Social Media Principles and Guidelines

The Governance Committee will be considering a report Tuesday from Communications staff, establishing guidelines and principles for City Councillors  engaging in social media.

“Be authentic. Write as an extension of your own voice.”

I couldn’t resist c&p the report.    ian

TO Governance
SERVICE AREA The Office of the CAO
DATE October 11, 2011
SUBJECT Social media principles and guidelines; a reference for elected officials
That the report titled, Social media principles and guidelines; a reference for
elected officials be received.
Earlier this year Council asked Corporate Communications to bring forward some current guidelines for Council that offer useful information for the use of social media. Principles and guidelines are included with this report.
Since then, a companion piece—a media policy for Council—has also been
requested. It will be developed and brought to Council in 2012.
The social media principles and guidelines, attached, have been compiled for
Council’s use based on best practices and with input from the City’s Web
Governance team—a cross departmental team of subject matter experts. They are intended to align with the City’s corporate social media guidelines, policy framework and strategy, which will govern City staff’s use of social media and which are currently under development.
Goal 5: A community-focused, responsive and accountable government.
Corporate Communications consulted with the City’s Web Governance team in the development of this report.
Attachment 1: Social media principles and guidelines; a reference for elected
Attachment 2: City of Guelph social media guidelines
“original signed by Staff” “original signed by Staff”
__________________________ __________________________
Prepared By: Recommended By:
Appendix 1: Social media principles and guidelines; a reference for elected officials Social Media Principles and Guidelines A reference for City of Guelph elected officials
Every day, people discuss, criticize, laud and debate the City of Guelph, its services, initiatives, and policies in hundreds of online conversations. The City of Guelph recognizes the importance of participating in these online conversations and is committed to ensuring we participate in social media the right way.
These social media principles have been developed as a starting point to help empower elected officials to participate in this realm of communication and effectively represent the municipality to their constituents, and the interests of their constituents to City administration.
Social media in the public sector is about participating in conversations with constituents and other stakeholders, and engaging audiences in an authentic way to provide helpful information and build relationships which, in turn, help achieve organizational and community goals.
What follows is a brief reference intended for elected officials of the City of Guelph. It is not intended as a ‘how-to’ or as steps to take towards creating a social media strategy.
Social media principles
Principles abound when it comes to social media. The five principles that follow are considered by City of Guelph staff to be a useful, sequential set of principles for elected officials engaged in or considering the use of social media.
1. Listen
Listen to what people are saying before joining the conversation. The most important lesson in social media is that, before engaging anyone, you should first observe and understand the cultures, behaviour, and immersion necessary to genuinely participate in online communities in which you don’t already reside
2. Engage
Invite ideas from your readers and encourage discussion. Social media is rooted in conversations, relationships, exchanges, shared ideas, and common interests.
Ask questions.

Brian Solis, Putting the Public Back in Public Relations.
Brian Solis, Putting the Public Back in Public Relations. Page 4 of 7 CITY OF GUELPH COMMITTEE REPORT
3. Enable
Enable people to share your content with their own networks. Herein lies the power of social media. Use simple keywords to improve interaction.
4. Share
Give and share your expertise, insight and questions with your audience. The more you do, the more likely you are to foster meaningful relationships. Be authentic and use your own voice.
5. Participate
As the experts say, social media isn’t a spectator sport. To truly participate,
organizations—and elected officials—must be inspired and compelled to do so.
Post regularly and be prepared to engage people when it suits them. This may mean checking comments or making edits after work hours and on weekends.
Share content that is an honest reflection of your thinking and position. At all times measure your actions against City of Guelph codes of conduct. If you think a post or comment could compromise your professional integrity or that of the City, check with someone who has some distance from the issue. Once it is published, there is no taking it back.
Finally, social media is about reciprocity. If you are going to engage and invite
comment then you should accept the good with the bad. The City of Guelph invites community members to share and discuss their opinions provided that those discussions are respectful. The City expects some level of criticism, which presents an opportunity to correct misinformation and deliver excellent service. However, the City will not maintain posts that foster discrimination, condone illegal activity, or that are defamatory towards City employees (see Appendix 2: City of Guelph social media guidelines.) If you author or plan to author a blog, one of the best things to do is to post a very clear comments policy and stick to it.
Social media guidelines for elected officials
Social media presents a unique opportunity to engage in conversations with constituents, including those that may otherwise be difficult to reach. Social media is one of many communication tools at our disposal. While rarely  effective if used in isolation, social media can be a useful supplement to traditional modes of communication.
Perhaps the best advice is to approach online worlds in the same way we do the physical one—by using sound judgment and common sense, by adhering to the City’s values, and by following relevant codes of conduct and sound business practices.
1. Follow the City of Guelph’s codes of conduct and corporate values
City of Guelph codes of conduct, corporate values and policies are the foundation for these principles and guidelines.
2. Give credit where credit is due
Be authentic. Write as an extension of your own voice. When you re-post something written by someone else, first ensure you have the proper permissions to do so. Then clearly state the material, letter, response, etc. has been authored by someone else. Do not use the copyrights, trademarks, publicity rights, or other rights of others without the necessary permissions of the rightholder(s).
3. Maintain confidentiality
Do not post information about the City of Guelph discussed in closed session. Do not post private or confidential information about fellow Councillors or City of Guelph employees.
4. Maintain privacy
Do not discuss situations involving named or pictured individuals without their
permission. Do not post anything that you would not present in a public forum.
5. More isn’t more
Resist the urge to post everything. Refrain from cutting and pasting emails from staff or constituents into posts without clear context and permissions. These are written for a specific audience for a specific purpose that is probably different from your own. You could be doing your readers a disservice by merely copying them into your blog without context. Take the time to interpret the contents, and re-present them based on your audience and its needs.
6. Provide information when it counts
Should you decide to engage in social media, know that monitoring and responding in a timely way are crucial. Social media participants expect timely responses to requests and expect co-participants to monitor social media properties frequently and regularly.
7. When in doubt, do not post
Like City staff, elected officials have an obligation to ensure their posts are accurate and not misleading, and that they do not reveal non-public information about the City of Guelph.
8. Know that the Internet is permanent
Once information is published online, it becomes part of a permanent record. It is a good practice to provide a link to an online space where your thought or message can be expressed completely and accurately if it, along with its context, cannot fit within a character-restricted space (such as Twitter).
9. Social media needs maintenance. If you start it, commit to it
Be dynamic: update news feeds, post developments, upload new pictures. Social media participants are savvy; if your online property appears static, it is likely to quickly fall into disuse.
Appendix 2: City of Guelph Social Media Guidelines
The following guidelines are posted on and are intended to convey to visitors to the site the circumstances under which the City of Guelph participates in social media:
Social Media Guidelines
When the City of Guelph uses a social media site which allows public comments and posts from its users, the following content will not be permitted:
• Comments/posts not related to a posted article/topic/information;
• Business solicitation;
• Profane or inappropriate language;
• Content considered to be defamatory, disrespectful or insulting to City staff or
• Content that promotes, fosters, or perpetuates discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, age, religion, gender, marital status, status with regard to public assistance, national origin, physical or mental disability or sexual orientation;
• Sexual content or links to sexual content;
• Conduct or encouragement of illegal activity;
• Any content deemed inappropriate by the City of Guelph
The City of Guelph may post events where the City is involved as a participant, host or sponsor. If you have an event that meets this criteria you can send it to
Posts by the public promoting events will not be permitted.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s