The new Government social media guidelines

Have arrived. And just before I published my last post on how and why ACAS supports organisations to develop similar guidance. It’s interesting to see how the published guidance has progressed since it was discussed at April’s teacamp, and to see the other elements which have been included – including advice to Departments on creating the right technical conditions for social media use.

I’m a fan of the six overarching principles that have been used as a structure to the guidance, namely:

  • Communicate with citizens in the places they already are
  • Use social media to consult and engage
  • Use social media to be more transparent and accountable
  • Be part of the conversation with all the benefits that brings
  • Understand that government cannot do everything alone, or in isolation
  • Expect civil servants to adhere to the Civil Service Code (online as well as offline)

It’s a manageable and memorable set, that highlights both the reasons why policy makers (and others in Departments, or course) should get involved with social media. It also hints at the approaches that many of us take – going where conversations are already, and reaching out to form partnerships that can help amplify and extend conversations in ways that offline form of engagement simply can’t do. The personal/professional split that I talked about in my last post is also raised, and there’s some really useful advice about how the civil service code and its requirement for impartiality can and does affect engagement.

The engagement cycle (see below) is also useful and again reinforces some of the steps that we already take in helping people take their first steps online. There’s always a danger of ascribing value judgements to cycles, something which the science and society community effectively got round with their public engagement triangle. Still, it’s good to see a recognition that people can be encouraged to find a means of engagement that suits them and resonates with their own personal approach, rather than assuming that everyone has the confidence to launch in, and change the way they work immediately.

The foreword from Sir Bob Kerslake is a particularly valuable – perhaps the most valuable – aspect of this set of guidelines, and that visible leadership has been praised by others online already.

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