TECHNOLOGY SPECTATOR: A social media policy pearl

The best government social media guidelines so far are a rare mix of a down-to-earth decision framework and plain common sense.

Technology Spectator

I usually tend to be quite critical with governments as they come out with social media policies and guidelines that are full of good intention but usually fail to meet the intended goal of stimulating its use by erring too much on the side of risk management and institutional presence.

Having said that, I just browsed through two documents that were published by the New Zealand government:

Social Media in Government: High Level Guidance, targeted to organisations that "are trying to decide if they should use social media in a communications, community engagement, or a policy consultation context”; and

Social Media in Government: Hand-On Toolbox, targeted to practitioners "who are setting up social media profiles and using the tools on a daily basis”.

These documents are different, almost a breath of fresh air. They provide very down-to earth, actionable decision frameworks that give both communications professionals (i.e. those who are in the business of managing the official face of their agency on social media) and any other member of the staff, including managers, enough information to formulate their own decisions about whether and how to venture into social media.

Both guidelines do not speak to organisations, but target individuals, be they public affair officers or line managers or employees in whatever capacity. They focus on principles that are valid for any role, and stimulate a thought process that leads to determine whether and how the use of social media is worthwhile in one’s own role.

There are a few shortcomings, such as the lack of a clear upfront distinction between organisational, professional and personal roles, too long a business case template, and insufficient mention of the tactical and temporary nature of most social media engagements. But they do not detract from the overall value of these guidelines.

These are must-reads for any public sector organisation that is struggling with social media.

Here are a few highlights about each of the documents.

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