EDMONTON — Here’s one suggestion as Alberta government employees get ready for Twitter training to help them navigate the new social media: don’t write tweets under the heading, “Stuff My Premier Says.”
Because while the internet might be awash in the candid ramblings of any number of curmudgeons, pundits or tweet-savvy sages, those who work for Premier Ed Stelmach will be expected to be, well, more discreet.
“There is a big role for social media in communication and we want to take advantage of that,” said Tom Olsen, director of new media and Internet for the Alberta government.
However, Olsen said it’s important that guidelines be implemented showing workers how they should conduct themselves on the Internet.
“We’re still government and there are issues to keep in mind,” said Olsen. “Issues like privacy, issues like tone.”
During Stelmach’s leadership review, he promised to do a better job communicating with the public, including using social media sites.
Since then, several government Twitter and Facebook accounts as well as blogs have started up.
Olsen said the government will train and appoint spokespeople who will represent government in social media.
Policy documents state the government recognizes free speech but says employees cannot represent the government on their own personal sites.
Last year, Stelmach himself was the victim of mockery on the Twitter site of Stephen Carter, chief of staff for Wildrose Alliance Leader Danielle Smith.
After the premier spoke to a gathering or rural leaders, Carter wrote this tweet: “Just saw da premier making a speech. Dat was quite a speech. Dem media better report it right.”
Carter removed the text and apologized.
Months earlier, it was government backbencher Doug Elniski who got an earful from Stelmach for mocking women’s rights on his blog and for Twittering about bikini-clad car washers.
Elniski, a married father with three adult daughters, had written a blog called “Grad Speeches” in which he told girls, “Men are attracted to smiles, so smile … and don’t give me that ’treated equal’ stuff. If you want Equal, it comes in little packages at Starbucks.”
He also posted a Twitter comment, “bikini car wash 82 129 Ave. girls look cold.”
And he once angered members of Edmonton’s gay community with this tweet from a gay pride parade: “I am surrounded by bumping and grinding lesbians. That guy has size 14 stilettos.”
The government is not alone in developing social media policies. A number of large companies such as Telus are now imposing guidelines for how employees should conduct themselves online.
“It boils down to common sense,” said Jim Johannsson, director of media relations for Telus. “A lot of team members don’t realize how public their posts really are.”