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Social Media Policy

1. Introduction

Social media is any web-based tool which allow users to interact with each other in some way. This includes:

  • blogs,
  • message boards,
  • social networking websites (such as Facebook and Twitter),
  • content sharing websites (such Flickr and YouTube) and many others

2. Principles for the Use of Social Media

2.1 Councillors, Officers and the council itself will use social media in different ways. However, there is a set of universal principles that are useful to keep in mind.

  • Be human: be approachable in your language and tone; behave online as you would in person.
  • Be engaging: respond to questions and join in when you can move the conversation on or help.
  • Be professional: remember that you represent your council, so be aware of how your public voice comes across.
  • Share and attribute: you can share what others have posted but it is polite to acknowledge and attribute where this has come from.
  • Go to where your audience is: if the section of the population you want to connect with is on a particular platform, forum or group, join it.
  • Content is king: by creating sharable and engaging content you can contribute to the conversation and be heard.
  • Be authentic: don't pretend to be something you are not. 
  • Be strategic: plan ahead - who do you want to engage with, why and how? What do you want to achieve?

The internet is forever: be aware that what you post now could be found in years to come.

3. Corporate Use of Social Media

3.1 The councils' use of social media will comply with the laws of libel, copyright and data protection.

3.2 Social media content is subject to the same rules of fairness, openness and transparency as the councils' uses in all their communications.

3.3 Social media should NEVER be used in a way that breaches any of the councils' other policies.

3.4 During times of major incident, emergency or crisis, social media should be employed as a key tool for keeping communities informed.

3.5 All complaints made via social media will be diverted back through the Customer Call Centre to ensure that they get entered onto the single workflow and are recorded in the same way as all other complaints.

3.6 Social media use by the councils should concentrate on facts. The councils' official social media sites will not be used for political gain or campaigning.

3.7 When dealing with errors or controversial comments about them, the councils will not remove criticism unless it contains swear words etc. Instead, responses will concentrate on correcting factual errors and responding to legitimate criticism.

3.8 Derogatory or offensive comments will be removed from official Council social media sites.

4. Use of Social Media for Work

4.1 Both councils encourage employees to make reasonable and appropriate use of social media as part of their work. It is an important part of how the councils' communicate with their residents. This is subject to the councils' existing rules on the appropriate use of ICT equipment and systems.

4.2 Employees may contribute to the councils' social media activities (in liaison with the Communications Team). Employees must be aware at all times that, while contributing to the councils' social media activities, they are representing the organisation.

Officers using social media as part of their work must adhere to the following rules:

  • Use the same safeguards as they would with any other form of communication about the organisation in the public sphere
  • Obtain permission from a manager before embarking on a public campaign using social media and work with the Communications Team to deliver it.
  • Officers and Members should only use social media accounts which have been corporately set up in the councils' names.
  • Be aware of and follow the councils' guidelines for using social media
  • Be aware of and follow the councils' Communications Protocol
  • Follow the Officers code of conduct in their use of social media and be aware that breaches will result in disciplinary procedure
  • Always use #SHDC or #WDBC, this will enable people to follow each council on one single thread - if we are successful are promoting this # we can explore more

5. Personal Use of Social Media

5.1 If Officers use social media in their personal lives it must be separate from the councils' official sites. Employees are allowed to say that they work for the councils. However if they do, we would advise that their personal social media profile should include a statement along the following lines:

"The views I express here are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Council."

5.2 Officers should not engage in any social media activity which would bring the councils into disrepute.

5.3 By working for the Councils, Officers should realise that sometime they are in a privileged position of having access to politically, financially and personally sensitive information.

5.4 Where we would encourage all Officers to share the information coming from their Council, with their wider networks, both personal and professional, they should ONLY share information which has come from an official Council social media channel first.

6. Public Meetings

6.1 In 2014 the Government introduced new rights by the Openness of Local Government Bodies 2014, which would enable Members of the public to know how decisions are made:

Open and Accountable Local Government August 2014

6.2 We would encourage the use of social media during the meeting to bring the discussions to a wider audience in accordance with these new rights.

6.3 Handheld devices and laptops are permitted (indeed encouraged) for use during meetings to allow environmentally friendly and effective communication. The use of such devices is intended to improve communication during meetings - not to interrupt or distract anyone who is taking part.

6.4 The volume on all electronic devices is turned to 'mute'.

6.5 Councillors' tweets/blogs during council meetings should refer to the discussions which are taking place at the meeting - tweeting/blogging about other subjects will show the public and other attendees at the meeting that you are not engaging properly in the meeting.

6.6 Councillors have a responsibility to take council business seriously and it is not appropriate for Members to use social media to tease or insult other Members. The councils' residents expect debate and to be informed about council business, not witness petty arguments.

6.7 The use the of hashtag #SHDC or #WDBC when tweeting about the business of the councils is encouraged, this will enable us to track and monitor our reach and give customers a way of following what is going on.

7. Retweeting Councillors

7.1 Often the work of elected member reinforces the business of the council, such as attending events, or community projects that have been supported, funded or set up by the Council.

7.2 The Communications Team can retweet a message posted by an Elected Member, which promotes this activity as long as

  • It is not politically motivated,
  • It does relate directly to the business of the council and
  • It does not break the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity published in March 2011.

8. Networking and Sharing

8.1 Second tier Local Authorities play a vital role in the sharing of information and the support of County Councils and other government agencies.

8.2 The Communications Team in collaboration with the Communications Champions will decide when the councils should be retweeting and supporting the campaigns and initiatives of our partners. This will include what messages are relevant for our audiences and when they support the business of the councils.

Any questions concerning this policy should be directed to the Communications Team:

Tel: 01803 861368

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