by Kevin Hughes
Hertfordshire County Council has had an open social media policy since early 2010 – around about the same time the communications team began tentatively dipping its toes in the then unknown waters of the corporate Twitter and Facebook accounts.
Two years on and whether it’s spreading safe cooking tips through our fire investigation labrador’s personal Facebook page or something completely different, we’re finding new and exciting ways of engaging with our ever-expanding online communities all the time.
As for staff using social media from the comfort of their desk, well not much has happened – nothing bad anyway.
Our approach is to continue to trust people to follow existing HR and IT policies and procedures, on the understanding that while the channels of communication available to us have changed, the behaviour expected of staff hasn’t.
Staff use of the web is monitored and we have processes in place if this trust is abused. If we do have an issue we’ll deal with it just as we would have pre-social media and learn from our mistakes.
An outright ban on using social media at work would feel at odds with our strategic direction and organisational values of openness and innovation.
We recognise that digital engagement through social media has a key part to play in our localism strategy. Our leader blogs regularly and many councillors are using Twitter and Facebook to connect with communities – a trend that will only continue to grow over the next few years.
Other council services such as libraries, archives, fostering and Youth Connexions are also following suit, each managing their own accounts. Even CC, the aforementioned fire and rescue investigation dog, posts his movements and important fire safety advice all by himself (we have photographic evidence)
We’re open about communicating our social media channels internally and encourage staff to engage with them – not least because they’re a great way of finding out what the council, their employer, is up to.
In February we held a 24 hour tweetathon to demonstrate how far we make people’s council tax go. Staff were able to follow real-time updates and contribute through their own account using the #hcc24 hashtag, or by telling the comms team who tweeted on their behalf. Many did and it was a great way of showing how social media can be used to highlight the important work we do every day.
While Hertfordshire is among the minority of councils that have opened up access to social media for staff, nothing we have done feels particularly groundbreaking.
Staff who feel trusted and respected are less likely do something that would compromise this and more likely to become advocates for the organisation – and in social media we have a free channel of engagement through which to reap the benefits.
by Kevin Hughes