Skip to main content

As social media changes, so does GDS’s Playbook

The rules of the game have changed. Have you? GDS Social Media Playbook.

Our last update to GDS’s Social Media Playbook was in 2018. Since then, new entities have emerged (TikTok only came to the UK in August of that year), and existing players have evolved. We wanted to make sure the GDS Social Media Playbook reflected the current landscape and the things we’ve learnt since 2018, so we thought it was high time we updated it and shared it with you. You’ll find our research and learnings in the playbook itself, but I’ve picked out a couple of changes for you below.

Don’t skimp on security

Earlier this year, a number of verified Twitter accounts experienced takeovers by hackers. In this instance, the hack was perpetrated by exploiting insecurities within Twitter itself, but it’s important that you minimise risk and any vulnerabilities on your end too.

In a newly-added section, we highlight the measures we take to ensure all of our social media profiles are as safe and secure as possible. For instance, we use 2-factor authentication on all platforms, as well as the tools we use to manage our accounts.

Your Information Assurance team will be happy to assist you in making these types of changes - why not send them the playbook and schedule a catch-up to talk through how to sharpen up on your cyber resilience?

Social media is for everyone, so keep your content accessible

GDS has the mandate to ensure the public sector is accessible to everyone, and that includes social media presences! We have collaborated with the Government Communication Service (GCS) to produce in-depth guidance on ensuring your social media content is accessible, and have integrated that best practice into the playbook as an introduction to the principles we apply day to day. Trust me, building in accessibility is easy when you know what to do!

One particular thing that stands out to me is the use of emojis, which has been popularised by the casual nature of conversation on social media platforms. You should know that emojis shouldn’t be used like punctuation, because people using screen readers (tools that read out loud what is on the page) will read each emoji individually, making it harder to understand what you’re actually trying to say.

Look out for your colleagues when you look out for your users

We gave our community management section a bit of a make-over as well. There have been several events over the past months that have led to an increase in users reaching out to the GOV.UK Twitter account, which we manage. Because we want to ensure that users have the same quality of experience as previously, we had to make sure that our colleagues who were responding to users were well cared for.

The section on team wellbeing and resilience covers the kind of measures we put in place in order to take the pressure off our colleagues, such as avoiding back-to-back shifts, and arranging workplace assessments as part of encouraging healthy working practice. This may be the nudge for you to get together with other colleagues across your organisation to look into what’s possible, and check in on how those who are on the frontline of your social media channels are doing.

What does the future of social media hold?

We don’t have crystal balls to gaze into (how easy would our jobs be otherwise!) but we’ve noticed one thing at least: social media may be built for one purpose, but once users get a hold of it, it can be diverted into a totally different purpose. It’s an incredible power that both platforms and users possess, so it’s important to stay alert to these things. The most important lesson of them all is to stay engaged and up to date - we’re doing the same.

Be a friend, follow us on @GDSteam on Twitter, @GDSteam on Instagram and Government Digital Service on LinkedIn, and engage with our content!

Sharing and comments

Share this page


  1. Comment by Emma-Jane Stogdon posted on

    It's so important to look our for your colleagues wellbeing and mental health so I'm pleased these are measures you suggest putting in place.

    As much as social media is fantastic communicative tool for all, the anonimity or instantaneous nature of the some platforms can lead to some rather unpleasant comments.

    Community management is a challenge at times for sure and the front line of social media is often where the majority of communication happens, which is why having your colleagues wellbeing at front and centre is imperative.

  2. Comment by David posted on

    The playbook mentions Facebook adverts and the 20% text in ad rule:

    Facebook will only let you use an image for advertising that has no more than 20% of text in it.

    This was something we discovered earlier this year, causing a panic about our animated adverts not complying. Unfortunately there's no guidance about how the rule applies to animated ads and aside from taking screengrabs at various points in the ad to run through the Text Overlay Tool there was no answer.

    However, at the time Facebook's own guidelines stated that the 20% rule was not applicable to 'public information messages'. So if your advert is not commercial and you're not selling something the rule does not apply. The chances are most government department's adverts will fall into this category. It might be worth confirming [unfortunately I can't find the specific page it was on] and adding it to the playbook as content creators might start panicking, like we did, about their ads.