DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, VICTORIA: What does it mean when the people you elected to represent you, turn off comments in social channels? Go away, shut up, just do as I say, don’t ask, none of your business? But it is OUR business. If the person I am employing (through taxes) to do work for my community is on my communication channel, I expect to be able to speak to them. Not following me back on Twitter, turning off comments on YouTube, disabling discussion on Facebook is not the way to show me, the voter/your employer that you respect me. It’s saying that social spaces are broadcast spaces. Talk amongst yourselves while I transmit my ad. Let’s look at the back ground to the Department of Justice Victoria social media policy video, turning off discussion on YouTube and then explore the comments disabled thingie further.

In 2009, I wrote about Seth Godin evangelising “engagement” to companies in social media yet turning off comments on his blog because in his words, people might “change his mind”. Which is actually the point of engagement, not selling more traditional books/products. He is very clear in his post – talk about my stuff, distribute my content elsewhere for discussion, but I can’t listen to you.

In Australia, Gov 2.0 promulgates engagement, yet it’s a case of listen to me talk about social media rather than this is how you engage with us.

So onwards with the story: the Victorian Department of Justice put up a video on their social media policy. As usual, for this stage of development, it’s full of the warnings.

Imagine an video about emails. Would you seriously tell people that they don’t represent the company in emails?  Not to email to clients or stakeholders? Not to telephone people in the name of the Department of Justice?  So telephone and media can be used for business by anyone in the organisation, but social media? Hell no! Note: This will change, just not yet.

shallow to deep

Step 1 for engagement is: we don’t know what this is, we don’t know how to control it, we had better do something, oh I know, a social media policy that protects us while we figure it out. Mission accomplished, Department of Justice, Victoria! Step 3: let’s broadcast how fab we are, let’s use social channels to do it, but we won’t engage. Again, Mission Accomplished, Department of Justice, Victoria! (The other 7 steps to social media engagement).

  • There is no mention of positive use of social media, no encouraging of staff to disseminate information or be what they do best – the public face of an organisation. It’s the old antiquated view:  “media training” educates how to do media interviews vs “social media training” which is what not to do. In this case, use social media for personal stuff and try not to let it overlap into work. Some of you are nodding your head, saying “fair enough”.  So, telephone and email with clients is fine, but social media is not? What about a How to Be a Great Ambassador for The Organisation section? Still no? Aaaah. So social media is about authorised people doing broadcast and every other staff member better be careful? I don’t think so.
  • Which means the Policy is missing the bit “How to support your community online”. Which is the bit that tells us the voters, that we are being listened to, and engaged with, by a “whole of department” approach. The fact it’s missing means social media is not for a whole of department engagement with stakeholders tool. Shame.
  • No mention of what to do with staff who see negative comments. For example, this post. If you work for the Department of Justice, Victoria, how do you feel about me critiquing your social media policy? Do you agree, disagree, couldn’t care less? Will you tell me so? Better not, might get into trouble. Who should you escalate it to? Don’t know? Policies shouldn’t leave staff disempowered.
  • All in all it’s not a bad policy as policies go. Pretty common. The big issue I have with it is the next point – comments are turned off!

Our social media policy is: Shut Up and Listen

Always look at what organisations do, not say (works with potential boyfriends too!). We want to consult with the community does not stack up when comments are turned off. (Just like Darling I’m listening to you doesn’t ring true when the TV remote control is in hand.)

If you are staff, you know how to give feedback – after all, the Department of Justice, Victoria put the policy up on an internal blog or wiki, and asked for feedback. Didn’t they? They respect you, know they are treading on your Brand of One and have fully engaged with their internal community, you, their staff. Haven’t they? (Department of Justice, Victoria webpage on policies, no comments enabled). You can also look at my 40 Social Media Guidelines/Policies article for tips on how to introduce them into the organisation.

Comments off: Department of Justice Victoria

But as a voter, as a stakeholder, what’s your options? The Government that you have handed your voice to, the one you gave a vote to, and said represent me have just sent you back a clear and powerful message. You get the message because it’s on YOUR communiation channel, a social channel not a media channel. And social channels are for you to chat with other voters, stakeholders, influncers and generally be communicative. And what’s the Government’s message to you, the Voter? Why it’s… SHUT UP AND LISTEN.

Talk to the hand

Talk To The Hand

If you have a comment, observation, advice or question for the Department of Justice, Victoria, ask here. Cos you can’t on YouTube.

Or you can call

Further Information

Contact Jacqueline Page, Manager, Online Communication and New Media, Strategic Communication Branch for further information about the policy on 03 8684 0322

there is no email address…(from Information Page)

On a final note:  looking at that Information Page from the Department of Justice Victoria website, its about as far removed from a Social Media Press Release as you can possibly imagine. They haven’t even embedded their own YouTube video. It’s about the hardest webpage to distribute into communities as is feasible and still be on the web. If the video was for internal use, why is it tarted up by an agency and on YouTube and if it’s for pubic dissemination to protect the Department, why not do it properly?

Colour me confuzzled.

PS Dear Department of Justice, Victoria, if you had actually turned comments on, you’d have some control of the following conversation and the right of response. Now you have to rely on my good will…. muhahaha



FYI DoJ staff mentioned they do have a Twitter account @justice_vic. They have 1,500 followers but are only following 50 back and do not engage in conversations. Broadcast only e.g.:

Do your bit to #stopconmen. Call the hotline on 1300 133 408 to report a rip-off: & follow @consumervic for more info

Final word: Governments that use “negative comments” or “lack of resources” (get better tools!) to abdicate their responsibility to voters in online community channels have become culturally irrelevant. #NoMoreExcuses