Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Twitter Policies

At work, I received an interesting question "from the field." The question was about whether I could identify any libraries which had "policies" about a library tweeting. So I "tweeted" about it, and posted on my Facebook page. I did not get a lot of response. I did some searching and then sent queries to the two people whose name came up most often (at least on WebJunction): David Lee King and Michael Porter.

Here is one informal answer:
It really depends on the libs goals - do they want to focus on local peeps? Do they want to friend everyone? Etc.

That was from David Lee King (Topeka Kansas PL). He has a blog, and has posted some thoughts which you may find useful:

And in another blog I found this quote:
"With that said, here is my take at a corporate Twitter policy that has the extra added benefit of being itself twitterable: Our Twitter policy: Be professional, kind, discreet, authentic. Represent us well. Remember that you can’t control it once you hit "update."

I found this from a link somewhere, Missouri River Regional Library has a “MySpace Guidelines” but not one for Twitter. In them they say:
  • Friends Friends are subject to approval by the administrator
  • The Library reserves the right to approve or deny friends

Here is a link:

Finally, my friend Michael Porter (MP, Libraryman) who works at OCLC had this insightful thought:
I do though think that it would be wiser for a library to have a larger institutional communication policy rather than a policy specific to an individual tool like Twitter, facebook, freindfeed, etc. Those tools will wax and wane and have shifting levels of cultural relevancy, but a larger, carefully thought out staff communication policy would address the important issues that can come up on any of these tools. Granted it could be wise to have paragraphs, or subsections dealing with peculiarities of an individual tool, but really, I don't think making one for Twitter alone is the way to go.

So, that is a really long answer. I think that what MP suggests (an institutional communication policy like the one suggested on the Gruntled Employees blog) with "Procedures" or "Guidelines" which can be written, would be a good way to go. In my note back to MP, I said: As a Library Director, I always made the distinction that *policy* was adopted by the Board and should be fairly immutable. *Procedures* are about how staff implement the board approved policies…


I found some more info thanks to the Librarian In Black. She pointed to a blog called "Lowrider Librarian" which has some good Twitter tips including:


The organization should have a clear policy that addresses:
  • Appropriate language
  • Appropriateness of links provided
  • Non-political links and tweets
Tweet with the organizational mission in mind at all times

Individual vs. organizational Twitter® usage

The tweeters should understand they are representing the organization and that their personal viewpoints should never override information provided and should never dictate information shared or re-tweeted.

Assessment: How will the ROI be assessed? What will be considered successful? What are your benchmarks and how will you reach them?

Building community

Tweet organizational related material. Retweet information you know your network will appreciate. Do not argue, flame or use derogatory language when tweeting. Stay positive and friendly. Share, share, share. Be yourself and be genuine, but always remember you are a representative of the organization. Again, look for those who your organization can collaborate with and build off one another’s work. Cross—promotional opportunities abound in the world of Twitter® .
Thanks Sarah!


  1. FYI, your links to DLK, gruntled & MRRL don't work.

  2. Thanks Guy....some extra code worked in, and I have fixed it, and tested it.

    I appreciate the heads up.

  3. Thank you so much for reading my post on Twitter for Organizaions.

    I asked the LITA list some questions on Twitter and public Records law --if tweets are considered public records and if they must be archived in case the public wants to inspect them.

    I received some interesting ideas, but some also pointed me to some gov sites that have good info on usage and policy:

    Fropm Andrew R. Bonamici:

    HHS General Guidance for Utilization of New and/or Social Media (working draft)
    Good policy framework that could serve as a models for states, counties, etc. Note that records management is just one of several applicable policy areas:
    "Use of social media technologies must follow the current laws and guidelines that govern information and information technology. These statues and regulations include, but are not limited to Section 508 (accessibility), records management, privacy, usability of data, security, intellectual property, the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA), and information quality."

    Amended Terms of Service Agreements with various social media service providers:
    "After the General Services Administration signs Terms of Service agreements, each Federal Department signs at the cabinet-level. These signed agreements cover all offices and agencies within that Department.Status of amended terms of service"

    NARA's 21st Annual Records Administration Conference (RACO 2009) Collaborating Across Boundaries: Government Records and Social Media

    If you want more, feel free to download this presentation on Social Media and Government:
    The directory includes a .pdf version and a .ppt with notes.

    I would agree, from what I know, that a org communications policy is in order that covers all social media. I mean--we don't know what is going to be the killer app next year, or even in a few months--but we do know common characteristics of social media and should be able to form policies that can cover it and be adaptable as well.

    Thank you so much for investigating this my friend!

  4. I would talk with Meg Canada at Hennepin County on this issue also - she has worked to get social media tools included as part of the overall communications policy at HCPL.

    Her presentations on Slideshare are here, but she is really friendly and responsive and my guess is she would reply if asked:

  5. Hi Chris.

    I know Meg. She is great. After being "friends" electronically for a while, we met in person at the PLA Spring Symposium back in April.

    I will zap her a note.