COUNCILLORS have approved new guidance on the use of social media by elected representatives of the local authority.

At last Wednesday's full council meeting councillors approved the item on 'ICT Proposal and Protocol on Guidance and use of Social Media for Elected Members'.

The document had previously been recommended to council for approval by cabinet members.

Under the members' ICT protocol, elected representatives are offered a tablet computer and a Smartphone to conduct council business.

A council report states: "Whilst it is recognised that social media can provide opportunities for the council to engage with citizens, the use of social media also presents the council and elected members with certain risks and challenges and can potentially result in breaches of the Council’s Code of Conduct for Elected and Co-Opted Members".

It adds: "A breach of the Code of Conduct may occur if an elected member fails to comply with the Members’ ICT Protocol. Depending on the circumstances, an alleged breach of the Council’s Code of Conduct may be considered by the Standards Committee".

The guidance includes a list of do's and don'ts for councillors to adhere to in their use of social media.

These include:


- Talk to residents, staff and others. And do answer their questions (quickly and honestly)

- Be responsible at all times

- Be respectful at all times, too

- Innovate – different approaches work for different people

- Have a personality – corporate speak or just issuing press releases won't work well on social media

- Share other people's helpful content and links

- Credit other people's work, ideas and links Listen (social media is designed to be a two-way channel, just like any good conversation)

- Ask your own questions.

- Seek feedback from your residents (but make sure you share the results with them)

- Learn from others – there is rich learning of good practice social media use across local government via organisations such as the LGA.

- And more than anything, do use social media in the spirit in which it is intended – to engage, openly and honestly


- Talk at people.

- Try to cover up mistakes, be honest and you will get more respect for it in the long run

- Build accounts and just hope people will participate – sometimes it is best to go to the places where your audiences are already having conversations

- Assume that social media will look after itself – you will need to invest time, enthusiasm and energy to make it work.

- And don't leave your accounts unattended for long spells

- Post inappropriate comments or tweets

- Post content which will embarrass your council or yourself

- Engage in protracted debates that could be perceived as inflaming sensitive council business.

- Know when to stop posting comments or tweeting etc

- Ignore legal advice, it is there to help you

- Think that a disclaimer in your bio will save you from potential legal action, it won't

- Share your passwords

- Forget that social media is 24/7 – just because you leave at 5pm doesn't mean the world stops or that residents won't be active