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Implementing social media in the public sector


To tweet or not to tweet? That is the question.

For many in the public sector, the latter seems most prevalent. Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat, the leaders in social media somehow remain foreign to many in government.

However, if the addition of one super-secret spy agency to the most public network in the world is any indication of where the public sector is moving, it looks like social is the new norm.

Canada’s main spy agency, Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) joined Twitter last week, with one of the best first tweets in recent history.

“Yes, we’re on Twitter. Now it’s your turn to follow us.

“The Canadian Security Intelligence Service recognizes that a modern organization needs to communicate using modern means. A key element of the organization’s vision is to communicate our role to Canadians, so they may attain a better understanding of CSIS,” said CSIS Direcrtor Michel Coulombe in a statement.

With social media, the public sector has a great opportunity to reach a large number of people with just the click of a button. And now with CSIS joining the millions of people and organizations (both public and private) using social media, we figured it was time to offer some tips and best practices going forward.

Think before you tweet

You are representing a public entity, what you say, tweet or post is forever public. As a representative of the government, you must act accordingly.

Be proud of your work

From new research to ongoing campaigns, social media is a great and inexpensive resource for getting feedback as well as a way to promote some of the amazing work your organization is doing.

Keep the public informed

From news to information about upcoming events, health and safety updates and even fiscal tips, utilizing social media as another communication tool is a great way to reach a large audience.

Connect with peers

Social media is not only a great way to connect with your direct audience, but also a way of finding new voices and starting conversations with people offering different perspectives that could help you going forward.

Training starts from the top

Implementing social media requires strong leadership and engagement by senior managers. From creating policies, protecting organizational assets to training, everyone must understand how the organization wants to be portrayed online.

Clearly confidential

While working in government, a lot of what you do can be confidential to the general public. Understanding what you can and cannot discuss is extremely important when using social media.

Open and accountable

As more in the public sector try and promote open governance, utilizing social media is a great way to foster transparency, participation and collaboration.

Keep it clean

This may be self-explanatory, but remember to respect your audience. Don’t use questionable language or engage in conduct that would not be acceptable in own your workplace.

Is it time to share?

Before you ‘Like’, ‘Share’ or ‘Retweet’ something on social media, make sure it is something that wouldn’t look bad coming from a government representative.

Better safe than sorry

Intellectual property and personal information are prime targets for hackers. A breach can affect an organization’s reputation and public confidence overnight. Make sure to take steps to prevent your social accounts from being hacked (firewalls, passcodes, etc.)

Time is of the essence

Be timely and responsive to a quickly changing digital landscape affected by a 24-7 news cycle. However, make sure to take the time to get to know your audience and their needs then create the content that they need.

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Michael Sutherland-Shaw

Michael Sutherland-Shaw

Marketing Communications Specialist at FreeBalance
Michael works in the marketing and communications department following a career in journalism. Michael is currently learning Ruby on Rails and loves discovering new music.

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