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Council / Nearly 20 SIC employees fall foul of council’s social media policy

New strategy recognises the role social media has in communicating with the community

EIGHTEEN breaches of social media policy have been identified by Shetland Islands Council on platforms including Snapchat and Facebook since it introduced guidance for staff.

Eleven of these related to “communicating through social media outwith the requirements of codes of professional practice”.

Six of the breaches stemmed from “accessing social media on a personal basis communicating in a way which brings employee into breach of code of conduct and other council policies”.

The final breach involved failing to communicate professionally when accessing and interacting through internet sites as part of council duties.

The data was revealed to Shetland News through a freedom of information request.

It comes as the council this week approved a new social media strategy on how best to harness the technology to communicate with the public.

But a warning was made in the chamber that social media has both positives and negatives – particularly in an island community.

Meanwhile the breaches of social media policy, which related to 18 employees, covered the platforms WhatsApp, Facebook, Facebook Messenger and image sharing app Snapchat.

Some of the breaches were dealt with informally.

The use of social media is covered in the council’s code of conduct for employees, while guidelines for staff provide advice on using social media for conducting council business as well as personal use.

Chief executive Maggie Sandison told Shetland News the council had a network of experts/regular users to “support each other in developing content and best practice and staff can also access training to improve their skills in social media communications too”.

The council’s newly approved social media strategy relates more to how it uses social media to interact with the community, as it becomes an increasingly important communication tool across its many services.

SIC chief executive Maggie Sandison. Photo: Shetland News

Sandison said in the introduction to the strategy that social media is now the “channel of choice for many” when it comes to accessing information from the council.

“One of the best features of social media is that it is constantly evolving, so it’s important for us to keep on top of trends, be open minded and creative,” she wrote.

“We need to consider the potential value and power of new tools and techniques so we stay relevant, improve and innovate.”

Sandison added that social media would be used to “enhance the council’s image and reputation by sharing positive news stories”.

At the last count the council had over 50 social media profiles across all of its services, but with some not used often or inactive, a recent audit identified a need to ensure that all profiles were “adequately resourced and controlled”.

The finer details of how the strategy will be implemented will be provided at a later date.

Depute council leader Emma Macdonald told Monday’s policy and resources committee that to get the best from social media, “you need to be able to engage with it effectively”.

“I think it’s important that we continue to evolve as a council, and find different ways of reaching our communities, and the ability to share positive news will be of real benefit to the council”.

Shetland South member George Smith added: “I think we all recognise that social media can be both a positive and a negative influence, particularly in small communities like this, so it’s really important that the council embraces social media and this policy will ensure we do that in a positive way.”

He said it would perhaps allow over time the council to “challenge some of the myths and stories that grow arms and legs through social media”.