Social Media Guidance – Section One: Personal and professional responsibilities

UPDATED JULY 2012 – Revised guidance is available here on Re:WorkDigital

Section One: Personal and professional responsibilities

This details personal and professional responsibilities for the participation in or use of social media as part of your job or whenever you identify yourself in a professional capacity as a DCC employee.

1. Personal use of social media

Whether or not an individual chooses to create or participate in an online social network or any other form of online publishing or discussion is his or her own business. The views and opinions you express are your own.

As a council employee it is important to be aware that posting information or views about the council can not be isolated from your working life. Any information published online can, if unprotected, be accessed around the world within seconds and will be available for all to see and will contribute to your Online Digital Footprint[1].

  • Remember you are personally responsible for any content you publish.
  • Understand your online privacy settings – Check your settings and understand who can see the information you publish and your personal information.
  • All DCC employees should be aware of and follow DCCs general Employee Code of Conduct.
  • All DCC employees should be aware of and follow the Information Security Policy
  • If you do talk about the work you do or a DCC service you are associated with, you should make it clear that you are speaking for yourself and not on behalf of DCC.  Use a disclaimer such as: “The views expressed here are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of the County Council.”
  • Do not let your use of social media interfere with your job and always access in your own time. See guidelines on Using County Council Websites and the Internet and Private use of ICT


2.  Using social media as a DCC employee

Your relationship with social media changes as soon as you identify yourself as a County Council employee, speak in any kind of professional capacity or seek to deploy social media on council business.

In such circumstances there are certain responsibilities, standards of behaviour and other organisational considerations which apply. Remember, you are the public face of the council and should participate in the same way as you would with other media or public meetings or forums.

Always remember that participation online results in your comments being permanently available and open to being republished in other media.

You should also be aware that you may attract media interest in yourself or the organisation, so proceed with care whether you are participating in a business or a personal capacity. If you have any doubts, take advice from your line manager and/or the Corporate Communications Unit.

2.1       Participation as an employee or professional capacity

As an employee, you must take the following into consideration when using social media:

  • You are personally responsible for any content you publish so be mindful that it is in the public domain and on the record for a long time.
  • If you wish to participate as a Council employee you should clearly identify yourself and your role. Make it clear whether you are acting in your professional capacity – and remember, even if you do not intend to, your professional role or status as a DCC employee will affect the way you and the organisation are perceived and therefore brings certain responsibilities.
  • Be aware of your association with DCC in online spaces. If you identify yourself as a DCC employee, ensure your profile and related content is consistent with how you wish to present yourself with colleagues and customers.
  • Be professional. Make sure you are always seen to act in an honest, accurate, fair and responsible way at all times.
  • Be aware of your language and conduct. The rules governing staff conduct such as the Acceptable Behaviour and Equality and Diversity policies still apply.Also, as in all publishing, you should be aware of issues such as libel, defamation and slander.
  • Never share confidential or sensitive information. You should know and follow the Information Security Policy. You have a unique inside track so be aware of the rules on data protection and financial regulations.
  • Try to add value. Provide worthwhile information and perspective. DCC’s brand is best represented by its people and what you publish will reflect on the wider organisation.
  • Tell your line manager. If you wish to participate in a professional capacity it may be best to discuss with your line manager first. Always alert your manager or the Corporate Communications Unit early if you think you may have made a mistake.


2.2 Acting on behalf of the organisation or as part of your job

It is important to remember that there is a human cost in using social media as an employee or in a professional capacity. Social Media is about the social connections and conversations we have with our customers, peers and friends. To gain the maximum value from these tools, you should look to foster relationships and therefore you will need to acknowledge and understand the commitment and investment of time in building and developing sustainable online relationships with people.

  • Understand the resources available to you to maintain and foster sustainable relationships.
  • Get official backing. Ensure you have the full approval and support of your line manager before any official deployment of social media. Ideally, also alert the Corporate Communications Unit of your intentions.
  • Be professional. Always remember that you are an ambassador for the organisation. Always disclose your position as a representative of the County Council, your department or team. Anything you publish will reflect directly on the council as a whole.
  • Purpose and outcomes. Make sure you think through why you are deploying social media and what outcome you wish to achieve. For example, if you are inviting public responses then think through how you will make use of the results and how this fits in with other forms of consultation. Ask yourself is social media appropriate for this activity?
  • Assess any risks. Think through any potential risks and make sure you have plans in place to manage and mitigate these.
  • Respect your target audience. Think about their specific needs and be aware of any language, cultural or other sensitivities you may need to take account of.
  • Ask and seek permission to publish any information, report or conversation that is not already in the public domain. Do not cite or reference customers, partners or suppliers without their approval.
  • Respect copyright when linking to images or other online material.
  • Always stay within the legal framework and be aware that data protection, financial regulations apply.
  • Monitoring and evaluation. Make sure you have a plan for how you intend to monitor and evaluate the success of your activity.

[1] A Digital Footprint is the data trace or trail left by someone’s activity in a digital environment. Digital Footprints are the capture in an electronic fashion of memories and moments and are built from the interaction with the Internet, World Wide Web, Mobile Web and other Digital devices.

Social Media Guidance – Section Two: Guidance and tips on using social media in different scenarios

UPDATED JULY 2012 – Revised guidance is available here on Re:WorkDigital

Section Two: Guidance and tips on using social media in different scenarios

To undertake your duties in this online space there are several different roles you may find yourself in. Sometimes these roles may be combined but more often you will be acting in a distinct capacity. Below are the types of role you may be asked to undertake and some common-sense guidance to help you fulfil this role.

1. Contributor/Participant


This is often the most familiar role in the online space – you are participating in online discussions, networks and forums simply as a participant. You neither own or lead these discussions and should have equal voice as other participants. You are contributing to add value to the discussion in a relevant way. Please be aware that discussions, debate and at the more extreme end, argument all magnify strength of opinion so it is important to understand that what you say and the way you say it. It will directly reflect upon the mood of the discussion and the reaction of people within it. Be professional and show respect.

Guidance and Tips:

  • Avoid getting into an argument or inflaming a discussion
  • Understand the impact of your participation / contribution
  • Are children or vulnerable people involved and will you be interacting with them?

2. Broadcaster/Publisher


Your role is to simply provide or promote some form of information to an audience. To do this effectively you must be accurate, fair, thorough and clear in the information you provide. The rules of Accessibility and Plain English should apply. It is also a common oversight to forget to ensure that if you provide information or generate awareness through broadcast you must also provide a method or route for people to find out more or enquire about the information provided. If this is yourself make sure that you are set-up to manage this response. If it is someone else then ensure that they are aware that this is the case and they understand the information you have broadcast.

Guidance and Tips:

  • You must have buy-in from the organisation
  • Making the commitment to maintaining the accuracy an updating of this information
  • Ensure that there is a clear and resourced ‘return path’ for people to enquire or respond to your information.
  • Understand the restrictions of your chosen tool. For example twitter restricts you to 140 characters, if you wish people to “retweet” your information allow space for this to occur.

3. Lead Spokesperson


A lead spokesperson may start, lead or participate in a discussion but in this role you must accept the full responsibility as THE voice of the Council on the matters you are called on to discuss. It is therefore important to understand the impact of your position and the accuracy and rationality of your comments in an online space. You will be held to account for them either by your employer, the media or the public. Be professional. Be Responsible. Be credible. Most importantly never say anything that you cannot substantiate and avoid commenting on things that you are not spokesperson for (i.e.: if you are the Lead Spokesperson for Highways then it would be best you did  not speak about Council issues relating to Child Protection, that is unless you are the Lead Spokesperson for this aswell!)

Guidance and Tips:

  • Let the Press Office know
  • Are you the right person or is someone better placed to do this?
  • Have you attended the internal media training course?

4. Community Management (Moderator/Facilitator)


A Moderator/facilitator is one of the most important and difficult roles to undertake. You should not underestimate the time needed to encourage, grow and create valuable online discussion or communities.

Forum moderators are not police officers

The biggest mistake forum or discussion owners make when taking on forum moderators is expecting them to police the community. Many see the main role of moderators as enforcers of the site rules, as people who delete posts they don’t like and lock topics the moment they run off-course. If these are the priorities of your moderators, you are doing it all wrong.

The primary role of a forum moderator should be to promote interaction. A forum moderator should be posting new threads and adding new content to the site. They should be helping out members with their queries and they should be keeping threads alive by asking questions. That is not to say that forum moderators shouldn’t be allowed to delete or lock threads that are inappropriate – of course this should be one of their roles. But this should never be their primary role.

How to effectively moderate forums and online discussions

Why forum moderation is necessary

If you don’t moderate your forum it can be overwhelmed with spam and abusive posts – this is the primary reason why you should ensure all the forums you run have some degree of moderation. Spam and abusive posts are detrimental to your online community – you must moderate your forums to prevent irreversible damage from taking place.

Why moderation should be taken seriously

Many forum moderators will often delete comments they disagree with, or members they suspect of spamming, then think nothing else of it. This is a mistake.

Forum moderation, if done incorrectly, can be worse than having no moderation at all. Over-zealous moderation can result in members ending up feeling alienated and angry when they find their posts or accounts deleted for no understandable reason.

A community relies on its members – before you take decisive action against yours, make sure you are making the right decision.

How to avoid conflict when moderating

It is essential that your online community has a set of rules, parameters or guidelines for your members to follow.

Before you have to take action against a member, you should always contact them and try to get them to remove or edit the post themselves by referring them to the rule you feel they have broken.

In this way, you are making your site user feel far more valued on a personal level – this is far preferable to the member simply returning one day to find their post(s) or account deleted.

The key to effective forum moderation

You should only edit the accounts or posts of your members as a last resort.

If you are unhappy with any content they have created, speak directly and confidentially to that person.

This way, you will not end up alienating your community – they will respect you far more as a moderator and will feel far more valued as a member of your community.

Each online community will be unique and will develop its own “rhythm”, you may feel that the community is inactive when in fact it could be in a quiet phase within its cycle. Good community managers learn the unique rhythms of their communities and contribute, encourage and foster participation at the right times.


Guidance and Tips:

  • Special needs of the audience
  • Are children or vulnerable people involved


5. Forum Administrator

A forum administrator may indeed fulfil some of the advanced roles of the Moderator however if we separate the facilitation and moderation of the content of the site from the administration of the forum in terms of it being up to date, technical issues, adding or deleting accounts, routing general enquiries and ensuring the structure and the technical/functional integrity of the site remains intact then this can be seen as an administrative role. A Moderator/Facilitator is NOT an administrative role as it is responsible for the content and its integrity on the site/forum and is therefore a highly evolved role.

Social Media Guidance – Section Three: Key things to consider before getting involved and useful contacts

UPDATED JULY 2012 – Revised guidance is available here on Re:WorkDigital

Section Three: Key things to consider before getting involved and useful contacts

Checklist of key things to consider:

  • Do you understand and have the resources available to undertake your activity and to maintain an effective presence in your chosen social media site?
  • Can you demonstrate a real business need to undertake this activity? Which business objectives are you contributing to?
  • What are you hoping to achieve?
  • How are you going to evaluate / assess this activity and its success?
  • Do you have buy-in / agreement?
  • Have you undertaken a risk assessment for this activity?
  • Have you taken into account equality and accessibility issues when undertaking this activity?

Key Contacts:

NB: i am not publishing the key contacts information but will say it is simply a list of teams who are able to assist with social media ranging from Corporate Communications, Corporate Web Team, Marketing and the Press Office.

A new kind of Council Web Strategy

You should know that the local authority web manager has a pretty hard job and is often stuck in between a rock and a hard place. Often with no budget, no resources, but yet still required to manage a service delivery platform, communications platform and a citizen engagement channel. How do i know this, well i used to be one.

Anyway i wonder whether the strategies that are created for local authority websites (i am assuming that some are created here) are focusing on the right thing?

The reason i say this is that i often hear that local authority web managers and web teams have issues around web ownership, web governance, web resources and acceptance by the wider organisation that the corporate web site is a key access channel and so on. So what should change for this mind set to be different.

What i think we need is a strategy for the web channel that actually talks about “Exploiting” the channel for business benefit and value creation and not a strategy that focuses on how we will build it, what technology we will use and what level of security we will apply. These are of course very important things but in my view should actually be contained within your organisations ICT Technical Strategies and not within the web strategy.

So what would a Strategy for exploiting the web look like?

I recently read a book called “Fruition” by Chris Potts and it was a very good read, it is actually about the wider ICT agenda but there are major lessons for web and web strategists as well as corporate strategists.  I recommend reading it if you are remotely interested in ICT, Web and Technology in organisations. The following is an extract about the book:

The Scenario

What happens when corporate strategists decide to take over the IT agenda, ignore all the IT Strategy orthodoxies and use it in ways that the IT specialists never intended? What are the consequences for the strategy, the Chief Information Officer (CIO), the company’s IT people and the investment plans for IT?

Whilst reading the book i also thought about the lack of this kind of strategy during the eGovernment  Agenda and it made me think about the current Government ICT Strategy –  Are we creating the wrong kind of strategy again? I think we do need a strategy for how we will implement technologies and decide what technologies to use and adopt and whether we will use cloud services or develop and Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), but it seems to me that what we lack and maybe one of the real reasons ICT has not aligned itself with the business is because it struggles to present its strategies in terms of exploitation and value creation.

I used the example in the book and made a quick and dirty attempt at a generic web strategy for any local authority and this is what i came up with. (If you read the book, you will notice i haven’t really changed that much).

The challenge of course is to work within your organisation to make this strategy work. I recommend you read the book to understand the journey and implications of developing this kind of strategy within the wider ICT environment. But i think if you do those things you will end up in the same place and will want to move forward with this kind of strategy.

This is not yet a reflection of the County Council Web Strategy and there would be a little bit of work to do before we could get this adopted, but this is not a major challenge and will be something i will work toward. It is of course a completely different way to look a strategy in local government and one which i think will make us more corporate and work towards the agreed priorities and direction that the council has set in the strategic plan.

Local Authority Web Strategy

Strategy Promise (outcome)

  • We will maximise the value we create for citizens, staff and stakeholders from all our investments in the Internet, digital technologies and the World Wide Web (WWW).

Key Principles (truths)

  • Our strategies and business plans depend, in part on us successfully exploiting the use of the Internet and the World Wide Web.
  • Value is a portfolio of measures and is whatever the Council’s strategies and operating plans say it is.
  • Each directorate/department is accountable for the value their part of the organisation creates from investments in the internet and WWW.
  • The Internet and WWW is a multi-disciplined function and service platform and requires a collaborative and unified approach to achieve value.
  • The Corporate Web Manager is accountable for the total value that the organisation creates from all our new investments in business change involving the Internet and WWW.

Core tactics (actions)

  • Plan and execute our investments in exploiting the web by starting with value creation and working backwards
  • Focus our investments in exploiting the web on those types of value that are vital to our strategies and where we can make the highest contribution
  • At business unit and corporate levels, proactively manage the total impact of change made from investments in the Internet and WWW.
  • The Corporate Web Manager should lead on Internet and WWW development and activity.

Building the “Local” website, not a council website

I have been thinking about council websites, specifically around the issues of – whether we need them, what management of them should look like, how we structure them, and which audiences we are really trying to serve. Some of this was prompted by an excellent post by Sarah Lay from Derbyshire on “Do Councils need websites” and some by various conversations that have been happening recently and building on from a previous post of mine about social media points the way for corporate website development.

I started to wonder what council websites would look like and how they would have evolved, if we didn’t have the drive from eGovernment, to make all of our services (including information) 100% e-enabled.  I’m sure some would have developed into real community based websites and portals with a good blend of transactional service and online community. My key point here is, without any external pressure, would councils have taken a more community based approach to their websites instead of being forced to deliver services online that offered no value initially.

The Better Connected Review by SocITM has helped drive forward the development of sites in a consistent way, identifying good practice and leading councils, but i’m wondering whether the focus has been too much on “Council Service” and not enough on “Community Service”.

I think it might be good if i try and explain what i perceive to be the simple differences between “Council” and “Community” in a website context. I’m sure this is pretty obvious but i think it needs saying.

Council: A politically driven site, with information about all of the councils services and access to online transactions.

Community: an issue led, community driven site, with information about the local area, to share issues and to build community relationships.

Ok, they are crude and i’m sure most will agree that some councils websites are attempting to do both. But should they? and if so does it work under a “” domain?

My view is that we seem to be operating from a perspective that says “council websites must have a strong presence online in our local area”. I think this view is fundamentally flawed.

I live in a community, and my local councils (City and County) are only a part of that community – it includes other public sector bodies (Police, Fire, Health etc), other residents, other professionals, trades people, shop owners and all the other wonderful people who make up communities.

In a community site, local participation and dialogue makes more sense then it does on a council site. To be honest, who goes to the council offices for a casual meeting with their friends and starts talking about “stuff” that bothers them in their community. I don’t and i don’t know anyone who does, but i do know many people who converse in places they feel comfortable, community places, cafe’s, pubs, outside schools, in the street, online in social networks – everywhere except the council offices.

So starting from that viewpoint, a “local website” would need to include all of those factors and considering the pressures on Public Sector Budgets, why are Public Sector Web Professionals battling to do all of it and in most cases failing to deliver any of it. I’m certainly not undermining my web professional peers as i was Web Manager for 6 years and it was a bloody hard job and i never got the site how i would have wanted to see it for the people of Devon. This was due to the conflicting pressures of what people wanted, or we found out they wanted through surveys and consultations and what the council wanted to do in terms of political PR, communications and reputation management. I can see both sides and both are legitimate and in fact, it is sometimes possible to balance both views, but not all of the time.

Shouldn’t we take the same approach as we do in the “real” world and position our information and services as part of the community and not expect people (and i include myself here) to have to visit a local council website to access information or perform a transaction. I include another reference to a previous post about mashing up council websites altogether “social media points the way for corporate website development“. After all aren’t councils and public sector bodies just as much part of the community as everyone else?

Maybe, and i can’t really believe i am saying this but it tends to make more sense to me (if you disagree please tell me as i feel i’ve gone to the dark side with this one) why don’t we develop and support more than one site. I’ll explain how i would see this working and why i think it will be where we have to go but i’m also happy to be challenged. So i’ll start with a straw man and share my thinking.

The following breakdown does not assume that these are all physically separated in terms of content. They could all be hosted centrally, to enable data reuse etc.  However with search engines supporting and moving toward more of a federated approach and a search integration platform, as in linking information across systems, it doesn’t assume they are all in the same system either.

  1. Public Sector site : this would acknowledge that people are citizens and therefore need opportunities to participate, feedback and be part of service design and development across all public sector organisations. This would essentially be a “total place” view and would probably link to most Local Strategic Partnerships etc and provide information on the priorities, performance, meetings, minutes, webcasts etc.
  2. Community Site: this would provide all of the community information right down to the hyper local context. It would also include the transactions of all the public sector bodies so that people could access information and services as part of their normal routine and conversations. This element would also provide the links and integration with either public social networks such as twitter and Facebook as well as hosted community networks.

The challenge with the above is “who starts it all off”? Well some areas already have very well-developed community sites, and we ought to engage with those sites much more, very much like the approach people talk about with Social Media, we need to reach out to already existing networks and contribute in those instead of building empty places where no one wants to come. That leaves the council site, this would mean radically reducing the “huge amounts of content” that exists within the “” domain and pushing most of it into community sites either through mash-ups, RSS or other means. That way we could work with communities to take over the ownership of local content and Public Sector Web Professionals could focus on just the content that needs to be their from a public sector point of view.

I appreciate this is all very much “a dream” but i’m convinced that over the coming years the pervasive nature of social media, alongside the need to reduce costs, will mean that we will inevitably need to refocus what councils websites offer and why they are there and how we can ensure that what we do provide online is used and embraced by the local community.

So what does this mean for website management? – well in my opinion, we have an opportunity to bring together the expertise within a local area and provide a “shared” service or a “combined” service for public sector organisations. It will mean that we need to think more about aligning across organisations, focusing more on the actual communities we serve. Some councils are starting to do this internally around shared internal services such as HR, Finance etc. So we are already in the arena of shared intranets across multiple organisations – this is simply the next logical step.

This also gives greater emphasis in my opinion on the need to create and support the development of Public Sector Web Professionals across the board –  development, learning, competencies, networking etc.

All of the above will require strong leadership from across the public sector as well as third sector partners, if we want to deliver excellent opportunities,  services and information locally.  Directgov has shown that consolidation across a sector is possible (albeit painful) but it does deliver a better interface into Central Government. So there is hope.