A Brief Overview of Social Media Use Guidelines for Government Organizations

Bikram K. Singh
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satyamev jayate

After facing severe criticisms, becoming butt of all political jokes, defaced by series of ridicules, and its failed attempts to ban social media websites, government of India awoke to the opportunities, challenges, and threats presented by social media and decided to be a part of it.

To effectively utilize his medium,Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DEIT), Government of India has released a 38-page long social media usage guidelines for Government Organizations  titled, "Framework & Guidelines for Use of Social Media for Government Organisations".

All government organizations need to adhere to it when participating in the social sphere on the web.

The report has been professionally done and it covers all aspects of social media as far as participation goes -- from definition to types to social media to implication to law. In the report, DEIT has laid out the foundation for social media participation of various government organisations and has explained why participation is needed and how can government departments make the best use of it.

In this article, I am going to talk, in brief, about the important aspects of the report, but before that I would give you a physical overview of the report.

It consists of 5 sections and 4 annexure, which contain information on every aspect of social media participation – from social media definition to target audience to guidelines to international experience.

Key points of the report

The real meat, which will set the tone and mood of social media participation by various government agencies, is in the section 5.1 that contains guidelines for using social media by government organizations.

It begins with, like any corporate organization loves to do, setting an objective for the social media participation, which for the government could be one or more of the following:

  1. Seeking feedback from citizens
  2. Re-pronouncement of Public Policy
  3. Issue based as well as Generic interaction
  4. Brand Building or Public Relations
  5. Generating Awareness and education on National Action Plans and implementation strategies

The document argues with the departments to keep in mind the use of proper language both in terms of vocabulary and grammar, and tone of voice.

DEIT has shown some maturity in defining various social media platforms.

Unlike many corporate organizations, it has directed the attention of government organizations towards the whole gamut of social media – from social networking websites like Facebook and twitter to social bookmarking sites like Stumble Upon and Digg to publishing platforms like YouTube and Picasa to transaction based websites like Amazon and eBay to blogs and microblogs (the details of which has been provided in Annexure 1).

Asking the departments to be judicious in its choice of social media platforms, DEIT has issued the following guidelines to assist various departments in choosing appropriate social media platforms:

  1. Duration of engagement - whether the engagement sought is to be an ongoing activity or created for a specific time-bound purpose
  2. Type of Consultation – whether the consultation is open to public or confined to a particular group of stakeholders e.g. experts
  3. Scope of Engagement – whether the consultation requires daily, weekly, bi-weekly or even hourly interaction
  4. Existing Laws – whether existing laws permit use of such platforms and the requirement under such laws regarding data protection, security, privacy, archiving etc.

When creating the document, DEIT has recognized that because of the nature of social media (24X7 engagement), many existing media engagement rules do not apply here. The document realizes the demand for instant gratification and viral characteristics of the media.

DEIT has also set a proper set of guidelines for social media account, resource, content, and data and security governances. You can find the details of the social media guidelines in the document attached here.

DEIT has created a comprehensive document to help government ministries, various departments, and agencies to use social media in a meaningful way without getting caught into unwanted situations on the web.

social media ploicy social media guidelines Guidelines for Government Organizations Department of Electronics and Information Technology DEIT