Saturday, January 21, 2017
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Brentwood Social Media Policy

The City of Brentwood, just outside Cool Springs, recently issued a new social media plan and policy.

If you’re in need of some casual reading this afternoon, below we’ve provided a copy of each.

Our favorite passage listed under ‘Goals and Objectives’:

“Provide only one way communication from the city”

City of Brentwood Social Media Plan:

“The City of Brentwood is a unique community in that the residents are very civic minded, technologically savvy and well educated. Consequently the city is always searching for new, diverse methods of communicating with residents. As the Brentwood community relies more and more on electronic information to keep up to date on current events including local government news, this city realizes that the possibility of incorporating social media into the existing communication tools can be another way to share time timely, pertinent information on the activities of city government and issues affecting the community.

Social media can provide another element of communication in ways that were not possible just a few years ago. It is a great tool for general communications such as news, special events, updates, hot topics, road construction and public meeting notices. Most importantly, it provides for emergency communications and is the quickest and most cost efficient way to really critical information. Similar government agencies have found it very beneficial in reaching their community.

The City of Brentwood has a strong tradition of keeping our citizens informed about city issues and events. Social media tools will enhance and complement our existing communication programs.


What are Social Media and Web 2.0? They are umbrella terms that defined the various activities that integrate technology and content creation. What is meant by ‘social networking’? Most commonly – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Myspace, Wikipedia and Nixle are few commonly know social media websites. Social media has definitely created a new way of communicating.

The age of social media has arrived whether we like it or not. Reality is that social media is here to stay and using social networking seems to be a perfect opportunity to pursue other ways to disseminate information to our community. The tremendous technology advances in communication have created a world where people want to be informed sooner than later. This environment will continue to advance and be enhanced as technology progresses at a rapid pace. In view of this, the city should continue to expand our communications efforts to effectively meet the needs of our residents.

In research and the feasibility of expanding the city’s years of direct Electronic Communications through social media two Brentwood citizens, the city worked with an ICMA leadership team as well as contacted other cities, counties and government agencies that are utilizing the social media. The information obtained determined: what social media tools other governments are using; how social media tools are being used; what legal limitations exist; and what trends are emerging. Social networking is still fairly new to most governments, but it was discovered that many have successfully used to these sites to their advantage.

City Support

Through working with staff and the ICMA team’s departmental meetings, it was determined that the City Commission and senior staff supports in principle the advance into the social media communications area and shows overall excitement for social networking and the experience and opportunity if offers. The overall consensus was based on the principle of one way communication delivered by departments using a consistent citywide policy framework. The commission and staff believe that developing the social media workplace is a way of the future and sharing information through electronic media is important to our citizens. Commission and staff recognize that social media can help them communicate better and as such, improve the effectiveness of their roles. Social media can only enhance the City of Brentwood’s strong foundation of open, one-on-one communication.

Social Media Sites

Facebook and Twitter – In researching that many diverse social networking websites that the city could utilize, it was important to understand which ones were best for effectively communicating with Brentwood citizens. It was discovered that 90% of the governments use Facebook and Twitter and that these two sites have the largest audiences. Research also found that Facebook in Twitter are the best in meeting Brentwood’s goals, seem to fit our communication needs better and are quick, cost-efficient ways to relay information.

The City will create a general City of Brentwood Facebook page for use by all departments. The City Recorder will be the designated monitor of the Facebook account and will be trained to post items in accordance with the City’s social media policy. Individual departments will also have designated staff members authorized to post items. The Brentwood library has existing social media sites. Given the volume of postings by the library and the specific subject matter of those postings, the plan calls for the library to continue operating its own sites in accordance with the new City Social Media Policy.

A City of Brentwood Twitter account would also be created and operated in a similar manner as the Facebook page. In most instances, it is expected that information posted to the Facebook page would be simultaneously posted to the city’s Twitter account using a software application tool discussed below. Consideration may also be given to additional twitter pages designed to communicate specific information to a distinct segments of the population (i.e. Twtter page just for athletic field status updates for coaches and parents of players). Where appropriate, all sites will link to the city’s website where citizens can obtain more complete and detailed information.

Nixle – Public safety is a unique operation within the city communication system and needs a different social media application known as Nixle. This social media site is specific to public safety operation and is used to provide, inform and/or obtain information regarding a specific public safety situation such as a major traffic accident, hazardous materials incident or criminal activity. Use of a separate public safety emergency application would also allow citizens to differentiate between a general city announcement and a notification of a safety or emergency situation. Research showed that Nixle it is becoming the tool of choice for public safety departments. Note that use of Nixle for public safety emergency postings does not preclude the same information from being posted on the City’s Facebook and Twitter sites, but the Nixle site would be the designated public safety emergency social media site.

With the continual evolution of social media sites and the rapid increase in users, the communication possibilities seem to be endless. The City will need to continually monitor the evolution of social media in the future and be prepared to adapt this plan as needed to changes and new opportunities.

Social Media Site Development

There are two different ways to approach social media site operation. The city can 1) post individual updates on the various social media websites and the city website which can be very time consuming or 2) utilize a software tool that would allow news updates on the city’s website to automatically you posted on multiple social media websites at the same time. The ICMA team recommend that the city “consider the use of a website development vendor to a table the social media integration with current technology in an effort to avoid duplication, keep the input process simplified and maintain the Brentwood image through the new communication platforms” thus minimizing the times spent to post information. This approach is much more time and cost-effective in the City’s website vendor does offer such a tool could be added to our website management system.

Goals and Objectives

Social Media Communication goals:

  • Provide more city information to a greater number of Brentwood citizens
  • Provide rapid disbursement of emergency information
  • Push information out to residents instead of requiring them to look for information
  • Target the social media tools that are best for the city
  • Provide only one way communication from the city
  • Cost efficient; minimal financial impact
  • Minimum increase in staff workload
  • Select sites that are easy additions to the City’s other communications
  • Connect with citizens who get their news and information primarily through social media
  • Explain and/or educate and serve as a source to build interest and awareness
  • Enhance and not duplicate currents communication efforts
  • Developed a consistent policy for all departments
  • Send data on an ‘as needed basis’; send only relevant information
  • Keep information interesting, reliable and pertinent
  • Provide links back to our webpage for more information
  • Respond to situations or post information instantaneously to a wide audience
  • Provide other ways to post city news instead of relying on the print media
  • Track number of social media followers

The City’s use of social media will be designed to disseminate timely, relevant information that is clear and concise, thus avoiding overwhelming Brentwood citizens with frivolous information.

Social Media Policy

With social media communication there is a need for administrative guidelines to manage the information and associated expectations. An effective policy will provide clarity and confidence for the staff acquired to develop content and maintain the information. The social media policy provides an opportunity for social networking to be used to support the objectives of the organization.

Legal Requirements

City Attorney will advise each department on content and retention requirements including, but not limited to the following:

All content posted on city social media sites is subject to Tennessee open records laws and should be considered a public record which may be republished in other media.
Social media should not be utilized as a form for communications that could constitute a violation of open government statutes.

Confidentiality and and privacy of residence should be considered a high priority. Individual addresses, phone or email information should not be published or distributed on social media.
If a question arises regarding the use or posting of information on a social media site, the matter should be referred to the legal department for review.

Disclaimer – the City of Brentwood’s social media networking use is subject to the privacy policy and disclaimer contained on the City’s website.

Citizen Enrollment

All citizens currently using the proposed social media sites (Facebook, Twitter and Nixle) would be encouraged to “subscribe” to the City’s sites to receive social media information. Links to the City’s various social media sites would also be provided on the city’s website.

The purpose of the social media is to provide information to the city’s online community – augmenting communication tools already implemented by the City. Existing communication all its will be used to notify citizens of the new social media applications. The City will publicize the service in the city newsletters, the web page, homeowners’ association email news communications, channel 19, local media, etc. The information distributed should emphasize that the city is joining the social media world as a way to build on its current communication platform and will continue its emphasis on open communication between the City and citizens.”

City of Brentwood’s Social Media Policy:

The use of Social Media or Web 2.0 by individuals as well as governments has grown significantly in the past several years. With our community relying more and more on electronic information to obtain day-to-day news and information, the City of Brentwood has incorporated social media into the existing communication tools to expand and enhance the city’s efforts to provide timely, pertinent government information to as many citizens as possible.

The primary benefits of the City’s social media are that it: provides rapid disbursement of emergency information enabling the city to respond to situations or post information instantaneously; expands the city’s communications to a greater number of citizens by including those who get their news and information primarily through social media and online; and directs users to the city website where more complete, detailed information can be obtained and comments can be registered.

While social media affords new opportunities to reach thousands of citizens more effectively, there are potential challenges that are unique for governments. In order to provide reasonable guidelines for online behavior by city employees, the City has developed a Social Media Policy.


• The purpose of the Social Media Policy is to provide protocol and procedures for providing content use of social media to publicize official City of Brentwood information. The policy addresses the responsibilities of city employees that utilize city provided electronic/computer resources, as well as responsibilities related to public records and open meeting laws.
• This policy sets social media guidelines to ensure timely, accurate and appropriate use of these outlets to deliver clear, concise and consistent messages on behalf of the City. For the purposes of this policy, social media means any facility for online publication and commentary, including but not limited to Facebook, Twitter and Nixle.
• The Community Relations Department is responsible for the development of the City of Brentwood social media plan and oversight of the policies and procedures pertaining to the social media applications. A list of authorized individuals and/or departments who are responsible for posting, monitoring, and/or updating social media information will be established and maintained by this department.
• Each Department Director or their designated employee(s) is responsible for the content of their department’s social media information. To ensure that messages adhere to the social media policy, the type of departmental information provided to the public shall be reviewed and authorized by the department director.
• Police and Fire Department Directors are responsible for the content and usage of Nixle, a social media application specific to public safety operations. To ensure that Nixle is used appropriately, guidelines shall be developed to define under what circumstances the normal city social media applications should be used and when Nixle should be used.
• The Information Technology Department will ensure the security of the network, provide the necessary access and tools for all authorized individuals and provide backups for archiving of social media information which is to be kept in accordance with the City’s Records Retention Schedule and applicable law.
• The Legal Department will routinely review and update the social media policy to comply with the latest federal and state laws and local regulations.
• City of Brentwood social media program shall be carried out for the sole purpose of providing official city government information and shall be considered an official component of the City’s information and communications network.
• Use of social media sites is intended to provide Brentwood residents and businesses with quicker communications about current City news, emergency alerts, road closures, hot topics, parks & recreations programs, job opportunities, new services, holiday closings, weather alerts, educational information, etc.
• Social media information should be timely and delivered in clear, concise and consistent messages.
• Social media applications should also provide links to the city’s website,, for complete and detailed information. Text should be duplicated, when possible, from other documents or existing city web pages so that content is consistent.
• Brentwood’s social media is, by design, an outward, one-way communication program to share city information with citizens but should include City contact: phone numbers, e-mail addresses and/or city website for follow up information and to answer questions.
• The social media system is not intended for two-way dialogue due to legal constraints on censoring inappropriate comments and language and staff limitations. The use of any social media site that does not provide the technical ability to block two-way communication is prohibited.
• All social media content is representative of the City of Brentwood. Information shall be consistent with all city policies. Only City addresses, e-mails and information shall be permitted on the authorized social media sites.
• Departments should respect the information overload in our society today and use social media sites to send only important information on an ‘as needed basis’. Use social media sites to send information that is timely and relevant to the efficiency of departmental operations.
• All content posted on city social media sites is subject to Tennessee open record laws and will be considered a public record which may be republished in other media. Social media communications should not be used as a forum for communicating information that could constitute a violation of open government statutes.
• The confidentiality and privacy of residents should be considered a high priority. Individual addresses, phone or e-mail information should not be published or distributed on social media.
• If a question arises regarding the appropriate use or posting of information on a social media site, the matter should be referred to the Legal Department for review and guidance.
• The City Manager or his designee shall restrict or remove information from an authorized City social media site if the information does not comply with the social media policy.
• This policy is in addition to and complements any existing or future City policies regarding the use of technology, computers, email and the internet.


The City of Brentwood’s social media networking use is subject to the privacy policy and disclaimer contained on the City’s website (


The policy applies to all city employees. Any violation of the policy is subject to disciplinary action in accordance with the City’s Personnel Rules and Regulations.

If you have any questions concerning the Social Media Policy, please contact the City of Brentwood Community Relations Director, Linda Lynch at (615) 371-0060 or

  • Social Media in Orgs

    I commend the City of Brentwood for recognizing the importance of embracing social media technologies to enhance their communication efforts. It’s clear they put a lot of thought and effort into developing this policy. I especially appreciate their efforts to create an integrated social media system and their emphasis on quality content.

    That said, their approach is fundamentally flawed. The underlying notion behind social media is that it facilitates user-generated content, promoting dialogue (and multi-logues), not just monologues. Brentwood’s clear commitment to using social media channels simply as fresh outlets for one-way communication, in spite of their stated “emphasis on open communication between the City and citizens,” reveals that they just don’t “get it.” Their lack of understanding is also reflected in some of their language choices (e.g., references to THE social media, a suggestion to “subscribe” to the City’s sites) and technical solutions (e.g., autoposting from the website).

    The flaws in their logic and approach indicate how important it is for organizational leaders across all disciplines to have a solid understanding of social media before pursuing specific initiatives. In the Digital Era, not doing so could have fairly significant negative consequences.

    I’ve shared this piece with the Social Media in Organizations (SMinOrgs) Community – unfortunately, as a “Social Media Don’t” ( I hope one day I can share a story about Brentwood as a “Social Media Do.”

    Courtney Hunt
    Founder, SMinOrgs Community

    PS – A relatively minor but important point: the policy is full of typos and grammatical errors that detract from its overall quality and in some cases may change their meaning/intent.

  • Anonymous

    Courtney, thanks for your comment. Like yourself, we’re happy to see a plan implemented but also disappointed that it is really a “one-way” communication vehicle. If you have any interest in guest posting an expanded analysis of their plan on, let us know! Especially because many communities in the surrounding area will now be looking towards Brentwood as a role model since they are an early adopter in Nashville.