Social Media Resource Center
Determine What You Want to Accomplish by Creating a Social Media Account
There are several different platforms, all best utilized for different purposes with their own set of followers. It’s important to identify your purpose before you can move on to the next step. Possible reasons for creating a social media account or multiple accounts:
- Disseminate information about events and town news, similar to a bulletin board;
- Create a public forum and encourage discussion;
- Creating a way for citizens to ask questions or contact the municipality with questions and feedback;
- Increase local tourism.
Determine Your Audience
Who are you trying to reach? Different platforms are primarily followed by different demographics, and these demographics are constantly changing.
- Determine what type of information you will be posting; different platforms are better suited for reaching different goals.
- Explore the platforms available and choose the one(s) that you feel will work best for accomplishing your goals, as well as contacting your target audience(s).
Create a Social Media Policy
Create a social media policy to formalize what type of information will be posted, who will be responsible for managing the site and other guidelines that you feel may be important.
Promote the Existence of Your Account
Once an account is created, don’t forget to tell people about it. Too often an account is created and that’s the end of it. You need to let residents know that the account exists and where to find it. If no one is following you, you have accomplished nothing in increasing the audience of your messages. Possible ways to promote your accounts:
- Add social media buttons to your website.
- Include social media information in staff email signatures.
- Include social media information in mailings and on printed flyers.
- Post social media information on town hall bulletin boards.
- Advertise your accounts at town events.
- Tell your municipal departments about the account(s) and ask them to include this information in their mailings, email signature lines, at events and on their bulletin boards.
- Use hashtags.
- Embed your social media feed into your website’s homepage.
- Add share buttons to the bottom of press releases posted on your website. This allows readers to easily share your news on their individual feeds, further increasing your reach and building your account’s followers.
Format Posts to Best Fit each Platform’s Individual Standards
For example, on Facebook you may include information for an event in paragraph form, but Twitter limits you to 140 characters. Do not post the information the same way across platforms; personalize the message for each platform so that it best fits with that platform’s format.
Keep it Short
If your post is too long, people will be less likely to read it. Provide the basics and link to the information on your website where you can provide more details.
Hashtags define a keyword or topic of interest, and users may search by hashtag to find posts related to a topic. Using hashtags can increase the number of people viewing your posts. Hashtags are a popular way to search for hot topics. Be sure to look for existing hashtags that are already being used on social media before creating a new one.
Keep Promoting the Existence of Your Account
Continue to promote your account so that continue to gain new followers.
Use Images, Infographics & Videos
Use images to grab attention. Infographics are great for posting longer and more detailed messages. Videos are another great option, but be sure to include subtitles so that the videos are ADA compliant. Also, currently there is a trend for users to watch the videos in their feed with the sound off.
Utilize a Service that Links Multiple Accounts on 1 Dashboard
There are online services available to help manage multiple accounts and schedule posts from one dashboard. Some companies offer this service for free and some are paid. Do your research to see which works best for you.
Shorten website links using a service such as bitly.com.
Social Media Platforms Popular with Local Government Agencies
- Twitter: Sharing text, photos and videos; posts are limited to 140 characters.
- Facebook: An online community where users may share posts and follow the posts of others. Users may share text, photos and videos.
- LinkedIn: Typically more of a professional platform, users are able to share any kind of information, text, photos and videos. Good way for recruiting new employees.
- Instagram: A platform for sharing photos; great for tourism.
- You Tube: Platform for sharing videos.
- Nextdoor: A social network for connecting with a local community.
Resources on the Web
- Government Web Professionals of NJ: Resources
Morris County's policies for social media commenting and website.
- Building Local Government Social Media Policies (PDF)
Discussion of considerations for creating a policy; published by the National League of Cities.
- Twitter Glossary of Terms, Twitter
- Getting Start With Twitter, Twitter
- 3 Ways to Use LinkedIn for Government, Government Technology
- YouTube for Government, YouTube
- LinkedIn for Government, LinkedIn
- Best Practices for Organizations using Flickr, Flickr
This information has been generalized to provide a background on a topic that remains unclear in today’s legal arena. This is not legal advice. Please seek the counsel of your attorney for interpretation on specific situations in your municipality.
Deleting Comments Made on Your Social Media Page
Can you delete comments made on your social media page? The short answer, it depends. A full analysis of this question requires wading into the deep and murky waters of Constitutional law, and then further muddying those waters by attempting to apply case law from the civil-rights era to the new and mostly un-litigated area of social media.
The analysis of whether a social media comment can be deleted should begin with asking the question – Is my municipal social media site government speech or is it a limited public forum? Legal theory supports the idea that a government is free to have its own voice and as such does not necessarily need to provide a soapbox for a viewpoint counter to their own. However, government is not free to limit speech (delete social media comment) when that speech occurs in a public forum or a limited public forum.
If your municipality uses social media to engage in public discussion and discourse than those platforms could very likely be considered a public forum or limited public forum and you would be restricted from deleting or limiting comments. If a public forum or limited public forum further analysis would need to be done to determine what restrictions on speech can be made.
In any case it is permissible and certainly good practice to establish rules of decorum and a policy which clearly outlines the rules and limitations on allowable comments. This kind of policy serves two purposes. First, it allows you to define the purpose and scope of your social media usage and could protect your social media sites from becoming a de facto public forum. Second, it puts potential commenters on notice that if their comments violate the established rules, then those comments will be deleted.
While the discussion above addresses the Constitutional issues surrounding the deletion or limiting of public comments there are other legal consideration. Chief among these other legal considerations is concerns with OPRA and record retention requirements. These issues must also be considered anytime a social media post whether made by your staff or a public commenter is considered for deletion.
Social Media Subject to OPRA & Record Retention Requirements
Posts and comments on social media are like any other public record and unless they fit into one of the few narrow exceptions they are subject to the Open Public Records Act (“OPRA”). More importantly, posts and comments on social media are subject to State record retention laws. This includes posts which may have been deleted due to a violation of commenting policies. Because of this, great care should be taken to ensure that all social media posts are maintained according to the proper record retention schedule.
The NJ Division of Revenue and Enterprise Services, Records Management Services has created a PowerPoint presentation on record retention in general and talks in greater detail about how social media plays into this. You can view this PowerPoint (PDF) (please note that clicking will automatically download the PowerPoint).
Social Media Policy
It is vital that your municipality creates a social media policy. A clear and comprehensive social media policy helps both the public and government employees understand how your social media sites are used and can help to avoid any future complications.
Building Local Government Social Media Policies
Created by the National League of Cities, a comprehensive guide (PDF) for creating a policy specific to local government.
Connect with the League
Follow the League on social media to stay current with League information and events. We also share information and articles of interest to the State of New Jersey and local government. Follow us during Conference week using #njleague, all year for seminar announcements using #njlm and for NJ Municipalities magazine updates using #njmunicipalities.
Social Media Posts for Sharing on Hot Topics in New Jersey
The League has created sample postings for units of local government to share. You may copy and paste directly into a post on your social media feeds to help promote information on hot topics effecting New Jersey.