Monday, September 28, 2009

Does your department have social media guidelines in place?

Various research reports have indicated that at least 50% of Australian internet users participate in social networks.

Forrester's Groundswell profiling tool suggests that 23% of Australians aged 18+ actively create content online; 31% are 'critics', providing comments and feedback online; and 50% are 'joiners' of social networks, forums and online groups.

So should we expect Australia's public servants - most of whom are internet users - to be any different?

It seems reasonable to me to assume that more than half of public servants are actively participating online - discussing topics of interest to them, leaving comments on forums, social networks and news sites and building their social profile.

We're also seeing more government departments officially employing social media to engage their customers, having staff who are responsible for creating and maintaining Facebook pages, blogs and other online presences on behalf of the department.

However how many government departments and agencies have formally endorsed and communicated the APSC's Interim protocols on online media use to their staff, or developed their own guidelines regarding social media?

What is the legal position of a department if it finds staff using social media in their own time in a way senior management disagree with but where there are no formal guidelines in place?

What is a department's effective position in situations where it is launching social media initiatives while simultaneously blocking staff from viewing these initiatives using departmental equipment? We don't block staff from viewing our radio, print or TV campaigns.

These are thorny issues for departments - particularly for those that are having to confront these issues on the back foot, rather than proactively assessing their situation and putting guidelines in place.

They will become even thornier if left unresolved - potentially leading to management/staff disputes, legal risks, media risks and political risks for Ministers.

So has your department taken steps to devise, endorse and communicate official guidelines on social media use? Or has it accepted the risks it is taking on by not taking these steps?

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