Social Media Services

Services with an Agency-wide TOS and PIA

  1. Remember not just the TOS and PIA, but the SORN (if necessary).
  • TOS – DOI must approve terms of service with the provider.  GSA approval is not enough.
  • PIA – DOI requires an approved Privacy Impact Assessment (or preliminary PIA).
  • SORN – Any social media use which would create or make use of a system of records must be used only within the boundaries of a published System of Records Notice.
  • For any service that sends IP addresses to the provider, mask the final octet of all IP addresses whenever practical.  DOI considers a full IP address as PII.  Masking the final octet simplifies privacy issues by negating its PII status.
  • Request approval from your bureau’s social media contact.
  • Contact DOI (via GSA’s portal, if possible) for all account approvals for services listed in this appendix.  One contact person has been assigned responsibility for account management as per negotiation with service providers.
  • When registering for services
    1. Use an office e-mail address, rather than a personal address (e.g. FedOffice, CommsDept, or whatever, Using a personal account (i.e. can lead to complications when the account holder leaves Interior.
    2. Be sure that either 1) more than one person has the account name and password for all services or 2) more than one administrative account (with one person for each account) is set up for each service.
    3. If the account registration process requires a birth date, please use March 3, 1949 (the centennial anniversary of DOI) for consistency.  March 3, 1849 is generally unavailable.
    4. Click through the normal TOS, but notify the DOI OCO social media contact to be added to the “official” list of DOI users, so we can respond properly to OPM and Congressional inquiries and maintain our master list of social media accounts.

  • Establish clear and descriptive rules for who is eligible to win a prize. Include information about minimum age, who's eligible (e.g., public, Feds, contractors), U.S. Citizens, etc.
  • Address how intellectual property and copyrights will be handled for any products that will be submitted, or created from submissions, by DOI or the bureau. Be sure to also address any privacy and liability concerns with the use by the Government of the items being submitted.
  • Ensure that products being submitted for the challenge meet 508 requirements for government products.
  • Provide clear instructions on how to submit entries, how entries will be judged, and timeframes/deadlines for entries.
  • Clearly state the exact prizes that are available, how monetary prizes will be distributed and other specifics on how prizes will be managed
  • GSA has not provided a SORN for, so be certain that your information-gathering falls under the DOI Social Media SORN.  Regarding “additional information” gathered by agencies that use, GSA’s PIA reads as follows (emphasis added):

If this includes any PII, it will be the responsibility of the agency sponsoring the challenge to ensure that the privacy of that information is protected. ( PIA, page 4, Solving a Challenge)


Facebook Groups

Facebook Groups are a way to connect specific groups of people to share updates and photos about a shared interest. It allows people to collaborate and stay in touch. Facebook Groups are different than Facebook Pages. Anyone can create a Group while only official representatives can create Pages. Groups tend to be private while Pages are public.

Interior’s Facebook TOS do not limit us from creating Facebook Groups. 

Many times people within a community will create a Group that won’t require an “official” Group to be created and managed by an organization. Additionally, there are other tools that could serve the same purpose as a group -- be sure to look into all options before creating a Group.

In same cases, Facebook Groups might be the best option to ensure a diverse set of people are able to share updates on a specific interest. One example might be a way to stay in touch with volunteers at a park or refuge. 

When creating an official group, be sure to follow these best practices:

·     Create the group using the account that manages your Facebook page. You should be using a separate Facebook account to manage your Facebook page and not your personal one. One reason is to ensure ownership stays within the Department even when someone no longer works for Interior.

·     Make sure you have an administrator of the Group. If you decide an official Group is necessary, be sure that someone on staff has the time to be the Group admin. This includes deciding who gets to be in the Group, removing or blocking people from a Group, and removing posts, just to name a few things. If you can’t find someone who has the time to manage the Group within the staff, you shouldn’t be creating an official Group.

·     Have a plan for Privacy and Records. Make sure if you want to start an official Group, you’ve figured out how that will fit into your Privacy Impact Assessment and Records Management guidelines. 

Helpful info on Facebook Groups.




  1. Bureaus are required to set standards, in writing, for use of Geocaching.  Of critical importance is the issue of the geocaching container, the “geocache” itself.  Post-9/11, it would be easy for someone unfamiliar with geocaching to become alarmed at finding a box (perhaps an old ammunition can) in a tree or a hole or on a mountainside and to raise an alarm.  Instead, we strongly advise that bureau standards include a labeled, transparent box for use as a geocache, complete with an attached explanation of geocaching.
  2. Photographs of geocaches must be kept on-file, accompanied by location data (geo-location and “plain English”) for convenient cross-referencing, in case of phone calls from law enforcement, Homeland Security or other interested parties.
  3. There is no “grandfathering” for established geocaches.


A few of our bureaus have existing guidance, so we'll integrate that into future agency guidance.

In the meantime:

  1. Check out what your (and other) bureaus are doing on GitHub:
  2. Do not create multiple GitHub repositories for your bureau, without bureau HQ authorization.
    • Big hint: Learn to use GitHub before crafting an office/bureau/unit path forward. 
  3. Check with your bureau authorities for what is authorized.

Google Analytics

  1. Register a Google account.  This account may only be used for services with which DOI has approved TOS and PIA.  For example, you may not use it for Gmail or Google Documents at this time.

Note: Using unauthorized Google products on behalf of DOI is expressly forbidden.  Failure to comply may result in disciplinary action.  For exceptions to this standard (for example, paying for an enterprise license for Google Maps), contact Interior’s Director of Digital Strategy.

  1. Add to your analytics account as a “User” with the User Manager tool.
  2. Mask the final octet of all IP addresses.  DOI considers a full IP address as PII and there’s a strong sense within DOI that we shouldn’t be giving Google or any other vendor the ability to track citizen “movement” across government websites, even if that ability isn’t used.  Google provides instruction on how to mask IP addresses, as do other vendors of similar services.

Google Maps

Creating Maps

  1. DOI OCIO no longer purchases DOI-wide licensing for Google Maps. Bureaus may purchase appropriate licenses for Google Maps, while following regular contracting regulations.
  2. DOI OCO has completed a general-purpose PIA for WebMaps.
  3. Google’s Maps API TOS changed Oct. 1, 2011 to include mandatory fees at certain performance levels, as well as the possibility of embedded commercial advertising.  
  4. We’re working to further improve Interior’s online map situation. OCO/Digital Strategy recognizes the utility of online maps. We have also experimented with taking screenshots of OpenStreetMap maps.  We (mostly) resist the urge to embed live OpenStreetMap maps on DOI websites because we do not wish to burden their .org sites with our traffic.
  5. OCIO is working on an alternative to Google Maps which may provide mapping at zero cost to the bureaus. Please contact OCIO for details.

Reporting an Error on a Google Map

  • Follow Google's instructions
  • If your Interior email won't work, to send a correction (a likely problem), register a Google account. This account may only be used for services with which DOI has approved TOS and PIA. For example, you may not use it for Gmail or Google Documents at this time.
  • Note: Using unauthorized Google products on behalf of DOI is expressly forbidden. Failure to comply may result in disciplinary action. For exceptions to this standard (for example, paying for an enterprise license for Google Maps), contact Interior’s Director of Digital Strategy.

You've probably noticed that we're leaving Google for Microsoft. BisonConnect solutions no longer apply.Instagram

We’re open to your suggestions on Instagram beyond the standard SocMed guidance.



  1. Within the normal constraints of contracting regulations (including, and not limited to, competition and credit card limits), the video service may be used.
    1. According to the agreed TOS for free Livestream service, advertising will be present, both on your page and as commercial interruptions of the video service.  Commercially sponsored official government communication is forbidden except in exigent circumstances.
    2. Ads and commercials are not present on the paid/premium service.
  2. 508-Compliance:
    1. For external (public) audiences, live captioning is required.
    2. If live captioning is unavailable, captioned video must be made available after the event.
      1. Since captioning is readily available on the commercial market, it’s unlikely that any non-captioned live video would be authorized. If in doubt, consult with OCO/Digital Strategy.
      2. In the case of breaking news (e.g. an earthquake), live captioning may be unavailable; however, a good-faith attempt to obtain captioning must be made.  This would require, at a minimum, making documented requests for captioning service from a regular supplier.  OCO/Digital Strategy will be happy to share its service providers, but will not require their use.  Who you contract with is up to you and your office.
    3. If your account allows for broadcasting internally only, then it is allowable to poll the audience beforehand, to check for the necessity of captioning.
      1. If your account will broadcast on the Livestream website, then it is not an internal-only broadcast and captioning is mandatory.
      2. If captioning is requested, or otherwise known to be required for an audience member or members, then captioning is mandatory.
      3. If an audience poll has not been conducted, then captioning is mandatory.
      4. If an audience poll has been conducted and no request has been made for captioning, and if it is believed that no audience member requires captioning, then captioning is optional for the live event.
    4. At the end of a live broadcast, disable the Livestream player on your website. Livestream currently allows users to view a broadcast that has ended, in the embedded window on your website. This video would not be live-captioned, so is not 508-compliant. Non-508-compliant videos have no place on dot-gov websites.
  3. The Chat Room:
    1. Livestream chat is authorized, but only in the Livestream or Twitter client, not the Facebook app.
    2. OCO/Digital Strategy recommends use of the Livestream chat client, rather than Twitter, because the video-embedding tool only works with Livestream’s own chat client.
    3. At the end of a production, the chat-log may be copied by using the usual function keys for your operating system (CTRL-a (all) CTRL-c (copy) on Windows, CMD-a (all) CMD-c (copy) on a Mac).  Then paste the chat into a text document (CTRL-v) and save it.
    4. Do not organize archived chat.  Chat in a plain text file is not a “system,” meaning that a chat log is not a system of records, no matter what its contents are.  Drop it into a spreadsheet or database, perhaps organized by the chatters’ names, and you’ve got the potential for a system of records, which might require an amended PIA or SORN.
  4. The auto-archive:
    1. The auto-archive is not 508-compliant.
    2. Empirical evidence shows that people will find the auto-archive and credit us with the failure of the auto-archive to be 508-compliant.
    3. Within 24 hours of a Livestream event, we must download the auto-archive file for our own archives (as appropriate, based on records schedules) and delete the copy in the Livestream auto-archive.

Before setting-up an account to accommodate an event, check with OCO/Digital Strategy, as we may have a timeslot available for your live-streaming event on


Medium is a place where people can share ideas. All posts must be cross-posted to a government website for records purposes and to ensure we are 508 compliant. 


Be careful while using Periscope. It’s often used in the field, in settings with little natural control. Nonetheless, it’s a good idea to remember that raw Periscope video will go out to the world with your agency or office’s name on it. Again, be careful.

Also, while a lot of Periscopes aren’t what you might call “substantive” (I’ll include our live video of an alligator passing near the Secretary), others are. You are obliged to post those items to your official website for general audience availability.

Now, on to Best Practices.


  • Be sure you have a lot of light. iPhones handle low light better than a phone has a right to, but not all that well when compared to your eyes, so make certain the room/area is bright.
  • Use a mini tripod to the hold the phone to keep the video steady, if possible. No one wants to get seasick because of your social media outreach.
  • Use wifi, rather than a cell signal, when possible. This will help with ensure the stream doesn’t cut in and out (something that you won’t see on your end, but could wreck a production from the viewers’ perspective).
  • Tweet the broadcast (Do this by ensuring the Twitter bird on the lower right is white and not grayed out).
  • Be sure to have the location button on (Do this by ensuring the location arrow in the lower left is white and not grayed out). If your location is a secret, why are you using Periscope?
  • Use hashtags and emojis (when appropriate) to describe what you are broadcasting. This helps it stand out in the long list of other broadcasts.
  • Start the broadcast name with a verb (and don’t include “live” because the tweet will have “LIVE on #Periscope:” added to the front). Broadcasts that have an action in the title have higher viewership than those without.


  • Don't start the ‘cast immediately after going live. Give it some time to build an audience. That's tough when you have a principal sitting there, but it'll help get people in the stream before (s)he starts. Chit-chat. Burn a bit of time (30 seconds to 1 minute). It’s expected.
  • Shorter is better (think in the 3-5 minute range). Longer streamed events tend to get drop-off.
  • Be sure the expert/principal keeps her/his answers short. Again, longer answers tend to result in drop-off.
  • Answer questions from the stream. This is the most effective part of periscope (says Twitter).
  • Finally, don’t worry about making a mistake and have fun!

Post Streaming

  • Be sure to let the video load for replay. If you hit cancel, people won’t be able to replay it.
  • Save the video to your camera roll for archiving and reposting to your website or elsewhere.
  • Record the video using QuickTime to preserve the engagement/comments. We can then post the video directly to Twitter or YouTube.

QuickTime instructions for capturing Periscope video (including comments, hearts, etc.)

  • Connect iPhone by cable (the iPhone must be set to trust the connection)
  • Fire up Quicktime
  • Choose File - new movie recording
  • Then the drop down next to the record button, choose iPhone and set the Camera and Microphone to your iPhone
  • It will mirror your phone, and when the broadcast starts tap the record button

We’re open to your suggestions on both strategies and tactics for the use of Periscope.



For all uses of SlideShare, an alternate (.gov) source for public access to the document is required. Don’t force the public to submit to .com privacy or other policies in order to obtain government information. Please see Document- and Data-Sharing Repositories (above) for general guidance on SlideShare and similar services.

In general, SlideShare is not necessary, as Interior websites have PDF-presentation capability; however, if your office/bureau supports social document-sharing, SlideShare is an appropriate tool.

Embedding SlideShare files in .gov Web pages

DOI-sourced documents should not be embedded in DOI Web pages using SlideShare; but should be considered a last resort, after failing at successfully providing dot-gov hosting of government documents.  Documents must reside on approved DOI SlideShare accounts and be ad-free. DOI OCO no longer pays for an ad-free account. Be certain that rights and permissions for any content are proper for public display. For website users who choose to not use SlideShare, an alternate method of viewing/downloading must be provided.  One acceptable alternative would be a 508-compliant downloadable version of the document, with its hyperlink in close proximity (on the next or previous line of text, for example).


Steller allows you to tell long-form stories using pictures, videos and text. Possible uses include everything from travel, flower and trail guides to showcasing the history of a location.

The PIA covers embedding stories in websites, sharing other users’ stories in collections and engaging with the public.



Hootsuite is the primary social media management tool used by the U.S. Department of the Interior. 

Official Twitter accounts are the property of the U.S. Department of the Interior.  DOI officials should not use their personal accounts for government messaging. Official accounts should not contain the personal names of the Twitter user(s). Official accounts may not be transferred to individuals for personal use. It may be helpful to review this press account for an enhanced understanding of issues we would prefer to avoid with the use of Twitter or other SocMed services.

You are now able to make images accessible for people on Twitter. Be sure to turn on alt text for images in your account settings and provide alternative text for all images tweeted from a government account. Here's how to turn on alt text for the iOS app, Android app and the web browser.


  1. Abide by Wikipedia’s policies and guidelines, also listed under Wikipedia: List of policies and guidelines.  Special attention should be paid to the section on content standards.  OCO/Digital Strategy recommends Wikipedia’s “Missing Manual/Introduction” as well.
  2. Use of Wikipedia should be preceded by a careful reading of Wikipedia’s Five Pillars.  Special attention should be paid to the second pillar, “Wikipedia has a neutral point of view.”
    1. Verifiable accuracy is a must. Any edit beyond simple copyediting must be accompanied by third-party reference.

Example (imaginary) 1: A Wikipedia article on geology states that dinosaurs are “mythological beasts which never really existed.”  USGS public affairs decides to post a correction based on original (but as-yet unpublished) USGS research.  This would be a mistake.  “Wikipedia articles must not contain original research.”  It would be better to post the correction based on research published in a peer-reviewed journal.  A hyperlink to the peer-reviewed article (or to an article about the peer-reviewed article) would be mandatory (a matter of DOI policy, not Wikipedia’s).  A government website is not considered as authoritative as a peer-reviewed journal in this context.  Since DOI controls DOI websites, DOI websites are not authoritative references for DOI entries in Wikipedia.

Example 2:  Administrator X’s public affairs guru directs you to change the administrator’s Wikipedia page to include the expression “best administrator ever.”  This would be wrong in several ways, not least of which would be its lack of verifiability.  Also, see 3, below, “No puffery.”

Example 3: Administrator Y’s Wikipedia profile states that she worked for Massive-ish Dynamics prior to her appointment at Interior.  The proper company name is Masterful Dynamics.  A hyperlink to the company website would be required.  A hyperlink to some mention of Administrator Y’s work at Masterful Dynamics would be better.

  1. Note any changes in the changelog.
  2. Any official editing of Wikipedia entries must be done while logged-in using a registered Wikipedia account with a User Page.  Any accounts must be named with obvious government/agency identification.

Acceptable Examples: DOI-NewMedia, USGS-Communication, NationalParkServiceOfficial, USInterior, BureauOfReclamationPAO

Unacceptable Examples: Bob, NewMedia, FedGuy, OfficialDude, WebN00b

On occasion, folks ask why we need to be so open about Wikipedia edits, since Wikipedia doesn’t require a login.  First, the tenets of Open Government require our public actions to be transparent.  Second, Wikipedia logs IP addresses and tools such as WikiScanner can track edits back to our agencies and bureaus.

  1. No self-aggrandizement.  No editing of one’s own Wikipedia page.  No puffery.

Do not create biography pages.


For all uses of YouTube, closed-captioning is required.  Don’t rely on YouTube’s “machine transcription” feature.  However, you may use its auto-captioning feature (a feature that matches a transcript that you provide with the words in the video), provided that you provide an accurate transcript.  YouTube is much more reliable at timing words to sounds, than it is at determining words from sounds.

Register a Google/YouTube account to use as the master account for your channel.  This account may only be used for services with which DOI has approved TOS and PIA.  For example, you may not use it for Gmail or Google Documents at this time.

Note: Using unauthorized Google products on behalf of DOI is expressly forbidden.  Failure to comply may result in disciplinary action.  For exceptions to this standard (for example, paying for an enterprise license for Google Maps), contact Interior’s Director of Digital Strategy.

Note 2: There is a strong probability that a change to DOI policy may allow the creation of YouTube accounts with official DOI email addresses, rather than regular Google accounts. It’s up to your office whether to use such an account as the master account for your YouTube presence. DOI’s digital strategy team will not be doing so. We have some concern that, should DOI transition from Google (for mail, Docs, etc.) to another service (Microsoft? IBM? Some new player?), our YouTube account might become a casualty. One might try to manage a channel (adding content, etc.) on a regular Google/YouTube account, via an official DOI account. It’s definitely worth trying. Your office is responsible for its own decisions. Please feel free to share your solutions with us, so we can share them with the wider community.

Embedding YouTube videos in .gov Web pages

DOI-sourced video files may be embedded in DOI Web pages, but should be considered a last resort, after failing at providing dot-gov hosting of government video.  YouTube videos must reside on approved DOI YouTube pages and be ad-free.  Be certain that rights and permissions for any content are proper for public performance. For website users who choose to not use YouTube, an alternate method of viewing must be provided.  One acceptable alternative would be a 508-compliant downloadable version of the video, with its hyperlink in close proximity (on the next or previous line of text, for example).

Note: Using YouTube is trendy in .gov circles, especially for community building.  However, DOI continues to warn against relying on a technology platform that requires us to trade citizen privacy for easy distribution of government content.  Also, some agencies have noticed that putting videos exclusively on YouTube may prevent those videos from being watched by people at agencies and companies that block YouTube access.  Agencies tend to not block other agency websites.

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