Document issued by Cabinet Office advises stuff on social media use… Civil servants in the UK are being asked to engage more with the public using social media but to take care to avoid politically sensitive issues during the process.
The Cabinet Office is instructing civil servants of the advantages of using social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook to “communicate with citizens, consult and engage, and to be more transparent and accountable” with a 29 page document that has been issued to their staff. The document details a six stage strategy to using social media with the first stage involving monitoring relevant discussions and further stages advising on how to interact.
The document warns civil servants of the dangers of commenting on controversial topics and states that posting personal information is not a good idea. Staff are also advised that it is not necessary to respond to every query that comes their way but instead to respond to individual comments that reflect general concerns and that are worded reasonably.
An excerpt from the document reads:
“Social media is a public forum and the same considerations apply as would, say, to speaking in public or writing something for publication either officially or outside of work”
“In social media the boundaries between professional and personal can sometimes become more blurred – so it’s important to be particularly careful. You are of course free to use social media in your own time but you need to be mindful of your duties not to disclose official information without authority, and not to take part in any political or public activity which compromises, or might be seen to compromise, your impartial service to the Government of the day or any future government.”
Last year a civil servant official for the Department for Communities and Local Government lost his job after it was revealed he was the owner of an anonymous Twitter account with the username the Naked Civil Servant and which posted derogatory and offensive comments about serving Ministers.
The head of the Civil Service, Bob Kerslake described the importance of implementing a social media policy during a recent public Facebook chat. He said:
“As a recent convert to Twitter and LinkedIn I can attest to the value of social media channels which I hope have made me more open and accessible to a wide range of people but particular to our own staff in the Civil Service.”
“Keeping abreast of new technology and new ways of communicating in a digital era are crucial to our ability to attract a new generation of talented people into the Service. The workplace of the future will have to be less rigid, less hierarchical and a lot more flexible. Participating in social media is a good way to learn how a modern workforce engages and communicates and I hope that more and more of our staff will embrace these new ways of working.”