Facebook Guidelines and Best Practices
This document is designed to provide guidance to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention employees and contractors on the process for planning and development, as well as best practices for participating and engaging, on the social networking site.
Facebook is a social networking service launched in February 2004. As of March 2012, Facebook has more than 901 million active users, who generate an average of 3.2 billion Likes and Comments per day.
The first CDC Facebook page, managed by the Office of the Associate Director for Communication Science (OADC), Division of News and Electronic Media (DNEM), Electronic Media Branch (EMB), was launched in May 2009 to share featured health and safety updates and to build an active and participatory community around the work of the agency. The agency has expanded its Facebook presence beyond the main CDC profile, and now supports multiple Facebook profiles connecting users with information on a range of CDC health and safety topics.
Facebook, as with other social media tools, is intended to be part of a larger integrated health communications strategy or campaign developed under the leadership of the Associate Director of Communication Science (ADCS) in the Health Communication Science Office (HCSO) of CDC’s National Centers, Institutes, and Offices (CIOs).
Clearance and Approval
- New Accounts: As per the CDC Enterprise Social Media policy (link not available outside CDC network):
- All new Facebook accounts must be cleared by the program’s HCSO office.
- OADC must be notified at least 5 days prior to the launch of the profile. To notify OADC, please send an e-mail to email@example.com.
- Security approval is required from the CDC Office of the Chief Information Security Officer (OCISO). Please contact your CIO’s Information Systems Security Officer (ISSO) for additional information on security requirements for participation in Facebook.
- A Privacy Impact Assessment must also be completed and signed by CDC’s Privacy Officer.
Additionally, programs should ensure that their media relations specialist and the News Media Branch in the Division of News and Electronic Media are aware of the new account.
- Careful consideration should always be given to the nature of Facebook posts and activities.
- All Facebook posts and activities must be cleared through the clearance channels determined by a program’s HCSO office.
- Facebook accounts are viewed as an official voice of CDC.
- Posts that are likely to draw widespread or media attention (e.g., new study shows 20% increase in disease); reflect a change in policy, recommendations, or guidelines (e.g., CDC expands coverage recommendation for ABC vaccine); or address a controversial topic may also need to be cleared through the program’s media relations specialist and the News Media Branch in the Division of News and Electronic Media.
- Posting standard health messages (e.g., exercise is good for you) should also go through a program’s communications clearance channels.
It is recommended that CDC Facebook pages include CDC in the page name and the CDC logo. Co-branding and the use of additional logos may also be incorporated in accordance with CDC Brand Identity standards.
An official comment policy should be developed for each Facebook page. An example CDC Facebook page comment policy is available in the application section of the CDC Facebook page.
All Facebook page administrators must establish a system to collect all Facebook posts, comments, fan posts, events, and hidden posts (spam) to comply with Federal guidelines for records management and archiving.
Any comment removed for violating the CDC commenting policy must be recorded and archived prior to deleting.
The Digital Media Branch (DMB) provides consultation on the planning and development of Facebook activities and other social media tools. Please submit a Create-IT request for Social Media Consultation. Your CIO’s Social Media Council representative can also provide assistance.
Before using Facebook, programs should consider the following recommendations when developing communication plans:
- Clearly Define the Objectives: It is important to have clearly defined objectives before
participating in Facebook. Do you want to highlight content, spark action, or encourage
awareness of an issue? Clearly defined objectives will help you to determine if Facebook
can help you in meeting larger communication goals.
- Know Your Target Audience(s): As with any communications activity, it is important to define your intended target audience(s) in order to develop and communicate messages that resonate with your audience and prompt them to take action.
- Determine Resource Needs: Determine if you have the appropriate staffing resources to
create content and manage a Facebook page. It is important to designate a channel
manager to serve as the point of contact for Facebook activities and ensure the content is
posted on a regular basis.
- Identify the Best Platform: Determine if you should develop a new Facebook page, have
content posted on the CDC Facebook page, or use a different social media channel. See
Appendix A, Channel Decision Matrix, for additional guidance
Programs should consider the following best practices when developing Facebook content and activities:
- Keep Your Content Short and Simple:
- Length of posts should be 250 characters or less to allow the post to be viewed in its entirety in the news feed.
- Length of comments should be 1,000 characters or less, and include a CDC.gov link for additional information and resources.
- Determine Schedule and Frequency of Facebook Posts: It is important to set a posting schedule that defines a regular frequency for posts per week. Setting a regular schedule helps to ensure that the account is active and encourages more engaged users. Consider posting daily at a minimum.
- Identify the Best Web Link: All Facebook posts should include a single URL, preferably to
the CDC website or other CDC multimedia, to direct the user for more information.
Campaign codes can be added to CDC.gov links in order to track metrics in Adobe Site
- Add Custom Images: When posting CDC.gov Web links on Facebook, it is important that web pages are properly coded for enhanced display on Facebook. Please see Appendix B, Adding Custom Images for Facebook Posts, for additional guidance.
- Conduct Promotion Activities: Ongoing promotion of your Facebook page is strongly
recommended. Example promotion activities include:
- Cross-promote on other CDC social media channels. Ask page owners of existing CDC Facebook pages and Twitter profiles with similar audiences and/or content to promote your Facebook activities.
- Post links to your Facebook page on your website.
- Send content-specific GovDelivery email updates.
- Send emails to partners and grantees.
- Determine Approach for Engaging with Facebook Fans: Facebook should be used to
engage your target audience in two-way interaction and communication. Examples of
engagement activities include:
- Develop criteria for whom to Like and Tag on Facebook and share relevant partner content. See Appendix C, Best Practices for Liking and Commenting as the CDC Brand, for additional guidance.
- Post content that is actionable, such as Facebook chats, events, quizzes, contests/challenges, questions, videos, infographics, photos, badges, widgets and interactive posts and comments on trending health topics to encourage followers to participate in conversations.
- Asks users to do something within the post or content such as Share, Like, or Comment.
- Highlight posts that encourage CDC priorities and information sharing by pinning, highlighting or adding as a milestone on the Timeline.
- Post content that cross promotes other social media channels (e.g. Twitter, YouTube, Flickr)
- Post additional information rather than remove comments that are inaccurate or not reflective of CDC science. Removal of comments that are inaccurate or opinionated, but not in violation of the comment policy, may cause a lack of trust in the site and has proven to be a practice that encourages backlash by the community.
- Monitor your Facebook page to respond as soon as possible to fan questions, comments and other feedback.
Evaluation is an integral component for measuring the success of all social media activities, including Facebook. Regularly review Facebook Insights for page-specific metrics. You may also consider monitoring the increases in traffic to your website, as well as the mentions outside of Facebook on blogs, websites or articles. Adobe SiteCatalyst can be used to determine the number of click-throughs from a post with a link to a CDC.gov website. Automatically delivered metrics reports can be set-up for programs upon request. For more information, please visit the Statistics and Metrics intranet site.
Highlighting Content on CDC’s Main Facebook Page
The Digital Media Branch maintains the CDC Facebook Page, and welcomes programs to use it to highlight their content. Content is posted on the existing page 2-4 times per day on a variety of health and safety topics, and is moderated daily by EMB staff in accordance with the CDC comment policy.
Requests to post on the main CDC Facebook page should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org one week in advance; however reasonable exceptions will be made in case of emergency. Submitted content must be cleared through a program’s established communications clearance channels. If the topic is potentially controversial, identify a subject matter expert or communication specialist to help monitor Facebook comments on the day of posting. It is also recommended you draft and clear in advance possible responses and posts to additional informational for controversial topics.
Posts should be 250 characters or less and include a single URL (e.g., CDC.gov, partner, government agency, etc.) photo, or video when possible. Metadata for CDC.gov URLs should be included so that links and images properly display within Facebook.
Creating a New CDC Facebook Page
Please submit a Create-IT request to schedule a consultation with EMB or contact your Social Media Council representative for assistance.
- Develop and Clear a Facebook Concept, Plan, and Content: All Facebook activities, including account set-up and content creation, must be cleared through your CIO’s established communications clearance channels.
- Security approval is also required from the CDC OCISO for new and existing Facebook accounts. Please contact your CIO’s ISSO for additional information on security requirements for participation in Facebook. A Privacy Impact Assessment must be completed and signed by CDC’s Privacy Officer.
- OADC is required to maintain a directory of all CDC social media channels and must be notified at least 5 days prior to the launch of the profile. To notify OADC, please send an e-mail to email@example.com. The program’s media relations specialist and the News Media Branch in the Division of News and Electronic Media should also be made aware of the new account.
- Create the Facebook Page:
- Basic information required to establish a new Facebook Page:
- Page name: A unique page name that describes the subject matter of the account, name of the organization or contains a keyword describing the nature of the organization. It is recommended that the profile name and page URL include CDC (e.g., CDC Emergency Preparedness and Response, CDC Health Partners Outreach).
- List of page administrators: One to two individuals who will serve as page administrators and have the authority to post on behalf of the page (topic). It is recommended to add SocialMedia@cdc.gov as an administrator to assist in page setup and to assist in the event of an emergency.
- Basic information content: Location, general description and mission, as well as a list of web links (e.g., http://www.cdc.gov).
- Disclaimer language in the About section: “For official CDC info go to www.cdc.gov. Disclaimer: Posted comments do not necessarily represent the views of CDC.” Cover and Profile Images: A logo and image that represents your organization (see Branding information: link not available outside CDC network).
It is recommended that the launch plan include a soft, internal-only launch to build your fan base to 25. Once a page has 25 fans, you can claim your custom page URL and begin a larger promotion effort (https://www.facebook.com/username/).
- Facebook ads must be removed from the page prior to external launch, as negotiated under the federal Terms of Service. Please send your request for ad removal to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Evaluate and Track Facebook Metrics: Establish a plan for monitoring and evaluating your Facebook presence. If you wish to use Adobe SiteCatalyst to track click-throughs, please visit the statistics and metrics intranet site (link not available outside CDC network) for more information.
- Page last reviewed: January 22, 2014
- Page last updated: January 22, 2014
- Content source:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Division of News and Electronic Media