Taking the First Step: Designing a Social Media Policy

Government agencies are increasingly looking to leverage social media to improve the quality of government services and enable greater citizen engagement.  But creating a policy for the use of social media by a government agency is not a simple task. You have to contend with an ever-changing landscape of social media, but also with the various ways citizen engagement programs do their work.  These are four basic questions you should ask before developing a social media policy:

What are your goals and objectives for using social media tools?

If your objective is engagement and two-way communication your constituents, then devising a policy that does not allow for external comments on an agency's social media page would effectively eliminate any chance of reaching its strategic goal of engagement.

Who are the stakeholders in your organization that should be involved?

Make sure you involve team members that may have expertise you need to craft a policy.  Members from legal, communications, technology, human resources, and program can speak to the issues they have when dealing with communicating to citizens.  Getting buy in and different points of view are key to achieving success with a social media policy.

Don't reinvent the wheel.  Are there existing policies in other agencies you may use?

Check to see what  issues already covered by existing policies or regulations or if another agency in your department has created a policy. Existing policies on other issues can provide guidance for acceptable use, employee access, or ethical conduct.  A policy on public relations or external communications may be able to be revised to meet your needs. 

What and where are the conflicts and issues the policies may encounter?

There may be a policy in place that restricts who can speak on behalf of an agency that may conflict with your stated goals.  If you are trying to engage directly with citizens and give them a place to engage with you the rules about sharing information may need to be changed to accomodate a new social media policy.

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