Social Media Policies and Procedures

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-DIG-highsm-02036

Creating policies for social media records is vital to successfully managing those records and notifying the public of the areas that impact their use of agency social media tools.We’ve previously discussed the benefits and challenges of using social media, identification and retention of social media, and we outlined some methods of capturing these records. So now we’d like to share some tips on laying the foundation to ensure that your government’s social media presence is well-maintained.

In 2013, the Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR) published the Social Media Resource Guide (PDF), which was a collaboration by state agencies and universities working together to develop strategies and guidelines regarding the use of social media tools for official state business.

Three years after publication, the Social Media Resource Guide is still a valuable resource for local and state governments to follow, so we won’t rehash that excellent resource, but we do want to highlight a few things from it

First Things First

It’s likely that some local governments began using social media accounts before fleshing out policies to govern that usage. This can be like buying a house before having it appraised. If you’re not sure your office has a social media policy, then make it a priority to get one drafted. Ideally, a government entity should formulate a policy and procedures based on the organization’s mission, goals, and needs. Does the agency serve the public directly? Are there underutilized services that could be promoted? How is the account going to be managed and who will take responsibility for it?

As DIR points out, there will be two sides to a social media policy: one internal, mandating security rules and employee use, and one external, for the public who will be consuming the media. An example of an outward-facing policy is TSLAC’s own Social Media Web Properties: Terms of Use, which outlines the expectations of user participation, monitoring, and accessibility. TSLAC is still updating internal policies, but in the meantime our agency designates only a few authorized individuals to access the various social media accounts to limit the potential for error. More examples of internal and external policies are contained within DIR’s Social Media Resource Guide.

Policy Recipes

Creating policies and knowing what should be contained within them may not come naturally to us, so DIR outlined some of the basic mandatory elements that should be addressed in a policy:

  • Privacy notification – all postings are public and should not include personal or sensitive information.
  • Moderation policy – comments may be removed if they violate policy.
  • Linking policy – statement about the use of hyperlinks to and from the agency website (required by TAC ยง206.53).
  • Public Information Act – (Public Information Act, Texas Government Code Chapter 552).
  • Third-party website policy – acknowledges that social media service providers have their own terms of service.
  • Intellectual property rights and ownership – adherence to copyright laws.

As you know, per law TSLAC requires every local government to file a records management policy, but so far there are no laws requiring government entities to have social media policies. It is currently a best practice and a good way to ensure that if something goes wrong involving the social media account, then the governmental body has proactively mitigated those issues.

What’s Next?

Even more social media policy guidance is available online, including Building Local Government Social Media Policies by the National League of Cities and a legal advisory for standards of personal social media use by government employees published last year by the US Office of Government Ethics. You could also perform a simple web search for ‘government social media policies‘ and you’ll find numerous articles and more resources for developing or refining your agency’s policies.

For more coverage on the topic of social media, check out the rest of our social media series:

You can also check out our archived webinar: Managing Social Media Records. And as always, give us a call or email if you have more questions.

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