Social Media

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.

Social Media Strategy

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:

  1. Do we have the resources to actively manage social media profiles?
  2. Who will be responsible for managing our social media presence, and are they empowered to speak on behalf of the agency?
  3. How will we handle negative, inflammatory, or offensive comments on our profiles?
  4. How does social integrate with our larger communication strategy?
  5. What platforms would allow us to best reach our target audience?
  6. How will we measure our success?
  7. What tools will we use to manage our profiles?
  8. How are other state agencies utilizing social media?

Guidelines for State Agencies

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.

  • Facebook
    • Amended page terms for government entities are automatically in place for Facebook pages. However, pages must include this disclaimer, "If you are looking for more information about , please visit ."
    • Facebook pages can be verified by submitting appropriate information to Facebook via their verification form
  • Twitter
    • Twitter does not have any special requirements or terms of service for government entities. However, there is language in their standard terms of service stating "If you are a federal, state, or local government entity in the United States using the Services in your official capacity and legally unable to accept the controlling law, jurisdiction or venue clauses above, then those clauses do not apply to you."
    • Follow Twitter's verification process to verify your profile.
  • Vine
    • Vine does not have any special requirements or terms of service for government entities. However, there is language in their standard terms of service stating "If you are a federal, state, or local government entity in the United States using the Services in your official capacity and legally unable to accept the controlling law, jurisdiction or venue clauses above, then those clauses do not apply to you."
    • Vine does not offer a verification process. Instead, they rely on Twitter verification. Once your Twitter account is verified, your Vine account will be automatically verified.
  • Google Pages and G+
  • YouTube
    • YouTube and the National Association of State CIOs developed an amended Content License Agreement (CLA) designed for government entities. You can request the amended terms by emailing your department name, mailing address, and person of contact name/email to government@youtube.com.
    • Unlike other social media platforms, YouTube does not allow you to apply for verification. YouTube grants verification badges at their own discretion; however, linking your YouTube channel with your G+ page and website, and increasing your YouTube subscribers and G+ followers is reported to increase your chances of being verified.
  • Pinterest
  • Instagram
  • Linkedin
    • Linkedin policy only allows a single company profile per web domain. Because all state agencies use the same domain (nd.gov), this policy prevents agencies from being able to create company pages on their own. However, Linkedin does allow multiple company pages under the same domain as long as they are setup as “affiliated company pages.” To set up a new Linkedin page or affiliate an existing page with the State of North Dakota page, please contact cdheyne@nd.gov.
    • Linkedin does not offer verification badges because you already need to verify ownership of a domain before you can create company page.
    • Linkedin does not have any special requirements or terms of service for government entities.
  • Yahoo
    • Yahoo does not have any special requirements or terms of service for government entities.
    • Yahoo offers listing verification, but charges a monthly fee. Agencies interested in this service should follow Yahoo's local listing guide.

Comment Policies

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.

  • That are unrelated to the subject matter of the particular article being commented upon
  • That campaign for or against the nomination or election of a candidate or the qualification, passage, or defeat of a ballot question
  • That may tend to compromise the safety or security of the public or public systems
  • Whose main purpose is to sell a product or solicit commerce
  • That infringe on copyrights
  • That contain profanity or obscenity
  • That contain sexual content, links to sexual content, or nudity in a profile picture
  • That are defaming
  • That are spam
  • That promote, foster, or perpetuate discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, age, religion, gender, marital status, national origin, physical or mental disability or sexual orientation
  • That constitute or encourage illegal activity
  • Other comments that the Agency name communication team deems inappropriate

Social Media Users Group (SMUG)

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 (cdheyne@nd.gov).

Social Media Tools

  • Managing
    • Hootsuite- Hootsuite allows users to monitor and post to multiple social media platforms using a single application. Agencies often find the ability to schedule posts and view enhanced analytics to be beneficial. Hootsuite is available in paid and free versions.
  • Mapping
    • Esri Public Information - Esri offers a free mapping tool that allows users to display locations of social media content. The application pulls information from public data feeds and crowd sourced social media channels, including: Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, and YouTube.
    • Geofeedia - Geofeedia is a paid software that pulls location data from social media platforms in order to map posts. 
  • Monitoring
    • Google Alerts - Google Alerts isn't technically for monitoring social media, it monitors all new Google search results. The concept is straight forward, users tell Google what keywords they would like monitored (e.g. North Dakota ITD) and Google will emails users when a new search result with those keywords is found.

Other Resources

Events

Social Media Users Group 2017-08-10 MeetingEvent occurs on: Thursday, August 10, 2017 - 9:30amEvent

Quarterly meeting of the Social Media Users Group (SMUG).

PDF icon smug-20161013-presentation

Initiatives

17-19 Strategic: Develop a secure, cost-effective web portal framework Start: July 20, 2016 - End: Tuesday, August 1, 2017Initiative Completed

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