Social Media Policy

Stanway Parish Council Social Media Policy

This policy was last updated on: 30 January 2017


  1. Introduction
    The objective of this policy is to provide Councillor and staff an overview of Social Media and outline the Council’s position on various aspects of their use. In addition, it includes guidelines on Officer and Councillor responsibilities when using such channels of communication.
  2. Definition of Social Media
    Social media is a term for websites based on user participation and user-generated content. They include social networking sites and other sites that are centred on user interaction.Social media has the following characteristics:

    • Covers a wide variety of formats, including text, video, photographs, audio
    • Allows messages to flow between many different types of device; PCs, phone and tablets (e.g. iPad)
    • Involves different levels of engagement by participants who can create, comment or just view information
    • Speeds and broadens the flow of information
    • Provides one-to-one, one-to-many and many-to-many communications
    • Lets communication take place in real time or intermittently

    Examples of popular social media tools include: Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia, You Tube, Pinterest, Snip.It, LinkedIn and Google Plus. Groupings of interest are a natural feature of the development of such systems with people with similar interests being attracted to share information.

  3. Pitfalls
    Whilst these are very useful to share information quickly with other people, there are some pitfalls to be aware of:

    • The information in most cases is shared in the public domain and can be reviewed by anyone in the world. You do not even need to register in many cases to view the content. Registering is only required should you wish to participate and post to the site.
    • Groups on specific themes can set up easily and posts then edited by the owners of that group to reflect their single interest, ensuring theirs is the only voice heard. There is no guarantee of truth and ill informed comment and gossip is as likely to be found there as useful information.
    • The nature of these tools is that information is shared immediately and it is all too easy to respond instantaneously which can result in unintentionally inflaming a situation. Information can then be shared with other sites and be spread far beyond the intended audience. Friends of Friends may not be our Friends.

    It is also very easy to spend a lot of time viewing and responding to messages that would outweigh the value gained in the first place.

  4. Purpose of the Policy
    Social media provides the Council with the opportunity to communicate to a wide audience instantaneously on a range of subjects relating to its activities, providing updates, news, information and retweeting relevant information from other sources. It also provides an opportunity to communicate with the younger age group, the business community and hopefully the harder to reach groups.The Council will make use of approved social media tools to quickly disseminate information but carefully control its use in order to minimise the risks as stated above. In the first instance this will include only Facebook.
  5. Aims and Objectives
    Social media can be used by the Council as an effective and measurable way to achieve resident engagement and attract publicity.The aim of this Policy is to ensure:

    • Engagement with individuals and communities and successful promotion of Council-based services through the use of social media
    • Engagement with individuals and communities and successful promotion of Council-based services through the use of social media
    • A consistent approach is adopted and maintained in the use of social media
    • That Council information remains secure and is not compromised through the use of social media
    • That users operate within existing policies, guidelines and relevant legislation
    • That the Council’s reputation is upheld and improved rather than adversely affected
    • That communication by use of social media is effective, timely, appropriate, useful, engages with a wider audience and utilities cross-promotion of other Council communication tools (e.g. website, quarterly newsletter etc.)

    Social media activity isn’t something that stands alone, to be effective it needs to integrate as part of the general communications mix. Any planned campaigns, promotions and activities can be plugged in to social media platforms to increase reach and exposure. Refer to the Council’s Communication Policy.

  6. Policy Statement
    It is acknowledged that there is considerable potential for using social media which can provide significant advantages. The responsible, corporate use of social media is actively encouraged. The following applies equally to Officers and Members.This policy provides a structured approach to using social media and will ensure that it is effective, lawful and does not compromise Council information or computer systems/networks.Users must ensure that they use social media sensibly and responsibly, and ensure that its use will not adversely affect the Council or its business, nor be damaging to the Council’s reputation and credibility or otherwise violate any Council policies.The following guidelines will apply to online participation and set out the standards of behaviour expected as a representative of Stanway Parish Council:

    • Be aware of and recognise your responsibilities identified in the Social Media Policy
    • Remember that you are personally responsible for the content you publish on any form of social media
    • Never give out personal details of others such as home address and phone numbers
    • Ensure the you handle any personal or sensitive information in line with the Data Protection Act
    • Use a disclaimer. When using social media for personal purposes, you must not imply you are speaking for the Council. Avoid use of the Council email address, logos or other Council identification. Make it clear that what you say is representative of your personal views only. Where possible, you should include a standard disclaimer, such as: “Statements and opinions here are my own and don’t necessarily represent the Council’s policies or opinions”
    • Know your obligations: you must comply with other Council policies when using social media. For example, you should be careful not to breach Council confidentiality and propriety information policies.
    • Show respect to all. You should be respectful of the authority and employees. Derogatory comments are always wrong
    • Use of the Parish Council’s Facebook account must always reflect the Council’s position/decisions on a matter and in no circumstances must it be used to express personal opinion, particularly when used by a Councillor. If unsure, say nothing

    Councillors are at liberty to set up accounts using any of the tools available but should ensure they are clearly identified as personal and do not in any way imply that they reflect the Council’s view. Councillors should at all times present a professional imagine and not disclose anything of a confidential nature. Comments of a derogatory, proprietary or libellous nature should not be made and care should be taken to avoid guesswork, exaggeration and colourful language

  7. Responsibilities
    The Parish Clerk is designated ‘Council’ owner of the Council Social Media channels agreed by the Council. Councillors and Office Staff officially appointed by the Council may assist the Parish Clerk to disseminate information. However all must ensure they follow this policy. No account details may be changed without the permission of the Parish Clerk.Individual Councillors are at liberty to set up their own accounts but they should ensure they comply with this policy and ensure the ‘personal view’ disclaimer is used.
  8. Guidance for Councillors – social media and meetings
    The Council encourages Councillors to keep residents informed of Stanway issues and the use of social media can help with this, especially during official Council meetings. Below are some extra guidelines for Councillors to consider for the use of social media during meetings:

    • Handheld devices and laptops are permitted (indeed encouraged) for use during meetings to allow environmentally friendly and effective communication. The use of such devices is intended to improve communication during meetings – not to interrupt or distract anyone taking part. Ensure the volume on all electronic devices is turned to ‘mute’
    • Councillors’ tweets/blogs during Council meetings should refer to the discussions which are taking place at the meeting – tweeting/blogging about other subjects will show the public and other attendees at the meeting that you are not engaging properly in the meeting
    • Councillors have a responsibility to take Council business seriously and it is not appropriate for members to use social media to tease or insult other members. Stanway residents expect debate and to be informed about Council business, not witness petty arguments
    • Remember that if you break the law using social media (for example by posting something defamatory), you will be personally responsible
  9. Facebook Strategy
    Social networks are rapidly growing in popularity and are used by all ages in society. The most popular social networks are web based, commercial, and jot purposely designed for Parish Council use. They include sites like Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, and Xanga. For individuals, social networking sites provide tremendous opportunities for staying in touch with friends and family. For the Council he sites provide a modern alternative means to communicate with residents of the Parish.Facebook, for example, offers a rich platform allowing you to share unlimited content, including images and videos.
    Example activity:

    • Share articles / blog posts / expertise
    • Start discussions and ask questions to encourage interaction
    • Create surveys to encourage participation from visitors
    • Upload images and videos
    • Generic news – what’s happening in the area

    One of the hallmarks of online networking is the ability to “friend” others – creating a group of others that share interests and personal news. Care should be exercised when accepting invitations to friend others within personal social networking sites. Friends will gain access to the Council’s network of contacts on the site.

    Good practise guidelines for the use of Facebook by the Council as a body or Councillors as individuals are:

    •  As a Parish Council, we have a professional imagine to uphold and how we conduct ourselves online impacts this image
    • Remember that people classified as “friends” have the ability to download and share your information with others
    • Post only what you want the world to see. It is not like posting something to your website or blog and then realizing that a story or photo should be taken down. On a social networking site, basically once you post something it may continue to be available, even after it is removed from the site
    • Do not disclose confidential matters or criticise Council policies or personnel
    • Set your profile’s security and privacy settings carefully. At a minimum, all privacy settings should be set to “only friends”. “Friends of friends” and “Networks and Friends” open the content to large group of unknown people
    • All activity on the Council Facebook page must follow the Council’s agreed statement of purpose and outcomes for the use of the networking tool
    • Do not post images that include young people without parental permission
    • Pay close attention to the site’s security settings and allow only approved personnel full access to the site
    • Only add statements approved by either Full Council, the Parish Clerk or an approved Parish Councillor, as per the appended list.
    • Do not use commentary deemed to be defamatory, obscene, proprietary, or libellous. Exercise caution with regards to exaggeration, colourful languages, guesswork, obscenity, copyrighted materials, legal conclusions, and derogatory remarks or characterisations
    • Weigh whether a particular posting puts your effectiveness at Stanway Parish Council at risk
    • To reduce security risks, do not install any external applications that work with the social networking site. Examples of these sites are calendar programs and games.
    • Maintain updated antivirus and malware protection to avoid infections of spyware and adware that social networking sites might place on your computer
    • Be careful not to fall for phishing scams that arrive via email or on your wall, providing a link for you to click, leading to a fake login page
    • If you find information on the social networking site that falls under the mandatory reporting guidelines then you must report it as required by law

    Please stay informed and cautious in the use of all new networking technologies.

  10. Other Social Media
    At this stage it is not intended to use any other form of social media for official use by Stanway Parish Council. However this could be open to review in the future.Councillors are entitled to use any form of social media they wish to but must abide by this policy at all times when so doing.

Approved Councillor List

Cllr J Spademan – Neighbourhood Plan sub committee