Social Media Policy


To address the fast-changing landscape of the Internet and the way residents communicate and obtain information online, City of Vancouver departments may use social media tools to reach a broader audience. The City encourages the use of social media to further the goals of the City and the missions of its departments, where appropriate.

The City of Vancouver has an overriding interest and expectation in deciding what is “spoken” on behalf of the City on its social media sites. This policy establishes guidelines for the use of City social media channels when communicating with the public.

This policy relates only to the formation and management of the City’s social media accounts. It does not include guidelines for employee use of personal social media accounts during work hours, nor does it include guidelines for employees who wish to make comments about work-related subjects from personal social media accounts. For more information about those issues, please contact the City’s Human Resources Department.


  1. Creation of any new City of Vancouver social media accounts or proposed use of any new social media tools/programs must first be approved by the City’s Communications Manager or designee.
  2. City Communication staff will be given full administrative access to all social media accounts/pages.
  3. The City will approach the use of social media tools as consistently as possible, agency-wide.
  4. The City of Vancouver’s websites ( will remain the City’s primary and predominant Internet presence.
    1. The best, most appropriate City of Vancouver uses of social media tools fall generally into two categories:
      1. As channels for disseminating time-sensitive information as quickly as possible (example: emergency information).
      2. As marketing/promotional channels which increase the City’s ability to broadcast its messages to the widest possible audience.
    2. Wherever possible, content posted to City of Vancouver social media sites will also be available on the City’s website.
    3. Wherever possible, content posted to City of Vancouver social media sites should contain links directing users back to the City’s website for in-depth information, forms, documents or online services necessary to conduct business with the City of Vancouver.
  5. As is the case for the City of Vancouver website, departmental public information staff will be responsible for the content and upkeep of any social media sites their department may create, with support as needed from the City Communications staff.
  6. Wherever possible, all City of Vancouver social media sites shall comply with appropriate City policies and standards, including but not limited to:
    1. Policy and Procedure 100-40: Councilmember Social Media Policy
    2. HR Policy Section 500: Employee Ethics
    3. HR Policy Section 600: Information Management
  7. City of Vancouver social media sites shall also comply with all applicable ethics and elections codes and administrative rules.
  8. City of Vancouver social media accounts are subject to State of Washington public records laws. Any content maintained in a social media format that is related to City business, including a list of subscribers and posted communication, is a public record. The Department maintaining the site is responsible for responding completely and accurately to any public records request for public records on social media. Content related to City business shall be maintained in an accessible format and so that it can be produced in response to a request (see social media channel standards).

Wherever possible, social media accounts/pages shall clearly indicate that any articles or other content posted or submitted for posting are subject to public disclosure. Users should also be notified that public disclosure requests must be directed to the relevant departmental public disclosure officer (see social media channel standards for text).

  1. Washington state law and relevant City of Vancouver records retention schedules apply to social media accounts and content. Unless otherwise addressed in a specific social media standards document, the Department maintaining a site shall preserve records required to be maintained pursuant to a relevant records retention schedule for the required retention period in a format that preserves the integrity of the original record and is easily accessible. Appropriate retention formats for specific social media tools are detailed in social media channel standards.
  2. Posts and comments made to City social media accounts containing any of the following forms of content shall not be allowed and may be hidden or removed at the sole discretion of the City:
    1. Comments not topically related to the particular social medium article being commented upon or links to any unrelated external website or social media site;
    2. Comments in support of or opposition to political campaigns or ballot measures;
    3. Profane language or content;
    4. Content that promotes, fosters, or perpetuates discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, age, religion, gender, marital status, status with regard to public assistance, national origin, physical or mental disability or sexual orientation;
    5. Threats to any person, group or organization;
    6. Sexual content or links to sexual content;
    7. Solicitations of commerce;
    8. Multiple copies of the same comment, or repetition of substantially similar comments;
    9. Conduct or encouragement of illegal activity;
    10. Information that may tend to compromise the safety or security of the public or public systems, including content that may pose a security risk to City computer information systems; or
    11. Content that violates or appears to infringe upon a legal ownership interest of any other party.

These guidelines must be displayed to users or made available by hyperlink (see standards for text). Any content removed based on these guidelines must be retained for a maximum of three years (the statute of limitations under 42 USC 1983 for violation of First Amendment rights), including the time, date and identity of the poster when available.

  1. The City reserves the right to hide or remove any content with or without notice to the author. The City also reserves the right to ban or block any user that repeatedly (more than once) violates the guidelines listed in item # 10 above.
  2. For each social media tool approved for use by the City the following documentation will be developed and adopted:
    1. Operational and use guidelines
    2. Standards and processes for managing accounts on social media sites
    3. City and departmental branding and design standards
    4. Standards for the administration of social media sites