California Encourages Agencies to Use Social Media

The great State of California was compelled to issue guidelines today for the use of social media within the state’s government agency environment, saying Governor Schwarzenegger has had “great success” in using them.  It’s not a step-by-step plan on how to use Twitter.  It doesn’t say anything about Facebook being better than MySpace.  It’s a way to to tell agencies, “Hey everyone, it’s okay to let your staff experiment with these things, just be smart about it!”

There’s many schools of thought on whether to, or not to, use social media tools for government public information.  When I do classes on how they can be used to improve your ability to communicate, the inevitable question is asked, “So what is your official policy for using these sites?” Usually uttered by government types – public information officers, communications directors, agency executives and the like.

I suppose it’s a valid question if you’re used to being comforted by a vetted plan and procedure.  But you can’t nail down social media tools like that because they’re always changing, expanding, improving or imploding.  They’re much more dynamic than the speed of government.  So you’re really experimenting to see what works for you and developing your own web of outreach.  That’s what we do.  Any PIO worth their salt is doing just that.  How can you ignore it?  Are you still using a typewriter and mailing press releases out?

It’s my understanding that the folks that put the California plan together were trying to help alleviate the reluctance and discomfort some folks had (or still have) with using these new tools.  Good for them!  The guidelines begin with the most important part of the document,

Agencies and departments are encouraged to use Social Media technologies to engage their customers and employees where appropriate. Many state entities, including the Governor’s office, have used Social Media communication with great success…

So if you’re one of those people that doesn’t feel real comfortable stepping out on a limb and trying them without a plan, this might be a great starting point for you to create your own agency guidelines or procedures.  I’ve included some links to other plans below – making it even easier for you to save time!  And, there’s even a Microsoft Word document you can download!

Do you have a plan in your agency or business? I encourage you to share your own plans by commenting below.  We all could learn from you!

California Policy

  • IT Policy Letter – Social Media (PDF or doc)

Other Resources

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