Social Media Policy for Employees

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
kfarley@knoxvilletn.gov
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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CITY OF KNOXVILLE SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY

Found in Administrative Rules General Provisions 1.18


NOTE: This policy sets guidelines for official use of social media by City of Knoxville departments and personnel. It does not address private use of social media by City of Knoxville employees. Individual departments may establish their own further guidelines for personal social media use by employees.

GENERAL GUIDELINES

Social media can provide quick, effective means of communication with the general public about City of Knoxville services, events and projects. Social media platforms can include but are not limited to: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine and Pinterest. City of Knoxville departments and offices that wish to create their own social media accounts for purposes of public communication are allowed to do so, as long as they adhere to the guidelines set forth below.

A. WEBSITE AS PRIMARY OUTLET

The City of Knoxville’s primary online presence is the official City of Knoxville website, www.knoxvilletn.gov. Unlike third-party social media platforms, the website is owned and controlled by the City of Knoxville. As much as possible, social media posts and pages should refer and link to information on the website. Social media should be thought of as auxiliary communications outlets branching off of the website, rather than as separate, stand-alone platforms. 

B. CONTENT

Employees representing the City through social media outlets or participating in social media features on City websites must maintain a high level of ethical conduct and professional decorum. Failure to do so is grounds for revoking the privilege to participate in City social media sites, blogs, or other social media features.

Employees should remember that content and messages posted on City social media platforms are public and may be perceived and cited as official City statements by the media or the general public.

Where practical, City social media platforms should visibly display the City of Knoxville logo, the 311 logo and a link to the City of Knoxville website (knoxvilletn.gov).

Any available filters for profanity and offensive language should be enabled for any City of Knoxville social media account.

Content of all social media posts should be:

Accurate – Verify the spellings of names and places, the dates, times and locations of events, and the functionality of any hyperlinks included in the post;

•  Grammatically correct – Use proper sentence structure, punctuation and capitalization, to the extent possible. Abbreviations and shortcuts are OK in Twitter, which has a strict character limit, but make sure your meaning is clear;

•  Professional – Social media encourages a conversational tone, which can be helpful in presenting information in a friendly and accessible way. But there is a balance to strike in maintaining professional credibility. Remember you are speaking not only for yourself, but for the City as a whole;

•  Civil – Do not engage in arguments or hostile exchanges through social media. It is fine to answer questions to the best of your ability, but don’t get drawn into combative dialogue with people who just want to vent or sling insults. You can always end an exchange by referring people to 311 for more information or to file a complaint;

•  Concise – Even on social media platforms without a mandatory character limit, social media posts should be as short as possible. A few sentences or a few short paragraphs with links to supporting material should suffice in most cases.

C. FREQUENCY

Social media is only effective if used with some regularity. Although posting frequency may vary depending on the specific needs of the department or office, in general social media should be used on at least a weekly basis. If you do not generate enough material to post weekly, then you probably don’t need a social media platform. Instead, you can forward information to be posted on the website and on our primary social media (the City of Knoxville Facebook page, the Mayor’s Facebook page, etc.).

D. ADMINISTRATIVE AUTHORITY

All City of Knoxville social media platforms should be approved in advance by the Director of Communications, and will be subject to annual review.

In addition to the primary operators of the social media platform, members of the Communications Department should be designated as administrators of any City of Knoxville social media accounts. This should include the Communications Director and City webmaster. This provides backup in case information needs to be updated, amended or deleted at a time when the primary operators are unavailable. Members of the Communications Department will step in only on an emergency basis or as requested by the primary administrators or by the Mayor. Our intent is to provide as much freedom as possible to the primary administrators, but repeated violations of this policy by any City employee could lead to suspension of administrative privileges for the relevant social media accounts.

E. RETENTION AND ARCHIVING OF MATERIAL

Material posted to City of Knoxville social media accounts are considered public record. All of our social media posts, comments and interactions will be archived for easy access and reference. Social media records will be subject to the same rules and restrictions as all other public records.

F. PUBLIC COMMENT AND TERMS OF SERVICE

Public interaction is an important component of effective social media, but it needs to be monitored. On Facebook pages or any other platform where comment is allowed, the following Terms of Service must be posted:

“This is a City of Knoxville social media platform. Please be civil and respectful in any comments, questions or interactions with other commenters. Comments will be deleted for use of profanity, obscenity, racial or cultural slurs, threatening language, sexual content, or harassment. Promotions of commercial enterprises or any other spam text will also be deleted, as will personal identifying information published without the subject’s consent.

City of Knoxville social media sites are subject to applicable public records laws. Any content maintained in a social media format related to City business, including communication posted by City representatives and communication received from citizens, is a public record.”

Any offensive comments should be flagged and referred to the Director of Communications for review and possible action, up to and including deletion.