Social networking in government serves two primary functions: to communicate and deliver messages directly to the public and to encourage public involvement, interaction, and feedback. Information which is distributed via social networking must be accurate, consistent, and timely and meet the information needs of the Olmsted County’s intended audience. Social media is used for social networking, and this policy seeks to ensure proper administration of the Olmsted County’s social media sites.
The county has limited control of social media accounts with third parties (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, etc.). At the same time, there is a general expectation by the public that the county should have a social media presence by which to share information about current county projects and business. The county’s social media accounts should be used to enhance communication, collaboration and information exchange, and foster productivity. It is not the purpose of the county’s social media accounts to be a medium where the official business of the county is carried out.
Olmsted County wishes to establish a positive and informative social media presence. County representatives have the responsibility to use the county’s social media resources in an efficient, effective, ethical, and lawful manner pursuant to all existing county policies.
Olmsted County will determine, at its discretion, how its social media resources will be designed, implemented, and managed as part of its overall communication and information sharing strategy. This strategy utilizes a combination of traditional methods and social media channels, which provide various tools to distribute information across multiple outlets to the broadest audience.
Olmsted County social media accounts are considered a county asset and administrator access to these accounts will be securely administered in accordance with the county’s Acceptable Use of Technology Policy. The county reserves the right to terminate any of its social media sites or accounts for any reason without notice.
All social media accounts created and utilized during the course and scope of an employee’s performance of his/her job duties will be identified as belonging to the county. Olmsted County does not create or maintain social media accounts for its elected officials. Elected officials are responsible for the content placed on their personal and/or candidate social media accounts.
Olmsted county social media communication should remain professional in nature and should always be conducted in accordance with the following goals:
- To increase awareness about the county and the services provided through coordinated social media campaigns.
- To cultivate Olmsted County’s brand in order to better establish an identity which supports the goals of the county.
- To maintain open, professional and responsive public communications with members of the public and the news media.
- To improve trust with the community and increase the consistency of key messages through engagement and collaboration.
The expectations of professional use of Olmsted County’s social media are listed below:
County social media managers are responsible for managing county social media accounts.
- Programs, facilities or departments wishing to have a new social media presence must initially submit a request to Olmsted County Policy, Analysis and Communications (contact: PACSupport at PACSupport@co.olmsted.mn.us) in order to ensure social media accounts are kept to a sustainable number and applicable policies are followed. All approved sites will demonstrate a business need and must be clearly marked as an Olmsted County social media site and must be linked with the official county website (www.olmstedcounty.com). No county employee may establish social media accounts on behalf of the county unless authorized in accordance with this policy.
- All county social media pages must conspicuously display or link to a public notice that informs the public of the purpose of the social media presence and the terms users agree to in accessing, using, or posting to the county’s social media pages.
- Administration of all county social media sites will comply with applicable laws, regulations, and policies as well as proper business etiquette.
County social media accounts covered by this policy will not be used by social media managers:
- for personal use, or
- to express personal views on issues which do not involve official county business, or
- to express personal views or concerns pertaining to county personnel matters.
- No county social media account may be used by the county or any social media manager to disclose County private, confidential, non-public, or protected non-public information as defined as defined by state or federal law.
- Outside of emergency situations where other communications alternatives are unavailable, no county social media account should be used to carry out official county business. In the event a user initiates a request, application, or question through social media that affects county business or requires another county policy or process to be followed, responsible employees should follow up with that user by phone, email, or other channels. If comments are allowed, in the event of a question of general interest, a response may be given in the comments section of the post, the initial post may be edited, or a subsequent post may be created to include the information.
Olmsted County’s social media managers will not edit any posted comments. However, comments posted by members of the public may be removed if they fall into at least one of the following categories:
- Content that promotes, fosters or perpetuates discrimination on the basis of Race, Color, Creed, Religion, National Origin, Sex, Marital Status, Familial Status, Disability, Public Assistance Status, Age, Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Local Human Rights Commission Activity
- Violent, obscene, or profane comments
- Pornographic content
- Comments that suggest or encourage illegal activity
- Comments that threaten or harm the reputation of any person or organization
- Material which clearly appears to violate the intellectual property rights of another person
- Private, personal information about a person published without his/her consent
- Information that compromises a County law enforcement or building security system
- Private, confidential, non-public or protected non-public data as defined by state or federal law
- Material intended to promote sale or distribution of products or services not offered by the county or spam of any kind
- Information that is deceptive or misleading
- Comments intended to cause public panic or falsely claim the deployment of emergency services
- Hyperlinks to material that falls into one or more of the foregoing categories
- A member of the public whose comment is removed may appeal the removal of the comment and seek reconsideration of its removal by contacting the county in writing and explain why the comment does not fall into one of the categories for removal. A written response to the appeal should be provided as soon as reasonably possible.
- A member of the public who claims any portion of this policy is illegal may dispute the particular portion in writing. The county should acknowledge the claim promptly and, following consultation with the County Attorney, respond to the claim as soon as reasonably possible.
County employees are encouraged to communicate in the following professional manner:
- Speak respectfully about the county and its current and potential elected officials, employees, customers, residents, contractors and business associates. Do not engage in behavior that reflects negatively on the county’s reputation. The use of copyright materials, unfounded or derogatory statements, misrepresentation or other violations of this policy are not viewed favorably by Olmsted County and can result in disciplinary actions up to and including employee termination.
- Write knowledgeably, accurately and using appropriate professionalism. The personal use of social media by county employees can result in members of the public forming opinions about the county and its officials, employees and business associates. County employees should consider potential risks and repercussions for any social media activity that may impact the county’s image.
- Honor the privacy rights of county officials, employees and others by seeking permission before writing about or displaying internal county operations that might be considered to be a breach of privacy or confidentiality.
- Refrain from sharing content that could potentially be considered offensive or inappropriate. Consider all forms of social media free and open to the public, regardless of privacy settings. County employees should consider their personal reputation, and the reputation of the county by extension, to be attached to everything written on their social media sites. There are no truly anonymous postings to social media since each of the county computers has a unique IP address identifying its county employee user.
- Employees are reminded that comments about county business made outside of work hours using personal devices are not private conversations and may be open to public access. Therefore, employees are cautioned that such comments made outside of work hours using personal devices which violate any of the County’s policies can result in disciplinary actions up to and including employee termination.
Associated Laws and Regulations
All content of the county’s social media sites is public and is subject to disclosure pursuant to the applicable requirements of the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.
Authority, Roles, and Responsibilities
This policy applies to any existing or proposed social media accounts sponsored, established, registered, or authorized by Olmsted County. The county’s social media accounts are exclusively those listed on the county’s social media library.
The county does not create, collect, disseminate, or regulate use of any other social media accounts, including the personal accounts of its elected officials and staff.
Internet-based resources that integrate user-generated content and user participation to share information and experiences across a large platform. This includes, but is not limited to, social networking sites and mobile apps, microblogging sites, photo-based and video-sharing sites, wikis, blogs, news sites and internet-based messaging sites.
Olmsted County Social Media
Media bearing the official title of any Olmsted County department, division, organization, as such is bound by this policy.
Social Media Administrator
This is the role of members from the Policy, Analysis, and Communications team who provide oversight of various department social media channels to maintain the county’s voice and ensure consistency in messaging. This role is also responsible for managing the county’s brand as it relates to social media.
Social Media Manager
A county employee with administrator access, who has been appointed duties to post/manage digital content -on the county’s behalf- on any county social media channel.
Policy Review Committee Review: November 2020
Olmsted County Executive Management Team Approved: December 4, 2020