Something I often mention in training is the hill I’m prepareds to die on is the need for social media house rules.
In short, this sets out what you’ll do for people and what you expect from people in return.
So, set out how fast you’ll respond and the hours you’ll monitor, for example.
But it’s setting out what you expect of people tyhat’s the really useful reason for having a set of house rules. The internet is only the Wild West if you allow it to be.
The pub example
There was a pub in Tipton in the Black Country in the 1990s that was proving hard to run. Landlords would last a few months before they quit. When a lesbian couple walked through to door to take it over there was raised eyebrows. When they introduced a ‘no swearing’ policy it was a gamechanger. Don’t behave? There’s the door. The pub ended up as winning the CAMRA best pub award within two years.
There’s a lot of similar things that good social media house rules have. No swearing is one. Don’t put up with it.
I’ve gathered together a few examples that caught my eye with some interesting approaches.
Glasgow City Council – the gold standard
This is the gold standard, the Rolls Royce, the ‘Sergeant Pepper’ of the genre. I spent 20 minutes once trying to pick a hole in them and failed. They’re particularly useful in the ability to show a red card to persistent offenders.
“We will remove messages and/or disable comments (where function allows) including reporting and/or blocking users on our social media channels who post messages at us which we believe are:
- Abusive or obscene
- Deceptive or misleading
- In violation of any intellectual property rights, including copyright
- In violation of any law or regulation
- Spam and off-topic content (persistent negative and/or abusive posts in which the aim is to provoke a response)
- Promotional material, including links to external websites and promotions
Anyone repeatedly engaging with us using content or language which falls into the above categories will be blocked and/or reported to the associated social media platform. We will not tolerate or respond to abusive messages.”
There’s nothing in that list that’s unreasonable.
To can see the full thing here: https://www.glasgow.gov.uk/houserules
Government Digital Service – sets out what they’ll do for you, too
Over the years, GDS has done some really good work in the field of government web. Their social media rules are a useful contribution to the genre.
Their responding to users notes are good:
“We’ll do our best to respond to your enquiries within two working days, but in most cases it will be within a few hours.
We’ll try to help you, or direct you to people and/or departments who can, wherever possible.
Our working hours are 9.00 – 17.00 Monday to Friday. We’ll deal with enquiries sent outside of this time as soon as possible when working hours resume.”
The rules only mention Twitter. Fine if that’s all you have. If you have more you may want to be clear that the rules cover ALL social media.
To see the full thing: https://gds.blog.gov.uk/social-media-house-rules/
Stroke Association – for approachable language
I love the language here. The same ground is covered as others but it’s a lot less harsh and a lot more personable. They start their rules in a cheery fashion:
“We love hearing from you across the social media platforms that we use. To ensure that everyone has a positive, informative and safe experience, here are a few house rules for being part of our online community.”
I also like the idea of gently encouraging users to flag-up issues.
To see the full thing here: https://www.stroke.org.uk/about-us/terms-and-conditions/social-media-house-rules
Renfrewshire Council – to remind people that they’re people too
Here, they also speak out against aggression aimed at staff. That’s a really important point to make.
“Please remember to be kind, members of our team are working hard to deal with your enquiries and will respond when they have an answer for you. Anyone who is repeatedly rude and/or aggressive to members of our team will be banned from commenting and posting on our channels.”
To see the full thing here: https://www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/socialmedia
Fife Council – to reminds people of what’s acceptable
Here, I like the way that Fife Council have linked to the unacceptable actions policy. That’s a document that sets out behaviours council staff won’t put up with. It makes sense to link the social media channels to those
To see the full thing here: https://www.fife.gov.uk/home/social-media-accounts/unacceptable-actions
Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust – that sets out an accessibility manifesto
Accessibility is added here to the list of the things the organisation promises to do, which thinking about it makes sense. Accessibility means making it understandable for everyone regardless if they have a disability or not.
“We aim to make our social media as accessible as possible for our communities, and there are a number of ways we do this:
- Adding image descriptions to photos on social platforms
- Using CamelCase in hashtags to ensure that screen readers interpret hashtags correctly
- Adding subtitles to videos.“
To see the full thing here: https://www.mse.nhs.uk/social-media-house-rules
McDonalds – for the noises off
As a big brand that’s seen some controversy in the past the Golden Arches’ house rules are especially interesting.
The usual ground is covered but so are some extra areas:
“Intentional interruption or disruption of discussion
· Links that direct people to irrelevant sites or adverts
· Spam or content that has no relevance to McDonald’s fans
· Repetitive content
· Content which infringes on copyright or intellectual property
· Deceptive or misleading content
· Corrupt or illegal content
· Commercial solicitation or requests for donations
· Content that is primarily aimed to discredit our community members, or our company, without reason.“
To see the full thing here:
To see the full thing: https://www.mcdonalds.com/gb/en-gb/terms-and-conditions/social-media-house-rules.html
Energy Saving Trust – for account names and profile pics
This charity covers the main ground but also has a good take on an extra niche that could be problematic. I can’t help but feel they’ve got experience of this.
“We will remove, block, ban and / or report any user to the associated social media platform who:
- repeatedly violates our house rules
- uses an offensive image as their profile picture
- has an offensive username”
To see the full thing: https://energysavingtrust.org.uk/about-us/social-media-house-rules/
Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust
Here they’re going after COVID deniers. That’s a useful step but I’d be tempted to update that to anyone who posts misinformation or disinformation.
“We will delete comments and block accounts spreading false information about Covid-19 or the Covid-19 vaccine.”
Lancashire Fire & Rescue – for a reminder to be politically neutral
Many organisations in the public sector have a politically neutral line. This is a really useful addition and I’m adding this fire and rescue example as it includes that and also because it sets out as web text really clearly what the message is:
“Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, as opposed to the governing Lancashire Combined Fire Authority, must be politically neutral in its communications. Please do not use any of our social media channels to promote party political messages or related content.”
To see the full thing: https://www.lancsfirerescue.org.uk/social-media-house-rules/
Hyde Housing – direct to make a complaint
When things go wrong, it may well wash up on social media.
There’s no point in having a too and fro in public if you can help it. But to do that you need proper customer service buy-in.
Here, Hyde Housing point people towards the webpage where people can complain. That’s useful. Don’rt expect everyone to go there first. But it’s handy to have that in the house rules to reach for:
“Keep to the point. Please keep comments relevant to the original topic. We are aware that sometimes things go wrong, but please don’t make repeated negative postings in order to provoke a response. You can find out about our complaints process on our web page.”
Social media house rules are one part of the ground covered in ESSENTIAL COMMS SKILLS BOOSTER workshops here.