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Close Menu's Guide to Digital Governance: Social Media

This is the fifteenth installment of’s Guide to Digital Governance, a comprehensive guide intended to help get you started when developing a governance plan for your institution’s digital communications.

Social media has proven to be an amazingly simple yet powerful digital communications tool. In general, social media tools have a very low barrier to entry. They are easy and intuitive to use, providing a platform for immediate distribution of communications to broad, public audiences. While all of these features of social media are great benefits, they come with obvious risks as well.

By now, we are all familiar with some of the pitfalls and trouble into which users of social media can find themselves. Even very well-intentioned use of social media can lead to embarrassments for individuals and organizations. Once a communication hits the internet and is public, it is nearly impossible to ever fully retract it.

Given that social media accounts are provided and administered by the social media companies themselves, and not your organization, you may not consider all social media accounts to be part of your organization’s official digital properties. Regardless, it is sensible to consider policies and guidelines around their use, as it can be a very gray area at times. Here are some questions to consider when crafting such guidelines:

Individual Use

  • Do you need to have a policy around personal use of social media, as it relates to communications that may have an impact on your organization?
  • Are employees allowed to use their personal social media accounts to talk about their work?
  • Are individuals allowed to create and maintain individual social media accounts on behalf of your organization?
  • Are there any approvals required before an employee can create an account on behalf of the organization?
  • Are their guidelines for what is an acceptable use of social media accounts related to your organization for individuals?

Departmental Use

  • Are departments or sub-groups within your organization allowed to have social media accounts?
  • Are their guidelines for what is acceptable use of social media accounts related to your organization for departments and sub-groups?
  • Can social media accounts be shared among employees (i.e. if there is a department social media account, can multiple people use it)?
  • How are credentials for shared social media accounts safeguarded?


  • Do you need content guidelines for users of your social media accounts?
  • Do you need policies for responding to questions or comments provided by other social media users?
  • Do you need policies for handling of comments from other users, or content connected to your account from other users, that may be deemed offensive or otherwise problematic for your organization?


  • Who should have access for social media accounts that are owned by your organization?
  • How is that determined and administered?
  • How is access and ownership of social media accounts transitioned in cases of staff turnover?
  • How are accounts closed or shutdown if the owner/maintainer of that account can no longer keep it active?

General Questions

  • Are there limits to the number of social media accounts that can be created on behalf of your organization?
  • Are there restrictions to which social media platforms may be used?

These questions obviously lead to many others, but this is a good start in thinking about the landscape of governance for social media and how it relates to your organization.


This post is part of a larger series of posts, which make up a Guide to Digital Governance Planning. The sections follow a specific order intended to help you start at a high-level of thinking and then focus on greater and greater levels of detail. The sections of the guide are as follows:

  1. Starting at the 10,000ft View – Define the digital ecosystem your governance planning will encompass.
  2. Properties and Platforms – Define all the sites, applications and tools that live in your digital ecosystem.
  3. Ownership – Consider who ultimately owns and is responsible for each site, application and tool.
  4. Intended Use – Establish the fundamental purpose for the use of each site, application and tool.
  5. Roles and Permissions – Define who should be able to do what in each system.
  6. Content – Understand how ownership and permissions should apply to content.
  7. Organization – Establish how the content in your digital properties should be organized and structured.
  8. URL Naming Conventions – Define how URL patterns should be structured in your websites.
  9. Design – Determine who owns and is responsible for the many aspects design plays in digital communications and properties.
  10. Personal Websites – Consider the relationship your organization should have with personal websites of members of your organization.
  11. Private Websites, Intranets and Portals – Determine the policies that should govern site which are not available to the public.
  12. Web-Based Applications – Consider use and ownership of web-based tools and applications.
  13. E-Commerce – Determine the role of e-commerce in your website.
  14. Broadcast Email – Establish guidelines for the use of broadcast email to constituents and customers.
  15. Social Media – Set standards for the establishment and use of social media tools within the organization.
  16. Digital Communications Governance – Keep the guidelines you create updated and relevant.

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