At the Cyber Security 2011 event this question came up. Do you have a social media protocol in your company? And does the protocol achieve its goal? How do you monitor it? What are the legal aspects?
Social Media Protocol
This protocol is for the use of Merton Council staff, and aims to help them make responsible decisions and get the most out of social media tools. We have published this on the website because we have received a number of requests from other organisations wishing to read it.
'Social media‘ is the term commonly given to websites and online tools allowing users to interact with each other in some way – by sharing information, opinions, knowledge and interests.
Social media can be useful for communicating with our customers, but they must be used carefully to avoid potential pitfalls.
Examples of social media websites include:
- social networking (e.g. www.facebook.com)
- video sharing (e.g. www.youtube.com)
- blogs (e.g. www.london2012.com/blog)
- micro-blogging (e.g. www.twitter.com)
- message boards (e.g. http://forums.moneysavingexpert.com)
- wikis (e.g. www.wikipedia.org)
- social bookmarking (e.g. www.delicious.com)
This protocol applies to all council employees and gives guidelines on how to use social media.
Further information regarding conduct and Internet usage can be found on the ICT policy page
Failure to comply with this protocol may result in disciplinary action.
If the nature of your project requires you to break a guideline, you must not do so without requesting an exception, as your decision might result in material which is inconsistent or poor quality, or makes it harder to maintain in the future
Exceptions can only be granted by the Communications Manager or the Corporate Management Team (CMT).
In the following guidelines, the term “profile” refers to an account, page or website representing the council, one of its services or an officer.
The term “group” refers to a web page, website, or section of a website where people with a shared interest can interact.
- New profiles or groups should only be created following agreement by the Communications Manager.
- Before creating a new profile or group, check whether one already exists serving the same audience. It may be more appropriate for the council to join an existing group than create a rival group.
- New profiles and groups will only be agreed if a clear business need can be proven, and sufficient resources are made available to maintain it and respond to feedback generated by the service or project lead.
- The Web Team will set up all new profiles and groups.
- The profile or group will be the responsibility of the service area in terms of content management and must be updated on a regular basis to ensure content is fresh and relevant.
- A single, named person in the service area requesting the site must be responsible for maintaining the profile or group. Other approved contributors may also be nominated to assist them.
- Approved contributors should be made aware of this protocol.
- Know and follow Merton’s Employee Code of Conduct and IT Policy.
- No content should be published unless already added in some way to the main website. Do not publish any information which is not already in the public arena.
- Be accurate, fair, thorough and transparent.
- Be mindful that what you publish may be public for a long time
- Respect copyright laws.
- Do not publish or report on conversations that are meant to be private or internal to Merton without permission. Do not cite or reference customers, partners or suppliers without their approval. When you do make a reference, link back to the source where possible.
- Respect your audience. Do not publish anything that would not be acceptable in the workplace. You should also show proper consideration for others’ privacy and for topics that may be considered objectionable or inflammatory, such as politics and religion.
- Write in the first person (“I” or “we”).
- Wherever possible, disclose your position as a representative of your department, division or team.
- Remember that you are an ambassador for the council and be cordial at all times
- Encourage constructive criticism and deliberation.
- Do not correct contributors’ spelling or grammar.
- Edit other people’s contributions only when necessary. Instead of editing or removing significant factual errors, you should either make a public response or directly contact the person who made the original comment, or both.
- If a contributor makes a comment that is defamatory or likely to cause extreme offense, edit or remove it where possible. If this is not possible, report it to the operator of the website. Contact the user to explain why you took this action, and if appropriate ask them to post the comment again without the offensive content.
- All feedback to the council through social networking sites should be monitored by the responsible service. Feedback that requires a response must be acknowledged within one working day. Where action is required, bear in mind that excessive delay will have a negative impact on the council’s reputation.
- The Communications Team will carry out periodic reviews of the Council’s Social Networking sites. This will include reviewing content and feedback.
- Profiles and groups must not be deactivated without prior approval from the Communications Manager.
- Know and follow Merton’s Employee Code of Conduct and IT Policy.
- Ensure that your online activities do not interfere with your job, your colleagues or commitments to customers. If you are not using the site to support you directly in your employed position you should always access the site in your personal time.
- Be aware of your association with Merton Council in online social networks. If you identify yourself as a council employee, ensure your profile and related content is consistent with how you wish to present yourself with colleagues and customers.
- If you publish content to any website not owned by the council, and it has something to do with work you do or services associated with the council, use a disclaimer such as this: “The views expressed here are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of Merton Council.”
- If a profile or group is set up in the name of a youth group, it is essential that a member of staff becomes a member of it and oversees the content and activity.
- The staff member should monitor conversations, images and other activity of members of the group and challenge, educate or intervene as necessary.
- The staff member should educate members of the group about online safety, including how to customise privacy settings. (For information and resources see http://www.thinkuknow.co.uk)
- Events or parties at private addresses should be reserved for the group’s private area.
- Staff must not publish images of people unless consent has been given in writing, using an official photograph consent form (available on the intranet).
- Staff should maintain boundaries between their personal and professional lives by customising their privacy settings and avoiding inappropriate personal information becoming visible to members of the group.
About this document
This protocol was approved by the Corporate Management Team (CMT) on 6 October 2009. It was written by the Web Team on behalf of the Communications Working Group.
This document is based on Devon County Council’s Social Media and Online Participation Policy.
The guidelines on "Child Protection and Social Networking" were added in March 2010 and were approved by the Director of Children Schools and Families, Communications Manager, and Web Information Manager.