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South Carolina ban of social media use by state employees is nuts

south carolina ban social media
January 24, 2015

Cassie Cope (@cassielcope), reporting for Columbia’s daily, The State, reports that the State of South Carolina is banning the use of all social media by state workers.

The ban is pursuant to a new code of conduct to take effect this July. The purpose, believe it or not, is to instill public confidence in state government.

Among other things, the code of conduct will ban the the use of social media on state equipment unless it is a part of the employee’s job. Per the code:

Unless specifically required by the agency to perform a job function, you may not use social media, including but not limited to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, while on duty or through the use of state resources or equipment.

While many states and local governments are looking to leverage social media for networking, learning and relations with taxpayers, South Carolina decides to do the opposite of empowering their employees to do a better job for the people they serve.

Feels like the State looks at social media as some type of kid’s toy.

You know, Twitter, perhaps the most powerful news and information tool of our time and a yo-yo – peas of the same pod. Facebook, no question the best community and relationship builder ever, it’s about as valuable as an etch a sketch at work.

The Center for Technology in Government at the State University Of New York-Albany is even studying how governments and their employees can leverage social media.

Government agencies are increasingly looking to leverage social media to improve the quality of government services and enable greater citizen engagement. Publicly available social media sites, such as Facebook or Twitter, are providing governments with attractive options for meeting these new objectives. These sites are widely available to government employees and citizens with Internet access; they have established communities and networks; and they provide a wide range of audio, video, and interactive capabilities without substantial costs.

And from the Brookings Institute, 4 years ago:

Government agencies in the United States and around the world are increasingly looking to leverage social media to improve the quality of government services and enable greater citizen engagement.

Social media actually increases employee productivity in the workplace as reported by Matt Hartley (@thehartley) for the Financial Post, citing a 2013 Microsoft Study.

Here’s just some of the ways social increases productivity – and saves taxpayers money.

  • Engagement with citizens. Not just in the case of elected officials, but for state employees serving the public in various capacities. Social builds communication channels, trust, and relationships. Government employees better understand taxpayer needs and taxpayers are more apt to trust those people they can communicate with directly. Communication today is social, not through publication relations professionals — if you are sincere about instilling confidence. 
  • Collaboration among state employees. Social media tools are more widely used by state employees, easier to use, and are free. Not every communication need be private – in fact much cannot be in the case of public employees.
  • Learning network. Everyone is more knowledgeable and productive when they can tap into the knowledge of peers they have come to know and trust. Social media is how we build networks and share ideas today.
  • Access to information. Look at the business and professional questions asked and the discussion which ensues across Twitter and Facebook. An organization as sophisticated as the Mayo Clinic has its doctors (4,000 of them) on Twitter for exactly this reason.
  • Savings of time. South Carolina employees, one at a time, will go to Google for answers. Maybe they’ll find what they need after some time, maybe not. Employees in other states will go to social media and get answers from those they trust and get others they trust searching for them. People in South Carolina and across the country helping state employees.

I’d pay to hear some of the South Carolina debate on this ban. Had to be a lot of naive comment from the small minded and unknowing.