has a positive impact on the local community.
Ways agencies can help employees use personal accounts wisely
A government employee’s social media activity can compromise the effectiveness of a department. Granted, agencies avoid interfering with a person’s freedom of speech. However, the municipality can set rules for what kind of expressions are acceptable for its workers.
Employment contracts and rules of conduct can outline policies about what public employees can say on social media. For example, a personal account should not appear to be an official account or discuss sensitive information.
Departments might find it helpful to have periodic training on social media use that coincides with human resources training. Employees can learn how to avoid posts that come across as discriminatory or as bullying.
Time has demonstrated that social media is no passing fad. Rather, it can be an effective aid for municipalities. Like other powerful tools, users who are public employees should utilize it with care to reduce the chances of harming themselves, their departments or the public at large.