Social media plays an important part in our daily lives. Whether looking to see what friends are up to or reaching out for support, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and similar platforms provide a valuable tool for connection. We rely on social media in much the same way previous generations used water cooler talk. We catch up, we relate, we build our network.
Although there are a lot of similarities to that water cooler talk method of connection, there are some notable differences. Social media comes with a potential for explosive sharing that was not present in previous generations. This, combined with the fact that certain professions put us into the spotlight, can result in conflict.
Those who work in government may find the public takes a new level of interest in their private lives. Does this mean that anyone who takes a government job needs to give up social media? Not exactly. But it is important to do so wisely.
Tips for wise personal use of social media
There is likely a social media policy in place for personal social media use. Review this policy to make sure your use is in line with these expectations. The usual rules generally hold true: make sure to check security settings and do not post anything that from or about work. Also, do not make postings that sound as if you are speaking for your place of employment.
It is also generally a good idea to avoid any comments or posts that are political.
Tips for agency use
Local government agencies may also consider use of social media to help engage with the community. The century old National Park Service has done so and reinvented its image using social media. The agency has chosen to post witty messages on various social media platforms to get their messages across, and its working. Instead of chastising those who try to approach bison at national parks like Yellowstone, the site put out a warning to “avoid petting the fluffy cows.” To encourage bear safety while hiking, the agency reminded hikers to stop using salmon scented body wash. The agency reaches millions of followers and is getting their message out to the public.
Agencies looking to make a similar impact are wise to review existing policies before moving forward. The Department of the Interior provides a good example. A bit of due diligence before moving forward can help to better ensure use of social media is not just safe, but beneficial.