City brings in guidelines for social media

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The City of Calgary has developed employee guidelines for the use of social media. The guidelines detail how the city uses social media and what employees need to consider when using their personal channels. The goals behind these guidelines set out by the city hope to educate and raise awareness about social media and let employees know that social media guidelines are not different from guidelines already in place regarding traditional media outlets.

"It's not really to prevent them from talking about anything about the city, it's more to provide them guidelines as to what they need to think about as they make those statements," said corporate marketing and communications manager Jacob George. "It's meant to provide them with high-level awareness about what social media is."

The City of Calgary feels that having guidelines in place can be beneficial.

"This way employees know what the expectations are when they're using social media, whether it be social media that has been set up by the city itself or if they're using their own social media on City of Calgary equipment," said office of the information and privacy commissioner of Alberta communications director Wayne Wood.

Several guidelines highlight the need to use a disclaimer if employees are stating their point of view to clarify it is their own and reinforce that the city's official corporate logo can only be used by the City of Calgary. They also explain how to create a new social media channel for communicating about official City business, how to manage created channels, how to respond to comments, what tone of voice to use and how to let people know it is an official City of Calgary channel.

"We knew there was a need for it because when we rolled out our public statements and media relations policy, people wanted more detailed information about that. The guidelines are a companion document to the policy itself," said George.

George described the virtual perpetuity of information on the internet, saying employees need to think about the online brand of an individual as an employee of the corporation and how that is linked to the reputation of the corporation.

"You've got to be pretty careful that you're not trashing your employer when you're on a social media site because that can come back to haunt you at some point in the future," said Wood.

The City of Calgary has a Twitter account with about 6,500 followers, the highest of any city in Canada. They also manage around 10 Facebook pages, a YouTube channel and a news blog that is updated daily.

"We actively seek the opinions of the public," said George. "We're quite active in all these channels and other municipalities, and several other private companies, look to us for the best practices, so we're very proud of what we do."

Second-year natural science student and Facebook user Nadia Ahmadi thinks social media can be distracting in the workplace.

"If they are all chatting on Facebook, they won't pay attention to their job," she said.

Second-year energy management student Patrick Kitchin thinks employers need to take action against employees who 'trash talk' on social media.

"Employees have to be smart not to, because then there's proof. By posting online there's a record."