Have a clear idea of your objectives in using social media, learn the rules of each social media space before engaging, and don’t open a channel of communication you can’t maintain. These are some of the top tips outlined in the government’s newly released social media guidance for civil servants.
Authored by the Government Digital Service (GDS) and the Home Office, the guidelines come just over a year after the Cabinet Office first pledged in its ICT strategy to produce “practical guidelines on departmental access to the internet and social media channels”.
Talking about the six principles that make up the guidance, Emer Coleman, deputy director of digital engagement at the GDS and one of the authors of the advice, says in a blog post on the service’s website that when using social media the government should:
• Communicate with citizens in the places they already are.
• Use social media to consult and engage.
• Use social media to be more transparent and accountable.
• Be part of the conversation with all the benefits that brings.
• Understand that government cannot do everything alone, or in isolation.
• Expect civil servants to adhere to the civil service code (online as well as offline).
In part one of the guidance, the GDS stresses the importance of using social media to add a further level of transparency and accountability to the public.
“It allows citizens to input into decisions, to question them and for replies to be broadcast to many instead of one-to-one. So the government can hear direct from those affected by its decisions – the positive and negative – and explain and/or defend its decisions in response to questions or concerns,” says the document.
The guidance adds that using social media doesn’t mean that the government should answer all the queries and questions directed to it through social media channels, and says that common sense should be applied.
You can also download the Social_Media_Guidance (2mb .pdf)