Social media can be a fantastic way of communicating with members of the public, residents, communities, and partner organisations.
However, it’s important to consider the implications of managing a social media channel/account before introducing it for your service.
Why use social media?
Social media allows the council to communicate effectively, directly, and immediately with residents, partners, and communities.
When services use it correctly, it can help create a dialogue with customers: informing people of important announcements and news as well as gathering feedback on your service and its performance. It provides an opportunity to listen to service users and partners, respond to them, and improve.
Before setting up an account
Before you set up a social media account, there are a few things you need to consider.
- You (or someone on your team) must monitor your account.
- You must develop and regularly post new, relevant content.
- You must respond to all messages, enquires, complaints, and user engagements in a quick and timely manner.
Failure to monitor and update your account could alienate your service users, residents, and customers. It could also lead to negative comments or criticism of your service and its handling of customer enquiries on your chosen channel.
So, before launching an account, it’s important to consider whether your service has the resource to monitor and update a new account. You should also consider the following questions:
- What is the main reason you want to use social media?
- Does your service need a new account?
- Does the use of social media fall in line with your team’s overall objectives and targets?
- Who are the audiences you’re trying to reach?
- Is social media the best way of communicating with these audiences?
- Who will manage your new account?
- Will you monitor your account outside of working hours and at weekends?
- Can you dedicate a resource to listening to and responding to customers daily?
- What content will you be able to produce to populate your account?
Setting up an account
Before setting up a new social media account, you must consult the communications team first. This allows us to provide advice and support. It’s also an opportunity to inform you of our wider plans for digital communications.
If your request is authorised, there are a few things you’ll need to do:
- Confirm you understand the additional responsibilities you (or the account owner) are taking on
- Provide the communications team with the name and contact details of the person who will be dealing with the daily running of the account
- Provide login details for your account.
If you want to set up a new account or get some advice, please contact the communications team using our online request form.
Each council social media account needs to be managed by a ‘responsible owner’. All employees posting content to accounts must receive appropriate training prior to adding or sharing any content on the council’s channels.
The communications team will maintain a list of approved corporate social media users. If you change who is looking after your account, you must inform the communications team immediately and provide details of the account’s new ‘responsible owner’.
You should access council social media accounts using only council devices (desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones).
You shouldn’t use council mobile devices to access personal accounts.
Access, security, and passwords
Approved social media users shouldn’t access council accounts via their personal email addresses. You must use your council email address.
On Facebook, you must use your legal name (the name on your driving license or passport) if you’re setting up a council account and will be one of the page’s admins. If you use a different name, you won’t be able to prove your identity if Facebook asks you to do so. This could result in the account’s being locked or removed.
If you forget your password or get locked out of your account, you can use two-step verification and/or trusted contacts to verify your identity.
You should change the password for your council accounts every six to eight weeks, following the council’s password security guidelines. You must change your accounts’ passwords immediately after any social media takeovers, following big events when multiple people have had login access, and once the ‘responsible owner’ for the account changes.
A member of the communications team should be a listed admin for all council social media accounts in case of emergency. On Facebook, the council’s main account should be the main admin.
Account owners must monitor their social media accounts every weekday. You must acknowledge any queries, comments, messages, or complaints posted and raised through a social media account within 24 hours.
Social networks have changed peoples’ expectations, with many expecting quick or immediate responses to posts and messages. If you launch an account for your service, you may have to monitor it out of hours or at weekends unless you state otherwise.
If your service requires out-of-hours or weekend monitoring, tell the communications team who you’ve designated to monitor the account. Anyone looking after the account must be on the approved social media users list.
All council accounts must clearly display the hours the account is monitored and the council’s approved ‘house rules’. The Renfrewshire Council Social Media House Rules are available on the main council website.
Multiple people accessing the same account
If multiple people are accessing and using a single social media account, there are some steps you should follow:
- For Facebook, make a member of the communications team an admin for the page. This ensures someone is still able to access the page if you’re locked out of your account.
- For other social media channels, send the login details to the communications team so we can add them to our secure login spreadsheet. You must update the communications team if you change the password for your account.
- Keep a list of everyone who has admin access to the account, and revoke access for anyone who leaves the council. Send this list to the communications team.
- Use a content planner to schedule content and ensure posts are spaced out and not published at the same time. Ask the communications team for a template planner if you need one.
Protect the council’s brand and add value
Your content should add value. Ask yourself if it:
- helps you, your colleagues, our residents, or our partners to do their jobs and solve problems
- enhances the council’s service, processes, and policies
- creates a sense of community
- helps promote the council’s aims and values.
Don’t share content from other social media accounts and sites on your account if you’re unsure about its accuracy or authenticity. This is vital, especially during the Covid-19 crisis when residents, customers, and service users are following our accounts for updates on the pandemic.
Don’t express your personal political views or appear to show political favouritism by posting or sharing content from a political party on any of the council’s channels.
The communications team posts Covid-19 updates on the council’s main Twitter (@RenCouncil) and Facebook (@renfrewshirecouncil) accounts. Services can retweet and share these posts on their social media accounts. However, the communications team must approve all posts relating to Covid-19.
Other than sharing content posted by the Scottish Government and NHS Scotland or the communications team on the council’s main social media channels, services should not post any updates on Covid-19 on their own channels without approval from the communications team.
Copyright and data protection
Libel, defamation, copyright, and data protection laws, including GDPR, apply to everything posted on social media accounts. It’s essential that you stay within the legal framework and follow these laws to protect yourself and the council.
- Don’t post photographs, graphics, and videos without the consent of the copyright holder (i.e., the person who took or created the image, video, or graphic).
- If you’re posting photographs and videos, you also need to get permission from the people who appear in the photograph or video before posting it on a social media account.
- Ask permission to publish or report on conversations that you take part in at work.
- Be aware that content published on social media accounts and channels may be subject to Freedom of Information requests.
- Get the appropriate service to sign off responses to enquiries, messages, and complaints before posting.
- Remember that if you break the law using social media (for example, by posting something defamatory), you will be personally responsible. You may also be subject to the council’s disciplinary procedure. See the council’s social media guidelines for personal use for more information.
Inaccurate or reputation-damaging posts
If you see inaccurate information about the council or information that could damage the council’s reputation posted on social media by residents, journalists, or bloggers, please contact the communications team immediately and tell them what you’ve found. If the content is a comment or link on your service’s social media account, remove it and contact the communications team.
If you’ve been informed that someone has posted something negative, inaccurate, or damaging about the council, contact the communications team. Provide as much information as possible (where the post is, who posted it, what the post is about). This allows us to search for the post and deal with it appropriately.
If service users post private information about services they receive from the council or about council staff, contact the communications team for advice on how to deal with the post and next steps.
Errors and mistakes
If you make a mistake, be upfront about it and correct it quickly. If you choose to modify an earlier post, make it clear that you’ve done so.
Remember, there are consequences to what you publish. If you’re about to publish something that makes you uncomfortable, review the suggestions in this guide. If you’re still uncertain, discuss it with your manager or the communications team.
Support from the communications team
If you require more advice or guidance on the council’s social media policy and guidelines, or you need support promoting an upcoming event, announcement, or policy, make a request using our online form.