Rescinded [2016-05-11] - Guideline on Official Use of Social Media

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About This Guideline

The Guideline on Official Use of Social Media provides departmental managers and functional specialists responsible for official social media accounts with guidance on implementing the Standard on Social Media Account Management (the Standard). This guideline is intended for the departments to which the provisions of the Standard apply (see Section 2 of the Standard). Other Government of Canada institutions are encouraged to follow the advice in this guideline, as appropriate.

This guideline was prepared by the Chief Information Officer Branch of the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat in consultation with departments. It supports the Government of Canada's Web Renewal Initiative and replaces those sections of the Guideline for External Use of Web 2.0 that relate to the use of social media for official purposes. For further information on this guideline, please visit the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat Contact Us page.

1. Introduction

The Communications Policy of the Government of Canada requires that government departments employ a variety of ways and means to communicate and provide information in multiple formats to accommodate diverse needs. It also supports the use of all means of communication, from traditional methods to new technologies, in order to reach and communicate with Canadians wherever they may reside. Accordingly, the Government of Canada encourages the use of social media in communicating and engaging with the public and in delivering services.

This guideline defines official use of social media and presents the key policy and legal requirements for departments to consider when using social media for official purposes. In particular, this document provides practical advice and tools related to the following:

  • Preparing a departmental social media strategy;
  • Developing social media implementation plans;
  • Assessing the risks of using third-party social media platforms, and developing a risk management plan;
  • Developing a performance measurement plan;
  • Requesting the creation, configuration and disposition of official accounts; and
  • Using the Government of Canada social media platform management tool.

Note: The advice provided in this guideline applies to official social media accounts on third-party, public-facing platforms. For advice on the use of internal-facing platforms, please consult the Guideline to Acceptable Use of Internal Wikis and Blogs Within the Government of Canada. Public-facing wikis, blogs and other social media platforms for which the Government of Canada is accountable need to be compliant with the web standards for the Government of Canada.

2. What Is Official Use of Social Media?

There are important differences between official use of social media and other types of use. The advice provided in this guideline applies to official use of social media only.

Official Use

Official use of social media refers to the use of an official social media account on behalf of the Government of Canada. Only those individuals who have been authorized to represent the Government of Canada can use official social media accounts. Uses can include publishing messages, uploading content (e.g., text, images, audio, video), and responding to communications.

An official social media account is an account on a social media platform that is used for official Government of Canada purposes such as communication, service delivery, collaboration and other purposes within the scope of a department's mandate, including as a designated spokesperson for the department.

Other Uses

While social media is also used for professional and personal reasons, these uses are not covered by this guideline.

Professional use refers to the use of a personal social media account for purposes related to professional activities, such as communicating with professional associations, professional networking (e.g., participating in an online conference), knowledge gathering and sharing (e.g., using Twitter to stay up-to-date on trends, visiting government Facebook pages), and career development (e.g., maintaining a LinkedIn profile).

Personal use refers to the use of a personal social media account for purposes unrelated to professional development or employment (e.g., blogging about gardening tips, sharing personal or family photos).

Note: For advice on professional and personal use, please consult the Guideline on Acceptable Network and Device Use (forthcoming).

3. Policy and Legal Considerations

In the federal government, various policy and legal requirements apply to the official use of social media. Meeting these requirements requires knowledge and understanding of relevant legislation and policies, proper planning, ongoing monitoring of the official social media account, and long-term evaluation and improvement.

In preparing for an official social media account, it is a good practice to consult with the appropriate departmental representatives in the following key areas to ensure that the necessary policy and legal requirements are met:

  • Accessibility;
  • Communications;
  • Federal Identity Program;
  • Information management;
  • Information technology security;
  • Legal services;
  • Official languages;
  • Privacy and access to information; and
  • Values and ethics.

When seeking advice, it is a good idea to provide information on the proposed use of the official account, the functionality of the platform and its terms of use.

Appendix A offers further guidance on the key policy and legal areas that apply to the official use of social media.

4. Implementing the Standard on Social Media Account Management

The objective of the Standard is to enable a strategic and coherent approach to the management of official Government of Canada social media accounts. The expected results are official social media accounts that are clearly identified as belonging to the Government of Canada; that are effectively managed within departments and government-wide; and that enhance opportunities for communication, collaboration and service delivery.

Subsection 6.1 of the Standard identifies the following responsibilities of departmental heads of communications or designates: See footnote 1

  • 6.1.1 Approving an overarching departmental social media strategy;
  • 6.1.2 Approving official social media accounts based on implementation plans, and overseeing the life cycle of official social media accounts, including planning, creation, configuration, implementation, evaluation and disposition;
  • 6.1.3 Providing submissions related to the creation, configuration and disposition of official social media accounts to the entity for review;
  • 6.1.4 Ensuring that departments use the Government of Canada social media platform management tool to manage official social media accounts as prescribed by the entity; and
  • 6.1.5 Ensuring that official social media accounts meet the layout and design specifications outlined in the Technical Specifications for Social Media Accounts.

This section of the guideline provides advice on implementing the Standard.

4.1 Departmental Social Media Strategy

A social media strategy provides the foundation for guiding the social media activities of a department. It explains how the official use of social media supports the departmental mandate and program objectives. It also provides the department with a clear rationale and intended outcomes for using social media platforms.

Without this strategic direction, a department may risk creating unsustainable and inadequately resourced efforts to maintain an effective social media presence. This can result in efforts that detract from the department's mandate and objectives, rather than promote them.

The head of communications or designate is responsible for approving the departmental social media strategy. It is recommended that this strategy be updated on an annual basis.

Key Elements of a Social Media Strategy

The recommended elements of a departmental social media strategy are:

  • Overview of the department's social media presence to date, if any, and the context in which it takes place from both an overall Government of Canada perspective and the perspective of the department.
  • Business value and objectives of engaging with Canadians on social media platforms and how these objectives relate to the departmental mandate. A clear articulation of this element will enable measurement of the strategy's success, once it is implemented.
  • Governance and resources allocated to official social media activities, including the identification of a departmental coordinator for official social media accounts. It is recommended that departments leverage existing resources and governance structures within the department, whenever possible. It is a good practice to have clear, succinct and well communicated governance processes so that everyone is aware of their respective responsibilities for official use of social media, and how decisions are made.
  • Strategic approach to using social media platforms in line with the department's mandate and objectives. Use of social media platforms is usually done on a priority basis, beginning with the most popular and effective platforms for the department's social media objectives and target audiences. In some cases, it is useful to identify the strategic direction and objectives for each major platform.
  • Criteria and tools to define and measure the strategy's success and the effectiveness of its approach to meeting the stated objectives.
  • How to integrate lessons learned and support continuous improvement.

Appendix B provides a sample template for developing and updating a social media strategy.

Note: Examples of existing departmental social media strategies and platform-based strategies are available on GCpedia's Social Media Account Management Resources page. It is recommended that departments continue sharing best practices for social media strategies on GCpedia and through other interdepartmental communities of practice.

4.2 Social Media Implementation Plans

Implementation plans are based on the departmental social media strategy. Their objective is to ensure that the key factors for properly establishing and managing official social media accounts are considered during the implementation process. The head of communications or designate approves the social media implementation plans as well as the accounts, based on those implementation plans.

A recommended practice is to prepare an implementation plan for each official social media account or related group of accounts, including the accounts that already exist. This is particularly important if the department has more than one account on the same platform (e.g., a corporate account and a program account). Each implementation plan articulates the proposed use of each official social media account.

It is a good idea to engage the departmental coordinator for official social media accounts during the development of the implementation plans and to review and update these plans regularly.

Key Elements of a Social Media Implementation Plan

The following presents the recommended elements of a social media implementation plan. Appendix C provides a sample template to use in developing an implementation plan.

a) Objectives and Business Drivers

This element outlines how the official social media account aligns with the departmental social media strategy, and articulates the rationale and the objectives that it aims to achieve. Important questions to answer in this section include the following:

  • How does this account support the departmental mandate and social media strategy?
  • What are the business drivers and objectives of this account?
  • What are the proposed uses of this account?
b) Choice of Platform

This element describes the key considerations in choosing a social media platform.

An important consideration is the target audience. A social media scan can help determine which platform is best suited to the target audience. The scan investigates who (target audience), what (message), where (which social media platform), when (when there is most activity) and why (strategic reasoning) people are engaging around subjects that are directly or indirectly related to the departmental mandate and objectives.

It is also useful to understand the features and functionality of the platform and how the target audience will use them.

Other important considerations in choosing a platform include:

  • Whether it is available in, and fully supports, both official languages;
  • What accessibility options and alternative means of accessing the platform are available;
  • What terms of use apply, and whether there are any policy or legal compliance issues (discussed in Section 3 of this guideline).
c) Allocation of Resources

This element identifies the human and financial resources that will be assigned to manage the official social media account according to its planned use. It is a good practice to include resources for training staff on the official use of social media and the platform, and for ensuring knowledge transfer and continuity as technology changes.

d) Delineation of Roles and Responsibilities

This element identifies the roles and responsibilities of those who will be involved in using and managing the official social media account. Rather than identifying specific individuals, it is useful to identify the departmental areas responsible for the key functions such as drafting, translating, approving and publishing content; administering and monitoring the account; and managing account issues, should they arise.

e) Risk Management Plan

This element involves identifying and assessing the risks associated with the proposed use of the official social media account in relation to the departmental mandate. It also involves identifying strategies to manage those risks.

In accordance with the Government of Canada's Framework for the Management of Risk and Guide to Integrated Risk Management, there are numerous tools and techniques for departments to identify, analyze and mitigate risks, depending on the context. Departments are encouraged to design the risk management process and tools that are appropriate for their own operating environment (e.g., threat and risk assessments, business impact analysis, privacy impact assessments, self-assessments, statements of sensitivity, vulnerability assessments).

Following are examples of risks that would need to be identified, assessed and mitigated. Note that this is not an exhaustive list; each risk management plan needs to thoroughly identify and assess the risks associated with the use of each official social media account:

  • Risks related to policy and legal obligations that may arise from using the platform and/or accepting its terms of use (see Section 3 of this guideline);
  • Risks related to the functionality of the platform regarding Government of Canada policy and legal requirements, such as privacy, official languages, accessibility and intellectual property (including copyright);
  • Risks related to the security of the official social media account, such as potential hacking and vandalism of content;
  • Risks related to the actual use of the official social media account, such as communications and reputational risks (e.g., unintentional errors, criticism for not meeting user expectations regarding response time, usefulness of content, language, tone);
  • Risks related to the use of a third-party platform, including lack of availability (e.g., platform is over capacity or down for maintenance) changes to the platform and inappropriate content appearing on the same page as the official account's content; and
  • Risks related to the management of the account, such as lack of resources to manage and monitor the account properly and an unexpected amount of direct communication due to unforeseen developments.
f) Government of Canada Privacy Impact Assessment and Threat and Risk Assessment

A Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) and Threat and Risk Assessment (TRA) are integral components of a social media risk management plan. The PIA and the TRA assess, respectively, the privacy and security risks that are associated with the official social media account's proposed uses on the selected social media platform.

To help departments prepare their social media risk management plans, the entity will pre-review platforms used by the Government of Canada. These pre-reviews will cover the platform's functionality and terms of use, and will include privacy and security risk assessments from a government-wide perspective. Specifically, the entity will prepare a Government of Canada (enterprise) PIA and TRA for the most frequently used social media platforms.

If the department's proposed uses of the platform are similar to the uses identified in the Government of Canada PIA and TRA for social media, then the department can leverage the Government of Canada PIA and TRA.

When a department's proposed use of a platform is different from the uses assessed by the Government of Canada PIA and TRA, or if the platform has not been pre-reviewed by the entity, it is recommended that the department carry out its own risk assessments (e.g., functionality, terms of use, privacy and security) and that those assessments be shared with the entity so that they can be leveraged by other departments. The department will also need to keep their assessments up to date whenever there are changes to the platform in question.

It is important to consult with legal counsel, communications advisors, social media functional specialists, the departmental coordinator for official social media accounts and other departmental representatives listed in Section 3 of this guideline to determine whether the entity's pre-reviews and the Government of Canada PIA and TRA can be leveraged, or whether separate assessments of risks need to be conducted.

The entity will maintain a list of pre-reviewed platforms and will keep it up to date whenever there are platform changes (for example, if the privacy policy or the terms of use of the platform change). Only accounts on platforms that have been pre-reviewed by the entity will be included in the index of official Government of Canada social media accounts, which will be maintained and published by the entity.

g) Management Protocols

This element describes the internal processes that will ensure effective, open and transparent engagement practices for managing an official social media account. Departments may wish to establish management protocols for each social media platform, rather than individual protocols for each account.

Management protocols for moderation, engagement and interaction, and content are recommended, as well as a plan for dealing with contentious issues that may arise. It is important to keep in mind the protocols required to meet the social media notice requirements in Appendix C of the Standard on Web Usability, as described in subsection 4.5 of this guideline.

Note: Examples of existing management protocols are available on GCpedia's Social Media Account Management Resources page.

h) Performance Measurement Approach

This element describes the method and tactics used to determine whether the official social media account is being used effectively to meet its stated objectives. Generally, the performance measurement of an official social media account is linked to the overall performance measurement objectives and the approach of the departmental social media strategy. It may also be linked to other established departmental performance measures.

Based on the objectives of the account and strategy, performance measurement may involve specific and quantifiable metrics (e.g., number of followers, posts, re-tweets, replies, direct messages) or a more qualitative approach (e.g., tone and quality of comments and video replies). It is a good practice to establish a process to report and leverage the performance measurement outcomes on an ongoing basis to improve the official use of social media.

Appendix D provides a sample template for performance measurement.

i) Communications Plan

This element helps align messages communicated through the official social media account with messages delivered through other departmental communication channels and activities. It is important to consult with the departmental communications advisor on the development of this element.

j) Phasing Out Accounts

This element describes the exit strategy to determine when and how to shut down an official social media account (i.e., the conditions that would prescribe an official social media account to be closed). Short-term accounts are discouraged due to the amount of time and effort required to establish a solid social media presence and reputation, and build up followers. In most cases, a combination of the proper use of tags, links and targeted messaging is likely to serve the purposes of a short-term account.

It is important to plan how and why an account will be phased out. For example, an official social media account may be closed when, despite corrective measures, the account is not seen to be meeting its stated objectives. It is a good idea to advise followers of the situation in advance, via the account, providing reasons for closure and options for further communication.

Note: Information management requirements related to the disposition of Government of Canada information also apply in the context of social media (see the section on information management in Appendix A for more information).

4.3 Creation, Configuration and Disposition of Accounts See footnote 2

Once the social media implementation plan is complete and the departmental head of communications or designate has approved the official social media account, the departmental coordinator for official social media accounts provides the entity with a submission for the creation and configuration of the account. The template and instructions for this submission are available on GCpedia's Social Media Account Management Resources page.

After reviewing the submission and providing feedback as needed, the entity will create and configure the official social media account on behalf of the department, based on the information provided in the request template. As part of the creation of the account, the entity will provide user information details to the platform provider and will accept the terms of service and related conditions on the department's behalf.

The entity will configure the account in a manner that meets the official layout and design specifications and that maximizes privacy, security and usability considerations. Configuration will also be done in a manner that enables the use of the Government of Canada social media platform management tool (see subsection 4.4 of this guideline).

Note: Departments that are not using a pre-reviewed platform still need to provide a submission and work with the entity on the creation and configuration of the account.

The entity will also review submissions related to the disposition of official social media accounts. The procedure for disposition will be available on GCpedia's Social Media Account Management Resources page.

4.4 Social Media Platform Management Tool See footnote 3

The Government of Canada social media platform management tool will be provided and administered by the entity. This tool will give departmental users direct access to their official social media accounts across different platforms through a single interface.

The entity will associate official social media accounts to the platform management tool. Departmental users authorized in the submission template will be provided access to their accounts through the platform management tool.

4.5 Official Layout and Design Specifications and Social Media Notices

Official layout and design specifications can be found in the Technical Specifications for Social Media Accounts. These specifications provide the common Government of Canada approach to ensuring the proper identification of official social media accounts, including identification elements for official Government of Canada symbols and other images and graphic elements, as well as account usernames and addresses. The specifications also ensure that terms of use and privacy notices are available on all official social media accounts.

Note: Detailed information on official layout and design requirements can be found on GCpedia's Social Media Account Management Resources page.

Social Media Notices

A social media notice informs users of their rights and obligations when interacting with the Government of Canada via social media. It also explains what users are to expect from official Government of Canada social media accounts. It is important to apply the social media notice to all official social media accounts through a hyperlink to the Terms and Conditions section of the associated Government of Canada website and, where possible, by incorporating the notice text within the profile of the official social media account.

A sample social media notice is available on the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat's website. Departments can modify the sample notice so that it accurately reflects their respective official use of social media, as long as it meets the mandatory requirements stated in Appendix C of the Standard on Web Usability. It is recommended that departments establish management protocols to support the social media notice requirements.

In addition, Appendix D of the Standard on Web Usability states that where third-party icons are displayed to facilitate the sharing of content via social media, departments must provide a disclaimer indicating that no endorsement is implied or expressed.

5. Conclusion

The Government of Canada supports the official use of social media as part of the various channels available for communicating and engaging with Canadians. Through social media, government departments can effectively reach people digitally where they reside, work, learn and play, and in this way enhance the opportunities for communication, collaboration and service delivery.

To maximize these opportunities, it is crucial that departments manage their accounts strategically and coherently. This involves setting strategic social media direction, carefully planning and monitoring the implementation of each account and measuring performance.

Given the rapidly evolving nature of social media, quick access to up-to-date information on social media account management is important. Government of Canada social media practitioners and communities regularly develop and share lessons learned and good practices on the official use of social media. GCpedia's Social Media Account Management Resources page is in place to support the continued exchange of up-to-date information among public servants.


Appendix A: Key Policy and Legal Considerations

When using social media for official purposes, it is important to be aware of the policy and legal requirements that apply to the Government of Canada. To ensure that these requirements are met, it is a good practice to refer to original legislative and policy instruments and to consult with legal services, communications advisors and the appropriate departmental policy centres. In seeking advice, it's best to provide information on the proposed use of the account, the functionality of the platform and its terms of use.

The key policy and legal areas to keep in mind are accessibility, communications, the Federal Identity Program, information management, information technology security, official languages, privacy and access to information, and values and ethics.

Legislative instruments that are likely to apply include the Access to Information Act; the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; the Canadian Human Rights Act; the Official Languages Act; the Privacy Act; and the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector. In addition, there are other legal obligations such as intellectual property (including copyright), procurement, indemnity, Crown liability, departmental policies and governing law.

Following is further discussion of the key policy and legal areas, presented in alphabetical order.

Accessibility

Government of Canada websites and web applications are the federal government's primary means of delivering official information and services online. Social media platforms are used to supplement these means of delivery.

Before using a third-party social media platform, review the degree to which the platform is accessible and use the options provided by the platform to make the content more accessible. It is also recommended to provide a link to another online source that presents equivalent content at a high-level of accessibility. If the link is to a Government of Canada website, then the requirements in the Standard on Web Accessibility are mandatory.

Third-party sites generally have features that enhance the accessibility of web content, including the following:

  • Text equivalents for non-text content (e.g., captions for images, transcripts for audio and video, and audible cues) so that all users can understand what is being presented; and
  • Colour contrast to help users with colour vision deficiencies to distinguish between text and background or other types of text.

Additional resources are available at the following sites (in English only):

For further guidance, please contact the senior departmental official for web standards.

Communications

When using an official social media account to communicate or consult with the public, keep in mind that you are acting as a designated spokesperson according to the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada, and that the requirements of that policy apply.

Departmental heads of communications are responsible for ensuring that:

  • Official social media activities that are undertaken jointly with another government, company, organization, group or individual clearly and equitably identify the participation of all parties;
  • Official social media activities that are undertaken to conduct public opinion research comply with the mandatory requirements under the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada and the related Procedures for Planning and Contracting Public Opinion Research;
  • Official social media advertising activities comply with mandatory requirements under Procedures for Planning, Contracting and Evaluating Advertising in the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada; and
  • Measures are taken to avoid conflicts of interest and the appearance or public perception of endorsing or providing a marketing subsidy or an unfair competitive advantage to any person, organization or entity outside of government.

For additional guidance, please contact the departmental communications advisor.

Federal Identity Program

Clearly identifying Government of Canada official social media accounts on third-party platforms and applying the government's corporate identity can present challenges. Page layouts and proprietary design controls often limit the size and display of visual elements, as well as the length of account names.

The Technical Specifications for Social Media Accounts ensures a common approach to identifying the Government of Canada on all social media platforms, while taking into account these challenges and the evolving nature of government's use of these tools.

For additional guidance on how to apply the technical specifications, please contact the departmental Federal Identity Program coordinator.

Information Management

The integration of information management requirements into official social media use is essential to ensure that digital information resources of business value remain accessible, shareable and usable over time.

Most information posted on social media platforms represents information that has already been captured in official documentation (e.g., departmental websites, briefing notes, project or communication plans). As such, the information used in social media, when otherwise captured through official documentation, is transitory and can be disposed of accordingly.

If a decision is made or an action taken via an electronic conversation on social media, the decision or action must be documented to ensure that the information is captured within the departmental corporate repository. Information on federal programs and services distributed to Canadians should be captured in an official record in the departmental corporate repository, regardless of format.

Examples of information resources associated with official use of social media that are required to be captured as a record in a departmental information repository include:

  • Official information made available through external social media platforms that has not otherwise been captured through official documentation such as departmental websites, briefing notes, project or communication plans; and
  • Information received from the public via external social media platforms in response to requests for information from Government of Canada departments.

Examples of information resources that are not required to be captured in departmental information repositories as a record include:

  • Information, messages or official pages posted on social media platforms that have already been captured in official documentation (e.g., departmental websites, briefing notes, project or communications plans); and
  • Information in the form of electronic conversations that have taken place through the direct messaging components of external social media platforms (unless a decision or action is taken via the electronic conversation on social media, as described above, in which case the decision, action or rationale must be documented and captured within the departmental corporate repository).

The relevant policies on information management are the Policy on Information Management, the Directive on Information Management Roles and Responsibilities and the Directive on Recordkeeping.

For additional guidance, please contact the departmental information management senior official.

Information Technology Security

Following are a number of recommended actions to help ensure the secure use of social media, which are based on the requirements in the Operational Security Standard: Management of Information Technology Security (MITS). Many of these actions form part of the social media implementation plan's risk management approach, described in this guideline.

Recommended security actions include:

  • Assessing and documenting the sensitivity of information that will be transmitted, stored and processed using social media platforms. Remember that all information made available through external-facing social media needs to be appropriate for release to the public at large.
  • Ensuring that any unique risks to information, information technology assets and service delivery associated with the use of social media platforms are assessed, documented and understood, and that residual risks are accepted by program or service delivery managers.
  • Formally documenting roles and responsibilities of personnel who will engage in the use of social media platforms.
  • Ensuring that appropriate authentication and integrity controls are in place to prevent unauthorized account access.
  • Ensuring that, where applicable and appropriate, information-sharing agreements are established and respected.
  • Ensuring that, where applicable, incident management procedures have provisions to address incidents relating to, or resulting from, the use of social media platforms.
  • Ensuring that employees who will be using social media platforms are provided with appropriate training on information technology security and information classification.

For additional guidance, please contact the departmental information technology security coordinator.

Official Languages

When using social media for official purposes, it is important to follow the Government of Canada's approach to websites and other means of communicating with the public. In particular, users must respect the Government of Canada's legal obligations under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (sections16–20) and the Official Languages Act and its corresponding regulations, policies and directives, especially the Directive on Official Languages for Communications and Services.

In all official social media activities aimed at the public, the following practices are recommended:

  • Encourage users to contribute in the official language of their choice.
  • Provide an appropriate link to clearly reference the equivalent official social media account in the other official language.
  • Plan ahead for translation to ensure equality of services and quality in both official languages.
  • Plan ahead to ensure that all content is posted simultaneously (e.g., text, audio, video) in both official languages in the respective official social media accounts.
  • Look for sources that release information in both official languages when re-disseminating third-party information. It is recommended that re-disseminating unilingual third-party information items be an infrequent or less predominant method of sharing information. As per the Directive on Official Languages for Communications and Services, when third-party information is circulated, the public must be informed, through the social media notice located on the departmental website, that the information was obtained from an external source and that it is not subject to the Official Languages Act.
  • For most official social media accounts, the recommended practice is to establish two single-language versions of the account (separate English and French accounts).
  • Carefully monitor both official language versions of the platform used. Take measures to ensure, as much as possible, that users of both versions have the same experience. If it appears that the department is receiving more questions and comments from the public in one language (which require general public response), then provide the same information to the public in both official languages. Formulate the response in a way that allows all users to understand the nature of the initial query, and make it available in both official languages simultaneously.
  • Provide regular summaries of posted comments in both official languages. Include discussions that have taken place on both official language accounts and the sum total of the discussions posted in both official languages.
  • Consider putting in place a strategy to respond to comments from the public in both official languages as part of institutional interaction protocols. Respond using the language in which contact was initiated, unless it is a question of general public interest that requires a response in both official languages. If information is referenced that pertains to the department, direct users to the website where content is available in both official languages.

For media and file-sharing tools and services, the following practices are recommended:

  • In the production of video and audio, make content available in both official languages. The English-language and French-language versions should be equivalent in content and be of equal quality using identical formats.
  • In cases where the media file is in one language only, provide voice-over or subtitles or transcriptions for the version in the other language.
  • It is recommended that bilingual video that is posted on both official accounts (English and French) contain voice-over, where applicable, sub-titles or transcriptions in the other official language. It is recommended that departments plan videos to ensure that they are not creating a situation where one language is always the language of translation.

For instant messaging and chat sessions, including video chat sessions, it is recommended that departments determine whether it is best to hold a bilingual session or two separate sessions in each official language. If a bilingual session is held, session organizers need to actively encourage participants to use the language of their choice.

The use of translation software or automated translations offered on websites is not recommended for use in the context of official communications, given the current limitations of the software and the Translation Bureau's advice against their use. Departments are responsible for the content of the information they provide, even when the information is housed on third-party platforms. They are also responsible for the quality of translations generated by automated software.

For additional guidance, please contact the departmental person responsible for official languages.

Privacy and Access to Information

Government institutions subject to the Privacy Act must respect privacy requirements when they engage in social media platforms. In particular, institutions that collect personal information on social media platforms, such as an individual's name, email address or Internet protocol address, must ensure that they have the legislative authority to do so, and that they collect the minimum personal information necessary to meet their legislated requirements.

The third-party social media privacy notice needs to reflect the legislative authority and the name and number of the Personal Information Bank (PIB) used. Institutions also have obligations regarding the use, disclosure, retention and disposal of personal information when they engage in social media platforms.

As discussed in subsection 4.2(f) of this guideline, a completed Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) for the proposed uses of each official social media account is part of an institution's implementation plan. The completed PIA provides an overview of the privacy risks and mitigation strategies to ensure compliance with the Privacy Act. Departments will be able to leverage the Government of Canada PIA if their proposed uses of the platform are similar to the uses that are identified in the Government of Canada PIA.

Note: The PIA used in a social media implementation plan, including the Government of Canada PIA, needs to be signed by the departmental access to information and privacy coordinator.

For further information, please see the Policy on Privacy Protection and the Directive on Privacy Impact Assessment.

Published materials in print or other formats, including information posted on institutional websites and via social media platforms, are excluded from the Access to Information Act under section 68(a). Notwithstanding, institutions subject to the Access to Information Act must collect, process and disclose, subject to the applicable exemptions and exclusions, all records under their control that relate to their social media activities and fall within the scope of a request under the Act.

Note: There are information management and recordkeeping obligations that delineate which records are to be retained by departments (see the section on information management in this appendix).

For additional guidance, please contact the departmental access to information and privacy coordinator.

Values and Ethics

The Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector and the corresponding departmental codes of conduct apply to the official use of social media. Non-partisanship and impartiality are at the heart of these codes. The values of respect for democracy, respect for people, integrity, stewardship and excellence are the foundation for all work of federal public sector employees, including official use of social media.

The following examples demonstrate the values and behaviours that public servants are expected to integrate into decisions and actions when using social media for official purposes.

Respect for Democracy

Uphold the system of Canadian parliamentary democracy and its institutions by using official social media accounts in a non-partisan and impartial manner at all times.

Respect for People

Treat all people with respect, dignity and fairness and ensure that the use of official social media accounts is respectful of all individuals and groups at all times.

Integrity

Uphold the highest ethical standards and enhance public confidence in the honesty, fairness and impartiality of the federal public sector by using official social media accounts with integrity and in a manner that bears the closest public scrutiny. Ensure that official social media accounts are never used to inappropriately obtain a personal advantage or to advantage or disadvantage others. Use official social media accounts in such a way as to maintain the employer's trust at all times.

Stewardship

Use and care for public resources responsibly by ensuring that the public money, property and resources dedicated to the official use of social media are used effectively and efficiently.

Excellence

Demonstrate professional excellence in the design and delivery of programs and services through official social media. Provide these programs and services in a fair, timely, efficient and effective manner that respects Canada's official languages. Work to continually improve the quality of programs and services supported through official social media and promote engagement, collaboration, teamwork, learning and innovation.

For additional guidance, please contact the departmental senior official for values and ethics.

Appendix B: Sample Template – Departmental Social Media Strategy

A social media strategy guides the social media activities of a department. It is a strategic document that explains how the official use of social media supports the departmental mandate and program objectives. It also provides the department with a clear rationale and intended outcomes for using social media platforms. The following sample template includes the social media strategy elements suggested in this guideline. It is provided here for your consideration.

Overview

This section presents an overview of the department's social media presence to date and the context in which it has taken place. This may include background information on previous social media efforts and contextual information from both an overall Government of Canada perspective and from the perspective of the department.

Business Value and Objectives

This section outlines the business value and objectives of engaging with Canadians on social media platforms and how these objectives relate to the departmental mandate. A clear articulation of this element will enable measurement of the strategy's success, once it is implemented.

Governance and Resources

This section describes the governance and resources allocated to official social media activities. It also identifies the departmental coordinator for official social media accounts.

Strategic Approach

This section explains the strategic approach to using social media platforms in line with the department's objectives and target audiences.

Defining and Measuring Success

This section presents the tools and criteria that will define and measure the success of the social media strategy and the effectiveness of its approach to meeting its objectives.

Integrating Lessons Learned

This section explains the strategic approach to integrating lessons learned and supporting continuous improvement.

Examples of the social media strategies of various departments and agencies are available on GCpedia's Social Media Account Management Resources page.

Appendix C: Sample Template – Social Media Implementation Plan

An implementation plan is a tool that is aligned with the departmental social media strategy. Its aim is to help ensure that the key factors for properly establishing and managing official social media accounts are considered during the implementation process. Departmental heads of communications approve official social media accounts, including those that already exist, based on their corresponding implementation plans.

It is important to plan in detail how an official social media account will be used and implemented. Without proper planning, it may be difficult to meet basic expectations regarding content development, engagement and overall management of the account. There may also be increased risk of non-compliance with legal or policy obligations.

The following sample template is provided to help guide the development of an implementation plan for a proposed official social media account.

Social Media Platform:
Name of account in English:
Name of account in French:
Name of account in other language (if applicable):
Implementation plan prepared by:

a) Objectives and Business Drivers

This element outlines how the account aligns with the departmental social media strategy and articulates the rationale and objectives it aims to achieve.

  • How is this account linked to the departmental mandate and social media strategy?
  • What are its key business drivers and objectives?
  • What are the proposed uses of this account?

b) Choice of Platform

This element describes the target audience and key considerations that determine the appropriate platform selection and use.

  • Who is the target audience?
  • What key considerations were used to select this platform? For example:
  • Does it reach the public in both official languages?
  • What accessibility options are available for the platform, and by what alternative means can the platform be accessed?
  • What terms of use apply, and is there any policy or legal compliance issue?

c) Allocation of Resources

This element identifies the human and financial resources that will be dedicated to managing the account in both official languages.

  • What staff will be working on this social media initiative, and during what intervals?
  • What financial resources will be dedicated to this social media initiative (including resources for training staff)?

d) Roles and Responsibilities

This element identifies the roles and responsibilities of those who will be involved in using and managing the account. In this section, identify the departmental areas that will be responsible for each key function.

Role and/or Function (add others as needed) Area of Responsibility

Drafting content

 

Translating and editing content in both official languages

 

Approving content

 

Publishing content

 

Managing the account (administering, monitoring, responding)

 

Issues management (responding to issues related to the account should they arise)

 

e) Risk Management Plan

This element involves identifying and assessing the risks associated with participating on the social media platform, based on the proposed use, and developing appropriate mitigation strategies.

  • Describe the risks and mitigation strategies identified through the risk management exercise (departments may be able to leverage the Government of Canada's pre-review of platforms, as described below).

f) Government of Canada Privacy Impact Assessment and Threat and Risk Assessment

If the selected platform is on the list of pre-reviewed platforms and the proposed uses for the account are similar to uses identified in the Government of Canada Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) and Threat and Risk Assessment (TRA) for social media, then the department can leverage the Government of Canada PIA and TRA. Note that the PIA, including the Government of Canada PIA, needs to be signed by the departmental access to information and privacy coordinator.

If the selected platform is not on the list of pre-reviewed platforms, or the planned uses differ from the uses identified in the Government of Canada PIA and TRA, the department needs to conduct its own assessment of risks and share the results of these assessments with the entity.

  • Indicate if the Government of Canada PIA and TRA apply to this account.

g) Management Protocols

This element describes the management processes that ensure effective, open and transparent engagement practices.

  • Describe the protocols that will apply to this initiative:
    • Interaction and content protocol (engagement protocols)
    • Moderation protocol, including a protocol to deal with contentious issues
    • Content style guide (voice and tone of the account, types of content to be posted)
    • User management (who has access to the account, in what capacity, for how long)
    • Business continuity plan

h) Performance Measurement

This element describes the approach that will be used to measure success in meeting the objectives of the account. See Appendix D of this guideline for examples of performance measures and tactics.

  • How will success be defined?
  • What metrics will be used to measure success?

i) Communications Plan

This element helps align key messages communicated through the official social media account with messages delivered through other departmental channels.

  • What is the communications plan for this initiative?

j) Phasing Out

This element describes the exit strategy to determine when and how to shut down an official social media account (i.e., the conditions that would prescribe an official social media account to be closed). Short-term accounts are discouraged. In most cases, a combination of the proper use of tags, links and targeted messaging is likely to serve the purposes of a short-term account.

  • How, when and why will this account will be phased out?

Appendix D: Sample Template – Performance Measurement

Measuring performance is important to determine whether the use of the official social media account is advancing the department's objectives. The table below lists examples of performance measures and tactics for a variety of possible desired outcomes. It is recommended that departments choose measures that are accurate and feasible to collect.

Desired Outcomes (examples) Tactics
(examples)
Measures
(examples)

Users are aware of new information posted to the website

Leverage existing content by posting it on social media channels (for example, tweet links to recently updated web content)

  • Number of real and influential followers
  • Volume of re-tweets, replies and/or direct messages from followers
  • Click-throughs to website
  • Per-cent increase in mentions of issue, theme, department, program or campaign hashtag
  • Volume of positive and negative mentions

Increased use of web resources

Tweet links to website updates, features and services

  • Per-cent increase in followers for specified time period
  • Per-cent click-throughs to content that leads to the desired action (for example, applying for a grant or program)
  • Per-cent increase in web traffic from social media
  • Per-cent shares and referrals of web content and materials

Increased use of departmental video productions

Publish existing video content (i.e., archives)

  • Number of video views to evaluate cost-efficiency
  • Number of shares of web content
  • Number of video embeds
  • Number of referrals from video pages

Increased collaboration with other federal departments

Feature related information or services provided online by other federal, provincial, municipal or international jurisdictions

  • Number of click-throughs to external content
  • Volume of re-tweets, replies or direct messages from followers
  • Number of shares of external content
  • Number of video embeds
  • Number of referrals from video pages

Increased awareness of issue or theme

Develop effective playlists to help viewers navigate content

  • Number of video views in playlists
  • Number of referrals to playlists from external sources (other than YouTube)
  • Number of shares of web content
  • Number of video embeds
  • Number of referrals from social media
  • Per-cent change in web visits resulting from theme-related searches
  • Per-cent change of onsite searches for issue or theme
  • Click-throughs to website (for example, by specific theme or issue)
  • Per-cent increase in mentions of issue, theme, department, program or campaign hashtag

Increased interaction with online audiences

Enable a comments feature and moderate accordingly

  • Ratio of departmental posts to interactions from others
  • Tone and quality of comments and replies
  • Volume of conversations with public via social channels

Appendix E: Example of a Success Story – Planning and Implementing an Effective Social Media Presence

Parks Canada manages over 150 national heritage locations, each viewed by the public as a distinct destination and a unique component of the broader Parks Canada brand. The Agency is managed via a decentralized model in which the operations and communications for each national heritage place are managed by operational field units.

Parks Canada has successfully planned and implemented an effective social media presence. The following is a summary of the steps undertaken to plan these efforts, which is presented to illustrate the good practices featured in this guideline.

Step 1: Social scan

Prior to implementing any social media activity, Parks Canada started with a social media scan. The scan included scoping out what the Agency's position was within the social sphere at that time, where potential influencer communities existed, what types of content and platforms were being used most frequently, and how the conversation share was divided between program and mandate areas.

This scan was done using all of Parks Canada's managed place names (over 150) and over 100 key words related to the Agency's mandate and core business, in both English and French.

Step 2: Conduct policy and risk analysis and develop mitigation approaches for priority platforms

The next step was to consolidate and analyze all relevant legislation and policies in consultation with the Agency's legal counsel and policy centres. Parks Canada conducted risk analyses of the identified platforms in light of its operational issues, and developed strategies to mitigate the risks to acceptable levels for management and the various policy centres. Its Policy Alignment and Risk Mitigation Analysis (PARMAs) process proved to be a very thorough approach when evaluating new platforms.

Step 3: Social media strategy

Parks Canada then developed its social media strategy, "A Roadmap for Parks Canada's Entry into Social Media," which identifies the guiding principles behind the Agency's use of social media, the strategic direction and the accompanying tactics.

Step 4: Going Social Framework (strategy, guidelines and toolkits)

Parks Canada developed a framework called "Going Social @ Parks Canada." The framework initiated an Agency-wide approach for the use of social media using a staged process, starting with national pilots and then proceeding to location-based social media accounts (i.e., specific parks and historic sites). The framework grew to include the social media strategy (the roadmap) as well as a series of guidelines for each approved platform and accompanying toolkits to help staff implement the guidelines.

Step 5: Governance and community of practice

Given the highly localized nature of Parks Canada, it was decided that the social media program would be best approached via a more distributed governance model.

In this model, the Vice President of External Relations and Visitor Experience is responsible for the Agency's overall communications approaches, including social media. External platforms are reviewed and approved for use nationally; however, field unit superintendents and external relations managers are responsible for social media use within their respective field units, relying on the Agency's guidance documents within the Going Social Framework to govern their activities.

Parks Canada maintains national social media accounts on each approved platform as well as accounts for either individual national heritage places or clusters (regional or thematic), depending on the ability of individual locations to sustain their own active channels. The Agency also maintains a limited number of special interest channels important to Parks Canada's audiences (e.g., avalanche and public safety warnings for national parks in the Rocky Mountains).

Note that communications from the Agency's various programs, functional areas and initiatives do not normally receive their own channels. These communications are typically funnelled through the most appropriate national or location-specific channel.

Within this governance model, Parks Canada has also established an active social media community of practice consisting of staff who maintain and contribute to social media presences across the Agency, (e.g., promotions specialists, outreach and education specialists, Internet content and new media officers, local and national managers and national functional leads).

The community of practice has monthly teleconference calls to discuss common issues and collaborate on communications planning and strategy. There is also an internal SharePoint site where members have access to more detailed guidance documents, toolkits, and a forum where they can post and discuss topics and work on new projects together.

Parks Canada's approach has created a well-trained and engaged community of social media practitioners who understand the Agency's goals and requirements. It has also achieved coherence in how messaging is distributed to the public, while promoting individual national heritage places as distinct destinations to visit, experience and engage with.

Work is currently in progress at Parks Canada regarding social media performance measurement.

Note: An overview of Parks Canada's social media strategy and guidelines are available to public servants on GCpedia's Social Media Account Management Resources page.