Business Blogs

Social Media Guidelines

mobile phone showing Facebook with scrabble tiles at right spelling out social media

"Put it on Facebook."

Like it or not, social media is everywhere—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, LinkedIn... The list is almost endless. For many, it is easier to open a social media app (with all their trackers and cookies) than it is to bookmark a webpage and use a browser. But not everyone is "on" social media so do not ignore those residents. Keep in touch with your community in a variety of ways.

Types of Communication

Think of your communication as falling under one of two categories:

  1. Official
  2. Social

Included in the official category would be meetings, minutes, agendas, ordinances, resolutions, legal notices, municipal/department announcements, department information, forms, bids, bills lists, job openings, financial statements, emergency notices, etc. Department events would also fall into this category. (Think rabies clinics, annual pageants.)

The social category is just that — social postings. Examples of these would be results of events with pictures (municipal pageants, parades, fun runs, Easter egg hunts, concerts in the park, etc.). Check with your municipal attorney about when photo releases are needed.

Keep in mind that while postings can be categorized "social" they may need to be included on the muncipal website for those residents who do not use social media. Social media should not be the only outlet for municipal announcements ("Tonight's meeting is canceled")


There are three main points of which municipalities should be especially vigilent.

1. Official Social Media Policy

With the assistance of your municipal attorney, develop a social media policy and post it on your website. The policy should define the purpose of the municipality's social presence and include what is not allowed. Specify the consequences of not adhering to the official policy.

2. Posting as the Municipality

An official posting policy should be written, again with the help of your attorney, on what can and what cannot be posted on the official page. All posts on the official municipal social media account are considered to be official municipal postings. If individuals, such as the Mayor, Recreation Director, etc., are allowed to post on the official page, these individuals should be registered with the municipality's communications manager and be given a copy of the posting policy. Their posts on the official page should indicate who made the post.

Be aware that individual pages can fall under official postings. "John Smith" may have his own page where he posts his opinions, but if he identifies himself on this page as "John Smith, Mayor" the page becomes an extension of the municipal page. Again, check with your attorney.

3. Monitoring Your Social Media

While most social media postings are fine, the comments are what could get you into trouble. 

Constructive criticism? Great. Opinions not in line to what you believe? It's fine — part of Free Speech. These are ways to find out what your residents are thinking, and provides an opportunity to get a dialogue going and to see a resident's point of view.

Attacking individuals? No. Profanity? No. Your social media should be a safe place for everyone. Don't let a few spoil it for everyone. Refer to your Social Media Guidelines on what action you can take.

What do you do if you have undesirable comments?

First, consult your social media guidelines. Does the comment violate your policy?

Contact the poster. Let them know that they have been heard. Ask them to phone you so that you may discuss the issue further. (Note: anonymous posters rarely will contact a live person.)

If your posts are getting comments that have nothing to do with the subject of the post, you have a troll! Your policy should have a section about staying on topic, and violaters' comments will be removed.

If the comment violates your policy, TAKE A SCREENSHOT OF THE COMMENT BEFORE REMOVING OR HIDING. This should protect you in case of legal action. Again, refer to your policy and attorney.


Social media is subject to the Open Records Act. You are responsible for being able to provide records if you receive a request. You will need to provide your content AND content created by others. The social media platform is not responsible for your records.

Having a public social media policy in place and by taking screenshots of any actions you take are the first steps that should assist you in the event of legal action. Again, ask your attoney.

There are vendors that monitor your social media. While their services may be a bit costly for your municipality, if you frequently use social media it may be worthwhile to check them out.

So, as the old saying goes, it is better to be safe than sorry. Legal action can be costly. Follow your guidelines as best you can.

If you need a start for writing your municipality's social media policy DOWNLOAD THIS SOCIAL MEDIA STARTER TEMPLATE. As always, review any policy with your municipal attorney.