Out of all the communication media available to state government, social media is one of the most rapidly changing and growing. The popularity of individual platforms ebs and flows, audiences move among a plethora of available platforms, and each platform has it's own app, etiquette, and flare.
North Dakota does not have any standards that dictate social media use by state agencies, but it is recommended that agencies do not create profiles before developing a robust social media strategy. A common mistake made is creating profiles without allocating the staff necessary to actively manage those profiles. Creating a social media profile is not like sending a press release. Once a press release is sent there is nothing more to do, but once a social media profile is created the work has just begun. Some of the questions agencies should consider before utilizing social media are:
Many social media platforms have special terms and conditions for government entities and offer ways of verifying official government social media accounts. Below are guidelines for the most popular platforms.
If an agency's website or social media accounts allow for public comments, special care must be taken to ensure comments are moderated in an effective and legal fashion. The following is general guidance maintained by ITD and developed in coordination with the North Dakota Attorney's General Office. For advice specific to your agency, contact your legal counsel.
It is recommended that agencies have at least one well-trained person to manage public comments. That person should know when it's appropriate to delete a comment, how to manage records related to comments, and when to contact legal counsel with questions.
Online government accounts that permit public comments, such as websites and social media, may have certain First Amendment protections. Agencies can impose restrictions on comments as long as the restrictions are reasonable in light of the purpose served by the forum and are viewpoint neutral. Viewpoint neutrality, in essence, means you cannot allow one comment on a topic but delete a different comment on the same topic simply because you favor the viewpoint of the first comment. For example, agencies cannot simply delete all comments that are critical of something or someone while keeping comments that support that same thing or person. Anyone tasked with managing social media comments will need to understand viewpoint neutrality and ensure consistent, legal application of the comment policy.
Agencies will need to retain any comments, including deleted comments, in accordance with their records retention policies.
Below is a comment policy template designed for use by state agencies.
Agency name does not endorse comments posted on our social media accounts, and such comments do not reflect the official position(s) of Agency name, its officers or employees or the State of North Dakota. Agency name reserves the right to delete unacceptable comments. The following are examples of unacceptable comments and will be deleted.
The Social Media Users Group, or SMUG, brings together individuals responsible for the social media presence of state agencies. The group meets quarterly, is open to anyone who wants to attend, and topics range from social media to web design to photography. Past meeting presentations, minutes, and recaps are available on the SMUG Statewide Alliance page. If you are interested in attending, email Cliff Heyne (email@example.com).
Quarterly meeting of the Social Media Users Group (SMUG).
The Enterprise Communication Service provides agencies with access to communication resources and training. Also part of this service is managing the official State of North Dakota web portal, which provides citizens a single point of access to state government's online services.
This initiative is published in the 2017-2019 Strategic Plan and slated for completion during the 17-19 biennium. More details will be posted as the 17-19 biennium approaches