Online communications: Blogging and social media

This page is one in a set of three guides written for colleagues, but shared here in case it is useful to others.

Please bear in mind it was written for a specific internal audience. It is licenced under Creative Commons BY-SA.

Introduction

We should all be at liberty to use communications tools to reach people in a way that is friendly, authoritative, meet the needs of our own work and that we are comfortable with. These guidelines help you to do that safely and confidently, and without undermining the strategy of the organisation or damaging its reputation.

Notes

For the purpose of this document the term ‘blog’ is taken to mean anything that is published online, including but not limited to posts on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Youtube, websites and blogs.

This document is underpinned by policies set out in our Employee Handbook.

Representation

Wherever you communicate – be that in person, in print, or online – you are a representative of our organisation and bound by the policies outlined in the Employee Handbook.

Also see Online Communications: Law.

Style and content

Generally our tone in blog posts should be informal spoken English. If our tone is engaging, other people will engage with us. As long as they are appropriate, messages need not always be related directly to our work.

Try to appreciate how your audience might be consuming your content; for example, you don’t want to scare them off by bombarding them with Twitter status updates.

Include links to supporting information where possible, as this adds credibility both to you and to the organisation. It is also good for encouraging serendipity across the Web.

There is never an excuse for bad writing, no matter how much space you have (for example, poor grammar and shortcuts should be avoided on Twitter as much as anywhere else; edit carefully, use brevity and include links to further content if necessary). Refer to the House Style [currently not available publicly] if in any doubt about your writing.

Also see Online Communications: Writing and editing content.

Engagement

Before the rise of blogging and social media it was never actually possible to control what people said about you, it just wasn’t as visible or as quick to spread as it is now. But now we also have the opportunity to see, respond and even join in. And what’s more, the new tools allow individuals in an organisation to do that easily and efficiently.

This means we also need to be careful and appropriate.

(Those clever folk at Commoncraft have a good animation about social media and the workplace.)

Responding to others

You may notice someone talk about us negatively on Twitter, or post a derogatory comment on Facebook. Questions to ask yourself before responding:

  • Is a response appropriate?
  • Are you the right person to make it?
  • Do you know the background and context?

Refer to the Online Reputation Flowchart (pdf), which helps you to make the decision.

If in any doubt at all refer the matter to the Communications Team.

Managing comments

If you’re running a blog, or are an administrator for one, you will need to manage comments.

Comments need to be handled carefully and kept track of regularly. It’s also good to reply if you can and if it will benefit the discussion.

If you hold comments in a moderation queue you may not get a notification when a new one is posted, so it is important to check regularly so as not to give the impression that you’re stifling debate. However, and contrary to popular belief, it is not necessarily safest to require comments to be moderated (see ‘Moderation’ in Online Communications: law).

If someone posts a negative comment refer to the Online Reputation Flowchart (pdf). If in any doubt refer the matter to the Communications Team.

Media contact

You may well stumble into online conversations with members of the press or other media professionals. In such cases do let the Press and Events Officer know of these connections (as set out in the Communications Guidelines).

Do keep the Communications Team informed of any significant media contact.

Also see Online communications: Law.

Contributing to our blogs

To contribute to one of our own blogs you will need your own login (speak to your line manager if you don’t have one). As well as giving an identity to your blog posts, it makes it possible for the system to identify you (for example, you won’t need to sign your posts as your name will appear automatically on the published page).

You are also much more likely to be trusted and engaged with if your contributions are not anonymous. So, for example, if posting to Twitter from a group account (such as the organisation’s main one) you should add at least your initials to the end of your messages so that readers can tell they’re coming from an identifiable individual.

Adding content

When writing a post on any of our own blogs you can save it as you go (it’s online so once saved it will still be there even if your computer blows up) and preview it before finally publishing it.

The main things you need to include are:

  • Title
  • Content of your post
  • Category

Some things will appear automatically. Therefore you don’t need to include:

  • Your name
  • The date

You can also include tags (these are keywords that describe your post, and are useful for adding context to the broader collection of posts) and trackbacks (which attempt to notify someone else on the internet that you’ve referenced them in your post). The folk at WordPress provide a very good introduction to blogging.

One thought on “Online communications: Blogging and social media

  1. Pingback: Citizensheep » Do organisations really need social media policies?

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