The Teacampers were on good form (and vast numbers) yesterday, to discuss the vexed question of social media guidance for civil servants which the GDS Digital Engagement team are currently drafting. It’s to their great credit that Emer, Lou, Jane and colleagues are developing the guidance in the open, in consultation with those inside and outside government who have an interest or experience. It’s a tough challenge too – my contribution was to suggest that maybe we need several different things, rather than a single one (which others have struggled to compile before – it quickly becomes a social media training manual or digital engagement strategy when you put finger to keyboard…):
- An overarching vision for how government or a particular organisation intends to use social media to advance its aims, with a sort of set of ‘design principles’ to guide how it will be practiced.
- Some descriptions of how an organisation will manage its different social channels, why it has them, who controls how they’re used, and how their value will be measured. It helps people inside and outside be clear on what to expect, and is a source of answers when someone asks, which they invariably will.
- Some examples of how to use social media effectively as a team, and as an individual whether that’s the Head of the Civil Service or a countryside ranger.
- A minimal set of rules for an individual to follow, by their very existence providing some reassurance that it’s OK to engage online while also clarifying which rules apply. I don’t underestimate how tough these are to get right – as a Teacamper joked, people who use social media don’t read social media guidelines, and people who read social media guidelines don’t use social media. The existing bullet points aren’t enough, and it’s hard to know just which existing staff policies apply to social media. Without this, it’s easy to slip into paranoia and feel the world is out to get you. Sure, some folk are and the Daily Mail always has pikestaffs needing heads. With some sensible rules, it’s more likely a press officer or line manager will defend a colleague under attack, as defend they should. As a taxpayer, I want to deal with a civil service of interesting, helpful human beings, not a humourless bureaucracy.
Still, my contribution to #4 is Helpful Technology’s first venture into infographics, in the form of this eight question flowchart to help you work out whether the pearl of wisdom you’re about to tweet or post is le mot juste or beyond the pale. It’s a minimum set, and would allow people to tweet about bad days or things that they’re struggling with, while avoiding the things that harm the ability of government to work. See what you think.