Social Media 101: A beginner’s guide for Finance employees

Peter Alexander - AGIMO
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Firstly, an introduction: I’m the manager of the Online Services Branch of the Australian Government Information Management Office, which is part of the Department of Finance and Deregulation (Finance). My branch is responsible for redeveloping the Web Publishing Guide.

We know from our stats and from agency queries that some of the most popular pages on the existing Guide are those dealing with Web 2.0 issues. As part of the redevelopment of the Guide we’ll look to update this content to include new developments in this area.

In doing this we won’t just be providing agencies with proper advice – we’ll also be in line with the push in the last year or so for greater use of Web 2.0 tools in the Australian Public Service. Leading the way was the Government 2.0 Taskforce, which disbanded in late 2009 after making 13 recommendations about greater online engagement and release of public sector information to the Australian Government. The recently-released Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for the Reform of Australian Government Administration (the Moran Review) also made some recommendations in this space see Reform 2: Creating more open government.

One of the important areas that we know agencies are interested in is the use of social media sites to engage with the public. But, as the Gov 2 Taskforce said in their report, for security reasons many agencies don’t even allow their employees to access these sites.

Until a few weeks ago, that used to be the case in Finance. But, in light of the work of the Gov 2 Taskforce, Finance opened up access to a range of social media sites to all staff. Employees were also provided with a set of guidelines on appropriate use of social media, including a how-to guide for Facebook and Twitter.

These guidelines cover a broad range of issues, including what Finance employees can talk about online and issues they should be aware of when using social media. The guidelines also look at relevant advice from the Australian Public Service Commission and the difference between official, professional and personal use of social media by Finance employees.

Chances are that the redeveloped Guide will include advice on what agencies should consider in opening up social media access to staff. In the meantime, we’re taking a first step in that direction by releasing Finance’s internal social media guidelines to the public. Keep in mind that we’re providing them purely for informational purposes: they’re intended as an example of departmental social media guidelines, rather than advice about what agencies’ own guidelines should cover. But hopefully you’ll find them interesting.

It’s also important to note that these guidelines are only a first version, and could change over time based on the Department’s experience with social media. Let us know what you think of the guidelines – we’re interested in your feedback about what is good or bad about them, and what could potentially be added to them.

Update 10 Feb 2012: Social Media 101 is now being published on The most up-to-date versions of the document can be found at The below links are retained for archival purposes.

Update: We've discovered some accessibility issues with the in-blog version of this document. To view it in this format, it's available at Other formats are below.

Comments (12)

Thank you for publishing these guidelines and for the additional background information you have shared. Would it be possible to see them released under a Creative Commons license so we could incorporate them as a sample into the Taskforce's Project 8 guide?

I wonder if this does the trick:

It is so good to see these guidelines released to the public. As has so often been said in the Gov 2.0 Report and by many people publicly the problem with online engagment is not the technology, but culture.

Giving public servants the sanction to engage online is crucial. Equally important is giving them the guidance and tools needed to do so with confidence.

What has been done here sets an example to other APS agencies. The issue of readiness from an organisational culture perspective was always going to be an issue. That is something that can be worked through together - and blogs etc provide a vehicle for doing so. But cultural and systemic resistance is something that needs to be looked at in another light.

Steve Davies

Great effort team AGIMO.

I think you have a great template here for all agencies to consider. It is very well balanced between the open gov desires and the obvious need for discretion

Of course, as a web dude I would love to see it all go a lot further but I can understand the need for a careful path forwad (gosh, I must be getting old)

So, yep, well done folks

Jimi Bostock
PUSH Agency
Brisbane | Canberra | Sydney | Australia

Peter, nice work by you and your team. This gives both your department and all others a great baseline to work from.

Hopefully, it's a living document and you keep up up to date on changes to it over time.

Well done on publishing this guide - and well done for making it available to the public.

I noticed that you have included Facebook Lite in the document - Facebook has recently shut down Facebook Lite so you may need to revise the text accordingly.


Clayton Wehner
Blue Train Enterprises

Thanks for this information, which is an excellent template for agencies to use.

On a related point, can you advise if there are any plans in relation to tinyURLs and Twitter to make an Australian government URL shortener, as has happened in the USA.


This could solve some of the problems identified in relation to the use of shortened URLs.

Here's a new guide that's come to my attention that provides a view on eight areas that all Government social media policies should contain.

Worth consideration I think:

This is great to have and very useful for other depts as a starting point. Could the link to the RTF version please be fixed?

Lisa, thanks for the kind words and for letting us know about the broken link - it should work properly now. We are also running a link checker over the blog to check for any other broken links.

Thanks. This is a good practical contribution that other public servants can utilise and tailor.

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Last updated: 27 July 2016