Guidance for Ministers on personal use of social media for ministerial business Social media – channels such as blogs

, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook – have been used in the past by ministers in a number of ways: • In their political or constituency roles: where the channel is funded and managed personally or by their constituency or Parliamentary office, with no Civil Service support In their ministerial roles: where the channel is operated by the Department on behalf of a minister, to enable them to engage directly online on non-political aspects of their ministerial brief By the Department corporately: where the channel is operated by the Department across all portfolios, and is used to promote the work of the department in general, incorporating ministerial interviews and messages where appropriate

Using social media personally as a minister can offer an efficient, low-cost way to engage with specific stakeholders, the wider community and the media, but can be time-consuming and requires careful management to ensure your reputation and that of the Department is protected. We operate a number of corporate social media channels including YouTube (video), Flickr (photos), Twitter (short updates) and podcasts, which have been used to present the work of the Department and its ministers, and provide material for media and stakeholder use. The Digital Communications team, working with Press and Private Offices, can provide specific advice on effective use of social media, and provides support to the Press Office in monitoring social media for mentions of ministers and the Department. In deciding whether you also wish to set up personal channels of your own, you may wish to consider the following: Political vs ministerial content: if you intend to use the channel for political or constituency business, this will need to be supported by your political staff rather than civil servants. Direct engagement with stakeholders and media: social media tools enable you to earn reputation for openness by speaking directly and rapidly to the public and stakeholder organisations and listening to their feedback. In doing so, you tend to bypass traditional mechanisms such as conventional briefing and support from a Press Officer, and you may be exposed to direct and sometimes hostile scrutiny. You may wish to discuss with the Press Office what level of support you would like to enable you to manage this risk appropriately.

Maintenance and monitoring: social media is two-way by nature, so maintaining a personal channel requires a certain time commitment to read and reply to messages and comments. However, this need not become unduly onerous, and can sometimes be done using a mobile phone. The Digital Communications team can support you, your Private Office and Press Office with the means to monitor online discussion about you in your ministerial role. Cost-effectiveness: a key benefit of social media is that tools are generally free or low cost, and can enable you to quickly reach a niche audience of thousands of key stakeholders, journalists and interested members of the public – though they are not generally a means of reaching a mass audience. However, the cost-effectiveness of government’s use of these tools remains a popular topic for Parliamentary Questions and FoI requests. Security issues: some social media tools disclose your current location and other personal information; are vulnerable to malicious attack or impersonation; and should in any case not be used for discussing sensitive material not already in the public domain. The Digital Communications team can provide support on security settings and advice on information security. Civil Service support Under the Civil Service Code, you should be aware that departmental staff cannot support party political activities, including: • • Drafting or posting tweets responding to political criticisms, either from your political/ministerial Twitter account or Departmental accounts Publicise political posts via the Departmental Twitter accounts

However, we can support your personal use of social media in the instances where it directly relates to Departmental business in the following ways: • • Providing advice in establishing and maintaining personal social media channels for your ministerial business Establishing online tools to help private offices and press officers monitor your account, identifying questions and criticisms directed at you and identifying emerging issues pertinent to you – provided these issues are Departmental in nature Provide lines to take to help you respond to questions and criticisms Providing space on the departmental website to expand on complex discussions or issues from Twitter (e.g. an ‘online notepad’ to which you can link where you want to make a longer statement)

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