Disclaimer: This is EPA Guidance for how EPA uses Facebook. We have posted our guidance publicly in the spirit of collaboration. Other agencies and organizations may use social media differently.
Note: As of July 2011, we are no longer approving Facebook Pages for specific programs or projects. Instead, please share through EPA's main Facebook Page. This approach provides a single EPA face to the world, gets your info seen by tens of thousands of people on Facebook, and takes the burden off of you to post so frequently. We are, however, looking for geographically-specific accounts intended to interact with specific communities. In some cases, regional office-based accounts are the best we can do. But we especially encourage you to think at a more local level.
Note: Remember that your official activities on-line are subject to the ethics regulations Intranet as well as other federal and agency laws, policies and regulations. In addition, existing policies and guidance for accessibility Intranet, privacy, external site links, cookies, and writing style apply to social media tools as well. References to these are included at the end of this document.
On this page:
- What is Facebook?
- Getting started
- Set up and configure your Facebook page
- Promote and manage your page
- Moderate comments and fan posts
- Follow federal requirements
- Metrics and security
- Further options — fine tune and add features
Facebook provides EPA with a platform to share announcements, requests for feedback, questions, and links with an interested community, and also gives people a place to share with each other. Unlike a private Facebook "Profile," Facebook "Pages" permit people to become "fans" of (or, as of April 2010, to "like") our Page without our express approval. Our posts to our Pages appear on our fans' home Pages.
Note: Facebook Pages are different from Profiles; Facebook does not allow organizations like EPA to have a Profile; instead businesses and organizations use "Pages".
Why Use Facebook?
- There are more than 350 million people around the world with Facebook accounts — Facebook provides a broad reach
- Facebook allows people to comment on our posts and share things on our Page's wall
- Facebook allows us to reach out to people who use Facebook but may not engage the government in more formal, traditional ways
Facebook can be a complex, sometimes confusing system to use. The guidance below covers the basics, but you will need to experiment and explore to truly learn your way around. Please contribute comments and suggestions to this guidance and include your best practices as a member of the Facebook community.
Note: We’re not creating new program-based Facebook accounts anymore. Instead, we recommend that offices work with OWC to have their messages posted on the main EPA Facebook page and other already established EPA Facebook pages. Contact Jessica Orquina (email@example.com) for more information. Requests for Facebook accounts should be reviewed and approved by OWC before you begin posting content. Your content coordinator should contact Jessica Orquina in the Office of Web Communications (OWC) for approval of a Facebook account.
Get approval from
- Your manager; and
- Your content coordinator (see Web Council Members and Other Key Web Contacts to find your content coordinator); and
- OWC (your content coordinator will get this for you).
Develop your strategy
- What is your goal?
- What are you trying to do?
- What value do you offer to the Facebook community?
- What are the needs and real "pains" of those you're trying to reach? What do you have to offer them?
- Do you have the resources and expertise to engage your community and maintain your Facebook Page?
- What will they say about their experience with you today and tomorrow?
What can you use Facebook for?
- Most importantly, community interaction
- Provide overview of your project
- Less formal communications than news releases or fact sheets
- Web site and contact information
- Videos, photos, widgets, applications, etc.
- RSS feeds from news releases, blogs, etc.
- Press releases and other news
Set up your page
The features and management tools for Facebook Pages are constantly evolving. OWC can provide the current standard settings for various options. To get the latest information from Facebook about creating, setting up, and managing a Facebook page please review these resources:
On the editing page, return to the first “Settings” section and change “Published Status” to “Published (publicly visible)”. You may change this setting back to “Unpublished” later if you need to.
As soon as you've published, remove third-party ads from the right sidebar by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. In the email:
- Provide your Page's URL
- State that it's a federal government page
- Ask them to remove the ads
Note: Facebook's own ads will still appear.
Get a Facebook Username (Short URL)
Once you have 25 fans, get a short, easy-to-remember URL
- Go to the Facebook usernames Exit page. You’ll see a link “Set a username for your Pages” that lets you set a username for your page. Help is available at Facebook Web Addresses for Pages — Facebook Help Center Exit.
- Use the naming convention "epaXYZ" where "XYZ" describes your topic. Keep it simple and logical. For example: http://www.facebook.com/epapick5 Exit
Promote your page
You can't friend someone the way you can from a Facebook Profile. People can elect to become fans of your Page, but only if they know about it.
- Identify contacts from your personal Profile who are business connections, working in a related field, or would otherwise benefit from the information your Region or Program provides, and invite them to become a fan of the Page. Send a short note explaining what you want to offer from the Page (remember, people are thinking "what's in it for me?") and include a link to the Page.
- Write a blog post for EPA's blog, Greenversations, talking about what you plan to do with your Facebook Page (contact your Web Council representative to discuss).
- Promote your Page everywhere you're online.
- Spread the word on Twitter if you're there.
- Send out an email notification, add a link to your email signature, or put the address on your business cards.
Note: It will take time to build your fan base; keep sending out invites and promoting your Page.
Manage your Page
- Be both strategic and tactical: plan your content to coincide with other outreach, but also post when you have something to say.
- Post updates weekly or more frequently. Share links, photos, videos, and other information. It's best to provide links to EPA's web site with each update, but if appropriate, also link to other sites per normal external link procedures.
- Use informal language and contractions, and first-person pronouns, and write as if you're talking to a friend, not writing a news release.
- No: "EPA announces new program to provide benefits to"
- Yes: "Hey, sign up to get benefits! We just started a new program."
- No: "EPA will be providing individuals with …"
- Yes: "We'll give you …"
- Encourage discussion among fans by asking questions. Make sure the questions are open ended to avoid Paperwork Reduction Act concerns.
- Ask for your community's thoughts, experiences, and stories.
- Listen to what they're saying and respond as appropriate. For more guidance on how to respond, please see Representing EPA Online Using Social Media.
- Start discussions using the Discussion area of your Page.
- Embed additional content, such as applications, widgets, and RSS feeds.
- Search Facebook for related pages and add them to your Page's favorites, as appropriate. Post to their wall, and advertise your Page there from time to time.
- Link your Facebook Page to your Twitter account for automatic cross-posting.
Review comments and other fan content like posts, photos, and videos against the comment policy. See Using the EPA Comment Policy for more details.
Never simply delete comments and other fan-generated content
If content does not meet the comment policy, retain the entire item and as much detail as possible (fan name, the date and time of posting, etc.) in an offline format. For example, comments can be stored in a simple Word document. Store multimedia content in its native format and note the details in the same Word document. Capture enough about the post and the response so that someone reading about it later gets the context. Also note the reason the content did not meet the comment policy. Then delete it from your Page.
For more on comments and how to document unapproved comments, refer to Using the EPA Comment Policy.
Social Media tools, like other web-based applications, whether inside the EPA network or in the cloud (public web), must make every effort to comply with Section 508 and other policies on accessibility, privacy and record keeping. In some instances it's not possible to redesign a system to be accessible, but it's usually possible to link back to equivalent information on epa.gov. For specific questions or help on accessibility, please contact Amanda Sweda of the Office of Environmental Information.
- Do not delete your own content, as it is a federal record subject to FOIA and legal discovery. Refer to the Moderate Comments section on how to handle fan-generated content.
- As of February 2010, you do not need to do anything special to preserve records; all posts are stored on Facebook. Further guidance will be developed.
Review Facebook metrics via the "Insights" link in the left sidebar (visible only to Page admins). Tracking metrics allows you to:
- understand how useful the Page is to your community
- assess the effectiveness of the Page vs. other outreach mechanisms
- justify investment in the Page or determine you should stop using it (contact OWC (email@example.com) to ensure proper records are kept if so)
- know when you reach saturation (if activity levels off)
- figure out when to change how to manage it
Keep it secure. Since Facebook is outside EPA's control, security risks could arise from using certain applications or features. Proper security practices will be discussed by the Facebook community of practice (communities of practice are made up of agency Facebook administrators). If you know of specific problems and solutions, please provide guidance for this section.
If you experiment with this feature, please contribute guidance to Jessica Orquina.
Links, Notes, Photos, Videos, and other applications
If you try these, please contribute guidance on how to set them up and how best to use them.
Live streaming video
There is an app to display live video. Please contact OWC to discuss.
Refer to these Facebook resources for the latest information:
- Ethics (Office of General Counsel Web site) Intranet
- Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch, 5 C.F.R. Part 2635 Exit
- Federal conflict of interest statutes at Title 18 of the United States Code Exit
- Hatch Act as implemented by 5 C.F.R. Part 734 Exit
- External site links Web Standard
- Writing Style Web Standard
- Representing EPA Online Using Social Media
- Social Media, Web-Based Interactive Technologies, and the Paperwork Reduction Act (PDF) (7 pp, 83K): OMB's memorandum on how and when to apply PRA to social media Exit
- The Web Guide is the authoritative source for Web sites and applications at EPA.
- The Social Media @ EPA blog provides answers to questions about social media at EPA.
- The Information Collection Request Center describes information collection requirements imposed on the public by the EPA. Intranet
- Special Terms of Service Agreements have been negotiated with various social media sites that resolve the legal issues with the standard Terms of Service (TOS) users have to agree to when setting up an account.