Monday, October 10, 2011

City of Guelph Social Media Guidelines

The City of Guelph Communications Department has just released a report on guidelines for City Councillors using Social Media. Ward 2 Councillor Ian Findlay has posted the entire report on his blog Ward 2 Guelph: The Deuce.

I've often used the City of Guelph official Twitter account, as well as the account of the only Councillor we have actively using Twitter, Cam Guthrie as examples of how much our online community thrives. Not only does the city engage its followers, it answers questions and responds to comments from the average citizen. I believe this is a huge step towards engaging voters as more non-voters see that their voice is heard.

I also believe it moves the public discourse of council meetings to where more people are paying attention, away from televised meetings and towards an online presence.

I'll be honest, when I saw the headline and the subject of the blog post I was truly worried that the City was about to clamp down control on what people in political office and public service were allowed to do with their accounts.

I'm happy to report that doesn't seem to be what the report is saying at all. They've created a 5 point strategic plan and they really get it as you can read from how they've described social media in this quote from the report:

Social media in the public sector is about participating in conversations with constituents and other stakeholders, and engaging audiences in an authentic way to provide helpful information and build relationships which, in turn, help achieve organizational and community goals.

Not only that, they understand that there is no control over what public officials do online and in fact state that this report is not a "how-to" and that this is merely a suggestion.

And some pretty good suggestions they make.

1) Listen
2) Engage
3) Enable
4) Share
5) Participate

Perhaps my favorite part of this report and the part I think all local businesses need to pay close attention to is in the fifth point, Participate. So many businesses are crippled with fear about what they are putting "out there". So each status, tweet and comment go through levels of administration before getting published. The line from the report reads, "If you think a post or comment could compromise your professional integrity or that of the City, check with someone who has some distance from the issue. "

So, instead of each post going through layers of admin put it through one filter, an outsider. And that's only the post that you feel may cross a line. Otherwise, just put it out there.

The reality is your employees are representing your company every day they go about their lives and you trust them to wear your branded logos so why not trust them to do the same online?

Basically their report comes down to Be Authentic and Think Before Posting. That's a great strategy for any business!


  1. Well said Candice.
    Truly a step forward for the City of Guelph in engaging with our community.

  2. The guidelines are a great start, but are they being implemented on the city's own social media profiles? I was highly impressed with the late-night tweet from the city regarding the E. coli rumours (!/cityofguelph/statuses/126833637835542528), but haven't been so impressed in the past.

    After criticizing the construction on Stone Rd., the city Twitter account engaged with me, until I continued questioning the reasoning behind the construction and they simply stopped responding to me. How is that engaging with the community?

  3. That's an interesting point Dawn. I've never personally brought up a grievance and had the City twitter account engage with me on it.

    Maybe they need to have a policy for once things become outside of the scope of Twitter. Instead of not responding anymore a DM with the name of someone to contact offline, or asking for your contact to have a larger conversation about it.