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David Lee King

Social Media Policies for Staff



We don’t really have a social media policy for staff (and I hope we never have one). We generally encourage staff to experiment with social media on-the-job, use their personal accounts to share what the library is doing (when appropriate), and “be the library” when they’re out and about – be that physically or digitally.

Other libraries do create social media policies. I get that – every library has different needs. But sometimes, weird things pop up in them, usually because the policy was written without thinking through how the technology actually works.

For example, take Tulsa City-County Library’s Social media Technology policy for staff (seen via an email):

“Social media technology is another mechanism to transact business and provide information/services within the library. The use of social media technology and similar tools (such as, but not limited to, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, instant messaging and wikis) and the posting of electronic content on behalf of the library shall be professional and reflect the appropriate behavior as expected of a library employee.

All proposals for library service use of social media technology must be submitted through the library’s New Technology Committee and must be pre-approved by the requestor’s supervisor.

Employees must be authorized to create or post content on library social media accounts.

Employees may not use their personal social network accounts for library use. Institutional accounts must be created to provide information/services for the organization.

Employees may choose to express themselves by posting personal information on Web sites, blogs, other social networking sites or chat rooms on the employee’s own time. The library values creativity and honors personal expression. However, an employee should demonstrate care if personal postings include the library’s name or other identifying information that leads others to conclude that the poster is associated with the library. Employees should not represent their statements in an online social networking community as reflective of official library policy or position. Any posting that violates the library’s rights or the rights of other employees (inappropriate, offensive, harmful or threatening) may cause both disciplinary action in the workplace as well as legal action.”

Generally speaking, it’s a pretty normal policy. But check out the part I put in bold again. Then think about how Facebook works.

See the problem?

The library is telling employees that “Institutional accounts must be created to provide information/services for the organization.” OK. What’s the problem, David?

Guess what Facebook says about that? From their Statement of Rights and Responsibilities – “You will not create more than one personal profile.”

Basically (and I’m guessing the library really doesn’t know they’re asking this), the library is requiring their employees to break Facebook’s Terms of Service (assuming those library employees already have a personal Facebook account).

Oops.

I’m not really picking on Tulsa – I’ll bet they swiped that language from any number of other “social media policies” for employees. But if we really, truly want to look professional … at the least, I’m guessing we shouldn’t ask our employees to do something that will technically get their personal accounts deleted. Right?

What about your library? Do you have social media policies for staff? If so, how does it read? What are you asking your staff to do?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • http://www.hayspublib.org Marleah

    Re: Facebook ToS: Creating an institutional page or profile and posting to it is not the same thing as me just creating a second personal profile. It’s not a second personal account – it is an institutional account, which is likely being shared by multiple people. Facebook also tends to push organizations to go the “page” route instead of creating a profile, which is aimed more at individuals anyway. So in theory, I can have a personal profile AND I can have an institutional profile without violating terms of service, because only one is personal. Additionally, I can have a personal profile AND an institutional PAGE without violating terms of service. At least, that’s my take on it.

  • http://www.hayspublib.org Marleah

    Re: Facebook ToS: Creating an institutional page or profile and posting to it is not the same thing as me just creating a second personal profile. It’s not a second personal account – it is an institutional account, which is likely being shared by multiple people. Facebook also tends to push organizations to go the “page” route instead of creating a profile, which is aimed more at individuals anyway. So in theory, I can have a personal profile AND I can have an institutional profile without violating terms of service, because only one is personal. Additionally, I can have a personal profile AND an institutional PAGE without violating terms of service. At least, that’s my take on it.

  • http://www.colleenscommentary.net/ Colleen Greene

    We don’t have a formal policy in at the Pollak Library, or even on campus. Our library actually has very few official policies — since all official policies must be approved by our university’s academic senate. Instead, we have a lot of of “guidelines”.My social media team has identified and drafted official team goals, and we are working on drafting agreed upon suggested guidelines (not for librarians and staff who use their own accounts, but rather for our team when posting “as the library”). Even these guidelines won’t be written in to stone — we’re big on academic freedom here. These will instead be suggestions, such as: responding to questions or comments in a timely manner, posting daily, checking the blog publication calendar prior to posting on Facebook, using a personal tone, what few types of followers to block (i.e., spammers), etc.

  • http://www.colleenscommentary.net/ Colleen Greene

    I think what David, and perhaps that quoted policy, is referring to is implying that employees should create two personal accounts — one for their personal life and one for their professional life.

    Many of my colleagues at this university do that — mostly administrators, even though they know that it’s a violation of Facebook’s ToS. Their argument to me is that they can’t possibly — as recognized officials representing the university — share their personal lives in as much detail as they’d like if they had to worry about professional colleagues seeing those items.

    We don’t encourage that at our library, and I’ve recommended against it the couple times my fellow librarians here inquired about doing the same. But, as a faculty-heavy campus organization (as opposed to staff and administrators), we are encouraged appear as personal as possible to our students and colleagues, and to express our academic freedom.

  • http://www.davidleeking.com davidleeking

    Marleah – you’re making a distinction between a “professional” and a “personal” individual profile that I don’t think Facebook makes – therefore it breaks the terms of service. I’m not talking about an organizational Page – you can set up many of those with one personal profile. But (again, my take) I think Facebook is pretty clear, and there’s no distinction between “this is my work personal profile” and “this is my real personal profile.” Pretty sure you can only have the one.

    Colleen – I’m actually implying that employees should only create one personal account and figure out how to deal with it. But that’s just me :-)

  • http://www.colleenscommentary.net/ Colleen Greene

    David, my comment wasn’t clear. I didn’t mean to imply *you* were recommending 2 different profiles. I mean that your interpretation of that library’s policy is that their restriction on personal profile use for library purposes implies that they are advising employees to create 2 different profiles.

    Our library, like you, feels that its up to each employee whether or not they want to use their personal profile for professional purposes as well.

  • http://www.davidleeking.com davidleeking

    Yep – that’s what I was thinking. Thanks for the clarification!

  • KathyS

    As a public librarian with a personal Facebook page, I consciously use the page to promote libraries in general and my library in particular. Why? 1) Not all of my friends are library users, and thus may not know all of the (free!) resources libraries offer them and 2) Not even all my friends who are library users visit the FB page or know all the ins and outs of the library’s webpage. My personal FB profile is mine, and I put personal and amusing stuff on it. But it’s also an outreach to my non-library user friends. They can see how passionate I am about what I do, and what the library does as a whole. I totally see David Lee King’s point: policies like Tulsa’s are missing the boat when it comes to “leveraging their human resources”

  • Tim

    The organizational Facebook accounts that Tulsa City-County Library (TCCL) has created were done so using Facebook Pages & they are not associated with anyone’s personal Facebook account nor are they associated with anyone’s personal email address, i.e. TCCL is the owner of these accounts. The staff that populates TCCL’s Facebook account(s) with content may or may not have a personal Facebook account. That is inconsequential as the staff who work with these accounts have no interactionoverlap between the TCCL Facebook accounts & any personal Facebook accounts they may have unless, for example, the staff member decides to share to their personal Wall content that has been posted to TCCL’s Wall. These institutional accounts are not tied to any specific staff member so were that staff member to leave the system, another staff member would step up to “manage” the page on behalf of TCCL.

  • http://www.davidleeking.com davidleeking

    Tim – thanks for sharing your perspective – appreciate it!

    You said “The organizational Facebook accounts that Tulsa City-County Library (TCCL) has created were done so using Facebook Pages & they are not associated with anyone’s personal Facebook account” – that’s not quite accurate (at least in my understanding of how Facebook works).

    To create and manage an organizational Page, you have to create personal accounts – that’s the only way to do it. We have 4 personal accounts connected to our facebook page, for example. Tulsa might very well have created individual “work only” profiles for staff to use in order to then create and manage the Tulsa Facebook Page, but you guys did, indeed, create individual profiles (even if you guys think of them as work-only, “owned by Tulsa” accounts).

    Doing it the way Facebook prefers, if a staff member leaves, it’s easy enough for any other Page manager to simply delete the admin-level access to the Page. That’s not really an issue.

    I know it seems like splitting hairs … and I’m not sure where I really fall on that. But it’s still creating “personal accounts” that aren’t really personal, and I’m not really sure where Facebook stands on that issue. Which is why I brought it up.

  • Tim

    The accounts were created using branchdepartmental email addresses that belong to no specific person & to which multiple people have access. Staff who “manage” these accounts have been explicitly instructed not to setup a personal profile for each account as it would violate the ToS & would cause the page to be deactivated. We can & do operate the organizational pages without a personal profile although this does limit what we can do, e.g. we cannot use the search box at the top of the page. The only admin for each page uses that generic branchdepartmental email address & there are no admins using an individual profile to manage the organizational page.

  • http://www.davidleeking.com davidleeking

    Just getting back to this – here’s what Facebook says: “Maintaining multiple accounts, regardless of the purpose, is a violation of Facebook’s Terms of Use. If you already have a personal account, then we cannot allow you to create business accounts for any reason. You can manage all the Pages and Socials Ads that you create on your personal account” (from their help pages).

    Can an organization set up “business accounts?” Well no – not really. Facebook is built for people – not organizations. If anyone at your library is using your “tulsa accounts” and also has a personal Facebook Profile … they are breaking the ToS. Period. Even if you guys “think” you own the “tulsa accounts” because Tulsa created them. Facebook simply doesn’t acknowledge that.

    Here – check this out, again from Facebook’s Help pages: “Why is Facebook asking me to confirm my identity by providing my phone number? This is a security measure to help ensure that Facebook remains a community of people using their real identities to connect and share. If you ever lose your password, you’ll also be able to use your mobile number to access your account.”

    Facebook pretty much requires all profile accounts to be connected to real people. Period.

    Check out Facebook’s Help pages on business accounts for that info.

    Again – not picking on Tulsa! But the whole business/personal thing comes up a lot, and it’s good to know what Facebook seems to think about the issue, and see what library best practices are.

  • Pingback: Facebook, Personal Profiles, and Business Accounts | David Lee King

  • http://www.hayspublib.org Marleah

    Just saw this response. I wasn’t making a distinction between a professional and personal profile – I was making a distinction between a PROFILE and a PAGE. I myself have a personal PROFILE, and our library department has a PAGE. So what you say in your comment about an organizational page is actually what I was saying anyway. :)