You can't ignore it. Social media is everywhere these days...at home, at work, and with the popularity of smartphones and their ability to access sites on the go, it's everywhere in between.
With that in mind, developing a policy to guide employee use of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, etc., is likely a smart move for managers and administrators who are responsible for overseeing such activity.
Earlier this year, the Center for Technology in Government at the University at Albany/SUNY released its Guide on Eight Essential Elements for Government Social Media Policy. It is designed to help government agencies, including EMS departments, understand the necessary components of developing social medial policies.
"Whether or not to even get involved in social media activity is a difficult question to answer," says Jana Hrdinova, program associate at the Center for Technology in Government (CTG). "There are many differing opinions. Our consensus is to explore it, but do so carefully. Consider the possible consequences so you can mitigate them. Set policies ahead of time so employees know what to expect. That gives them the freedom to explore and experiment in a safe environment that promotes creativity."
The Guidebook was developed after the CTG team evaluated social media policies of 26 publicly available government social media documents and interviewed 32 government professionals who were using, or were considering using, social media tools.
The resulting information identified eight essential elements of a successful social media policy regarding employee participation while at work. Regulating personal use and conduct of social media as it relates to comments about work/employers/employees made on personal time is much more difficult. "Most agencies don't seem to be touching on personal use," she says. "It's a difficult issue to navigate. Everyone seems to be waiting. It's easier to regulate professional use while at work. It isn't as complicated."
The Eight Essential Elements
The eight essential elements include employee access, account management, acceptable use, employee conduct, content management, security, legal issue and citizen conduct.
1. Employee access: Until recently, some government agencies have simply restricted social media websites. However, the lines between personal, professional and official agency use have blurred, raising new questions of who has access to what.
For example, sites such as govloop.com, a social network of government employees, can fall into both personal and professional use. "The site has both social and professional components," says Hrdinova. "For example, someone may log on to find information about who has experience with writing a social media policy."
Even the White House has a Facebook page and employees may want to research information about a newly issued directive. But they may also want to check their personal page during lunch or breaks so it's important to determine who gets access, and to what extent. "This will vary from unlimited access for everyone, to only a few people with specific functions," she says.
2. Account management: Set up a procedure by which social media web sites are managed. This helps an agency keep track of what accounts are being established, maintained or closed by their employees for professional or official agency use.
3. Acceptable use: This outlines an agency's position on how employees can use social media sites while at work. The CTG found that many agencies struggle with what is acceptable in terms of personal and professional use, i.e. how much time can an employee spend on a personal Facebook page while at work, or how much time can he/she devote to participating peer-to-peer networking on sites such as govloop.com.
Only three of the 26 policies reviewed addressed this issue. City of Arvada (CO) employees are restricted to business communication and fulfilling job duties while the U.S. Air Force encourages it members to think of themselves as on-duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Other agencies indicated it isn't a one-size-fits-all and is best monitored and managed by supervisors individually.