Out-Law / Your Daily Need-To-Know

New guidance developed to help local authorities communicate via social media

Out-Law News | 06 May 2015 | 3:06 pm | 1 min. read

A new information platform has been set up to help local authorities improve the way they communicate on social media.

The Digital Councils hub includes guidance on social media use developed in partnership with Google, Facebook and Twitter and which is also based on feedback from more than 120 local government councillors and officers in England.

Technology law expert Luke Scanlon of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, has previously outlined 10 legal risks that organisations and their staff must be aware of when using Twitter. He said local authorities face specific issues of compliance in areas such freedom of information laws when using social media, but that they must address broader legal issues too.

"Social media platforms provide significant advantages for organisations to effectively and quickly engage their audiences – but it shouldn't be forgotten that they are distinct forms of communication and this means that careful thought needs to be given to whether legal and regulatory compliance strategies applied to other forms of communication are appropriate to use in this context."

The Local Government Association (LGA) said the new hub will be helpful to local authorities' staff who are just getting started on social media, as well as enable councils themselves to build a "digital strategy".

As well as guides, the hub contains a number of case studies on how local authorities are already using social media platforms to communicate. It also features a directory of "councils' social media handles" which the LGA said is a useful resource for local authorities and their staff to refer to to see "how others are facing the same challenges".

Councillor David Sparks, chairman of the LGA, said: "Many councils have already got to grips with social media and are using it to communicate with their residents about things like bin collections, weather warnings and road closures."

"Digital Councils will give council communications teams help and advice as they discuss how to develop their social media presence. Councillors and councils are working at different speeds and this resource will provide a hub so we can work with everyone and learn from each other. There are thousands of dedicated council staff across the country, who play a vital role in our communities. This guidance is designed to complement and enhance their tireless work, which will ultimately benefit the lives of our residents," he said.