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EPA Facebook Guidance

Page history last edited by jeffrey levy 12 years, 4 months ago

We are revising the step-by-step instructions to reflect changes in how Facebook pages work.


Want to edit and use for your own organization?  Please delete all EPA-specific information.


Other EPA social media guidance


Note: EPA’s official use of Facebook is still evolving. 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 (http://facebook.com/epa).  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 as well as other federal and agency laws, policies and regulations.  In addition, existing policies and guidance for accessibility, 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.


Background: What is Facebook?

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” (or, as of April 2010, to “like”) of 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
  • It allows people to comment on our posts and share things on our page’s wall.
  • 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.


Contact: your content coordinator should contact Jeffrey Levy n the Office of Web Communications (OWC) for approval of a Facebook account.


Initial steps 

Requests for Facebook accounts should be reviewed and approved by OWC before you begin posting content.


Get approval from

1.    Your manager; and

2.    Your content coordinator (see http://www.epa.gov/webgovernance/leadership.html to find your content coordinator); and

3.    OWC (your content coordinator will get this for you).


Develop your strategy

  • What is your mission 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 & other news


Create account

  • http://www.facebook.com
  • Click on Create a Page for a celebrity, band or business.
  • DO NOT create Facebook groups (our terms of service only covers your fan page)
  • Choose Brand, Product, or Organization, select Government from the drop down box
  • Enter Name of Page; make sure this is the approved name since it can’t be changed (ex. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - Pacific Southwest Region)
    Note: See the section below - Get a Facebook Username (Short URL)
  • Check this box: “Do not make Page publicly visible at this time.” You will publish your page when you are ready to engage and post content that will bring fans to your page and keep them.
  • Enter remaining information
  • Create page


Initial setup and configuration


There are several steps to setting up your page after creating your account.  You can’t set up everything from one place on Facebook.  We provide some details below but you may need to search the Facebook help system for additional details.


WALL tab


Change the photo

  • Mouse over the photo in the upper left corner and choose to change the picture:


Write Something About section…

  • This box appears on the Wall view under the EPA logo/picture.
  • Click the small pencil icon in the upper right corner to edit it.
  • Describe the purpose of your page (or states in your region for a regional page); you may also use this section to promote short-term items.  Note that you may not include links or HTML in this box.


Post Policies box using FBML

  • You’ll need to install the “Static FBML” app to create boxes:
    http://www.facebook.com/apps/application.php?id=4949752878 (see below under applications for more info).
  • Include the following text; normal HTML code works in FBML boxes:Policies
    Please share your thoughts and ideas. We’ll review comments according to our Comment Policy (link to http://www.epa.gov/epahome/commentpolicy.html)EPA’s official web site is www.epa.gov. EPA is using this third party site to provide EPA content in a different format that may be useful or interesting and is being provided consistent with the intended purpose of the EPA Web site. However, EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of information provided by this site or any other linked site. Using this third party site does not constitute an endorsement by EPA or any of its employees of the sponsors of the site or the information or products presented on the site. Also, be aware that the privacy protection provided on the EPA.gov domain (EPA Privacy and Security Notice) may not be available on this site.
  • Place the box on the left sidebar of your wall.
  • Note: you should also add a “tab” to your page with this policy statement
  • Note: using FBML requires investing time to learn the system.  Do not create a Facebook page without committing sufficient resources.


Add the main EPA page and Administrator Jackson pages to your page’s favorites

  • To add other pages to your page’s favorites, go to the page you wish to add, and click on the “Add to my Page’s Favorites” link just below the EPA Logo/picture
  • EPA: http://www.facebook.com/epa
  • Administrator Jackson: http://www,facebook.com/lisapjackson
  • Add pages from other EPA regions or programs as appropriate
  • Note: you are only allowed to have four boxes on the left sidebar; you may choose not to show your page’s favorites if you have more important boxes to display




Edit Basic Info & Detailed Info

  • Basic and Detailed Info for “Government” organizations only includes location, phone, hours, website, and public transit.
  • Website: add URL to your Region’s or Program’s Web site
  • If you have a program phone number, provide it
  • See the US EPA page at http://www.facebook.com/epa for an example.


Don’t forget to save your changes!




Click “Edit Page” under the EPA seal in the upper left corner of the wall tab.  There are several sections on this page.

Settings: these should match the screen shot below.  You will change the “Published” setting later. 



Wall Settings: on your wall, click the “settings” button on the right side and change them to match those shown in this screen shot (explanations below): 

  • Default View for Wall: controls the posts seen when people initially go to your wall.  Set to “Only Posts by Page.”  Communities are best built by allowing people to see other fan’s posts, but experience has shown that fan posts can overwhelm our own posts.  You may experiment with the settings after launching your page.  Note that fans will still be able to post to your wall and comment on other fans’ posts by clicking “Just Fans.”
  • Default Landing Tab for Everyone Else: controls what non-fans see when they come to your page (fans go to your wall).  If you are creating a boxes page, set to “Boxes.”  Otherwise set to “Wall.”  You may also choose another setting if you develop another tab. See the main EPA account’s boxes page for an example: http://www.facebook.com/EPA?v=box_3
  • Auto-Expand Comments: Check this box.
  • Fan Permissions: controls what fans will be able to share on your page. Check all boxes.\


Mobile: As of February 2010, no EPA page is yet using these settings.  Please contribute guidance for this section if you experiment with it.


Publish and manage your page

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.


Remove ads

As soon as you’ve published, remove third-party ads from the right sidebar by sending an email to usgovernment@facebook.com.  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 http://www.facebook.com/username.  You’ll see a link “Set a username for your Pages” that lets you set a username for your page.  No need to create a profile:

Click that to get the following.  Choose your page and then enter a name according to our naming convention (”epaXXX” where “XXX” describes your topic):

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 that are either business connections, people working in a related field or who 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 Content Coordinator 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.

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 use the “Should I Respond Online on EPA’s Behalf?” Flowchart
  • 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.


Section 508 and other federal policies

  • 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.  See below for 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.


Moderating comments and fan posts

Review comments and other fan content like posts, photos, and videos against the comment policy.


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 why the content did not meet the comment policy.  Then delete it from your page.


See Appendix 1: Example of unapproved comments.


Metrics and Security

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 OPA 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.


Further options - fine tune and add features

Discussion Boards

  • Discussion boards enable your fans to get their ideas out into the open. Initial experience has shown that fans haven’t used this feature on the main EPA account, so we’ve disabled it there.  If you experiment with it, please be sure to regularly monitor it and moderate according to the standard comment policy, and contribute guidance for this section.



  • If you experiment with this feature, please contribute guidance.


Static FBML

Static FBML is a special application that allows you to create boxes either on the Boxes tab or on the Wall tab.  Boxes have a title and content, and you can use normal HTML in the content section.   Each box you create will appear in the list of applications on the editing page; from there, you can control where the box appears.  As of February 2010, you can only have four boxes on the left sidebar.

Add this application: http://www.facebook.com/apps/application.php?id=4949752878


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 OPA to discuss.





EPA Policy:




Additional resources:


Appendix 1: Example of unapproved comments

Copy the following text into a document and keep a copy of all unapproved comments, and why they were not approved:


Unapproved Facebook Comments Other than Spam

This document shows all comments, other than spam, that we haven’t approved.  Potential reasons for not approving a comment:

  • off topic
  • contain obscene, indecent, or profane language;
  • contain threats or defamatory statements;
  • contain hate speech directed at race, color, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, ethnicity, age, religion, or disability; or
  • promote or endorse services or products. (Note that non-commercial links that are relevant to the topic or another comment are acceptable.)
  • duplicate comment
  • comment requesting that a previous comment from the same contributor be edited for typos or other minor errors
  • misrepresentation, e.g., falsely claiming to be a well-known person - the President, a celebrity, etc.

Paste in new ones at the bottom, number them, and add a reason.


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