Social Media Guidelines

Purpose statement

The Corporation of the Town of Oakville (town) supports the use of social media to enhance two-way communications with the community. This procedure establishes guidelines and standards for the acceptable use of the town’s social media sites as well as guidelines and standards for town staff participating in external online social media sites when it relates to discussing, sharing or commenting on town business.

Scope

This procedure applies to all town and any program-specific social media sites as well as to Members of Council and town staff discussing town business on any external non-town online social media site.

Procedure

Social media are powerful communications tools that can create immediate and widespread social interaction. These tools are highly accessible and easy-to-use and because they often blur the lines between the professional and personal life, they can have a significant impact on both organizational and individual reputations. Examples of social media include LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook.

Staff must ensure that town-owned social media sites:

  1. Be implemented in a manner that positively enhances the town’s reputation.
  2. Provide a consistent and professional voice so that residents can be assured that the information they are receiving is official information from the Town of Oakville.
  3. Be effectively managed to ensure that they provide timely and accurate information and responses.
  4. Have guidelines in place to address controversial or sensitive online content about the town, its business, its Members of Council or its employees.
  5. Adhere to established records retention, privacy, and accessibility requirements.

Official town social media sites must not be used to promote individual political opinions or campaigns.

Guidelines for use of social media

The following guidelines should be applied to both personal and corporate use of social media.

  • Know what you’re getting into: Social media sites must be kept current and up to date to be successful. Writing content can be very time consuming. Don’t start a site without understanding the ongoing time commitment.
  • Think twice before posting: Never post anything you wouldn’t want repeated to your boss or to appear in the paper. Privacy does not exist in social media. Once material is posted it can never be fully removed. Consider what might happen if a post becomes widely distributed.
  • Be accurate: Don’t react to or repeat rumours. Get the facts straight before you post on social media.
  • Be considerate: Encourage informed, respectful dialogue not personal attacks. Don’t criticize residents or fellow employees on social media.
  • Be responsible: Don’t reveal confidential information.
  • Respect copyright laws: Don’t reproduce or borrow content that violates trademark or copyright laws but do provide links to interesting and relevant materials.
  • Know your audience: Use language appropriate for the target audience but remember that everyone has access to social media sites so don’t alienate or provoke other groups.
  • Watch your language:  Never use threatening, offensive or harassing language or target any group or promote illegal or dangerous activities.
  • Personal sites: Always adhere to the town’s policy on personal use of computers at work. If you identify that you are an employee of the town on a personal site, make it clear that you are expressing personal views, not necessarily those of the town.
  • Town social media sites: If you are posting on behalf of a town department or program, all applicable town policies and procedures must be followed.

Guidelines for customer use

The town engages the public through websites such as oakville.ca and oakvilletransit.ca, Facebook and Twitter to promote open and meaningful two-way communications.

Comments made by the public on town sites will be reviewed by town staff. Comments will not be edited, but they must comply with the town’s Rzone procedure, provincial legislation and the town’s customer use guidelines listed below. Inappropriate comments that do not comply with the guidelines will be removed from the site.

  • Comments should relate to the posted topic and must not contain any personal information about another individual
  • Users may only post their own, original content. Reproduced or borrowed content that appears to violate trademark or copyright laws will be deleted.
  • Threatening, offensive or harassing language is not permitted.
  • Comments that constitute discrimination or harassment under the Ontario Human Rights Code are not permitted.
  • Comments that promote illegal or dangerous activities are not permitted.
  • Comments that present demeaning or derogatory portrayals of individuals or groups or contain any message that is likely to cause deep or widespread offence are not permitted.
  • Comments considered to be defamatory, disrespectful or insulting to identifiable town staff or representatives.
  • Comments promoting any business for commercial gain are not permitted.

Guidelines for Members of Council

Members of Council may participate in social media of their own accord, respecting their Code of Conduct. Members of Council are welcome to like/follow official town sites and are encouraged to share content that has already been officially posted to the town’s website.  The town’s official sites will not share/retweet political content.

Under Council’s Code of Conduct and the town’s communications procedure, the Mayor is the official spokesperson for Town Council and this will also apply to social media. As the Head of Council, the Mayor will reflect the position taken by Town Council on any specific issue.

Members of Council should clearly identify where they are expressing personal views, and not necessarily the views of the town.

Records

For the most part, comments and messages posted to the town’s official social media sites are considered transitory records and will not be kept as a permanent record by the Town of Oakville. Information specifically collected as part of an official town public engagement exercise will be kept in accordance with town policy.

Privacy

At the discretion of the town, any information, photos or videos that are shared or posted to an official town social media account may be reproduced by the town for promotional and other purposes with the appropriate permissions and acknowledgement of the source.

Comments and messages solicited by the town and collected for the public record using social media will be treated like any other form of communications received by the town and will be subject to the provisions of the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Violation of procedure

A violation of this procedure by a Member of Council or an employee is a serious matter and may result in disciplinary action.

Responsibilities

  1. The town’s web governance committee will be responsible for approving the establishment of any town official social media sites and determining the appropriateness of adopting new social media tools or accounts.
  2. The Strategy, Policy and Communications department is responsible for creating, monitoring and updating approved corporate social media sites and for creating guidelines for the use of social media. Other town content publishers may also be authorized to post information directly to town corporate social media sites.
  3. Departments will be responsible for creating, monitoring and updating approved departmental or program-based social media sites.
  4. Members of Council will be responsible for creating, monitoring and updating their own personal social media sites.
  5. The Chief Administrative Officer is the principal spokesperson for town operations and will work with the Mayor to foster positive and open dialogue with all stakeholders.

Definitions

Online communications – the exchange of information through the use of the Internet for any purpose (information sharing, marketing, public engagement)
Personal information – means recorded information about an identifiable person as defined by the MFIPPA
Social media – online communities that facilitate two-way sharing of information. Popular examples include Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube
Transitory record – means a record that has temporary usefulness and is only required for the completion of a routine action, or until superseded

Details

Procedure Number: G-COM-002-002
Parent Policy: G-COM-002
Section: Governance
Sub-Section: Communications
Author: Strategy, Policy and Communications
Authority: CAO
Effective Date: 2012 Apr 16
Review by Date: 2023