New social media rules for councillors
OUR local councillors are people too, and like most people they maintain a presence on social media.
But as representatives of local government, they have to abide by certain restrictions regarding how they conduct themselves online.
To keep up with the constantly changing landscape of online media and politics, members of the Somerset Regional Council last week approved an updated social media policy.
Among the rules council employees will have to adhere to are the following guidelines when using social media for personal or professional purposes:
- They cannot disclose information that is not publicly available, especially that of a confidential or ‘internal information’ nature.
- Information posted about or relating to the council and its activities must be accurate.
- Comments and posts cannot be rude, offensive or derogatory, especially when made to or about colleagues or council customers.
- Staff will also need to clarify whether comments are being made in their official capacity as council members or if they are personal opinions that do not represent the council’s views.
Councillor Sean Choat praised the straightforward nature of the guidelines.
“It’s a very clear policy,” he said.
“There’s a lot of pitfalls you can fall into, even unintentionally.”
In addition to the pages and profiles operated by individual staff members, the council operates corporate accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms.
There are also guidelines on how these pages should be managed.
Posts should appear ‘human’, being reasonably friendly and informal, and relatively free of jargon.
- The posts also need to be timely and relevant, focusing on recent events or upcoming opportunities.
- Frequency is also important, with pages having to post at least three times a week, or a maximum of four times a day – though there are no limits during times of disaster or emergency.
- Approval must be sought from council staff before their images are posted online, with all employees having the right to refuse for their image to be shared.
- Authentic images and video of the region will be prioritised for use over stock images.
Also included in the policy are specific rules for the use of internet memes.
- As the original creators of internet memes are often difficult to track down, the policy says sharing memes from a reliable source is the preferred option.
- Failing this, the social media team is permitted to create its own memes using purchased or council-owned images, with appropriate credit being given.
There are numerous other details listed in the policy, with specific guidelines for posts made during natural disasters, emergencies, election periods and other situations.
The full policy can be viewed on the Somerset Regional Council website.
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