Analysis of social media policies & strategies in the public sector

I reviewed social media policies and strategies of public sector organizations that are freely available on the web or were distributed during the last two years on Twitter (see hashtag #gov20). Especially after GSA has published the Terms of Service Agreements with most major SNS, I have observed a major uptake in formal written statements outlining why, how and for what purposes agencies and departments are using new media. I included local, state and federal level public sector organizations in my analysis.

Even though it seems as if a legal framework was created by GSA’s Office of Citizen Services, I observe a wide range of different documents and statements as a result.

A handful of documents is labeled “Handbooks” (such as the Navy Command Social Media Handbook), Toolkit, Social Media Computing Guidelines, or Business Uses of Social Networking Services. These types of documents usually describe best practices and recommendation on how to use different tools such as Twitter or Facebook. They are usually very lengthy, true handbook-style documents.

In addition, 1-page policy-style memos come in the form of directives, “rules of engagement”, use policies or even “Social Media Law”.

Only one organization actually wrote a social media strategy document that looked at how the new channels fit into the existing communication strategy and how they can support the mission or public service delivery.

I have extracted the major themes that the public sector organization I analyzed covered and will post my preferred content of a social media policy/strategy document in the next post.

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About Ines Mergel

I am Full Professor of Public Administration at the Department of Politics and Public Administration at University of Konstanz, Germany. Previously, I served as Assistant and then Associate Professor (with tenure) at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University, NY. In my research, I focus on informal social networks in the public sector and the adoption and diffusion of digital service innovations in government organizations. I teach classes on social media management, digital government, public management, and social network analysis.

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