Community management

Understand best practice for engaging with your social media community.

Social media is not a one-way broadcast tool, but a platform for authentic, two-way conversations. If you’re publishing content, you need to moderate all comments and respond to legitimate comments.

As an account owner, your agency is likely to be considered the publisher (for the purposes of defamation) of comments left on your posts by third parties, and so you could be exposed to liability in defamation because of those comments. You may also be exposed to liability in contexts other than defamation. 

To reduce the risk of exposing your agency to liability, you should ensure you follow the steps in this section.

On this page

Establish community guidelines  

To ensure you can moderate your community effectively and maintain a safe space, you should have community guidelines in place. These guidelines must be accessible to anyone who visits your account profile. 

Some platforms provide a section for you to share your community guidelines. If this section doesn’t exist, provide a link to your community guidelines somewhere on your profile page. 

As a team, decide which of the following approaches you will use for community management:  

  • Active moderation: Engaging with comments whenever the opportunity presents. This could also include engaging with third-party conversations found through social listening that don’t @mention you. Best practice community management is via active moderation.  
  • Passive moderation: Only engaging with comments that are genuine or questions. This may include engaging in third-party conversations that @mention you. 
  • Hands off moderation: Disabling comments and messaging completely.  

Depending on available resources, your team may decide to use a combination of these approaches as necessary. For example, using active moderation during business hours and hands off moderation when moderators aren’t available. 

Your community guidelines should cover:  

  • the department or agency that manages the account 
  • your approach to community management (active/passive/hands off) 
  • hours that you monitor the account and expected response times  
  • an explanation that the account is apolitical   
  • acceptable conduct on the account (for example, no swearing, no bullying and no defaming)  
  • what will happen if someone breaches the guidelines (for example, hiding comments, blocking, temporary suspension and banning)  
  • how to get in contact with the department or agency 
  • when the guidelines were last updated. 


NSW Government Facebook community guidelines may be used as a template.  

NSW Government LinkedIn community guidelines may be used as a template.

Actively monitor your channels 

  • Establish a frequency that you will check your channels. As a guide:
    • high-visibility, high-risk and high-traffic accounts should check-in multiple times a day to minimise risk
    • customer-service-based channels should respond to inbound queries as quickly as possible
    • smaller, slower accounts might only need to be checked once every couple of days.
  • If you use a social media management tool to respond to comments, make sure you regularly check your page natively so nothing gets missed.
  • Rely on your community guidelines to support you if you need to: 
    • hide or delete comments where they are in breach (instead of deleting) 
    • block repeat offenders as a last resort (this is recommended only in extreme cases).
  • Use a strong profanity filter, where possible, so swearing doesn’t appear in comments on/replies to your posts. If you’d like a copy of the NSW Government Facebook profanity filter list, contact The NSW Government Social Media Team via this contact form.
  • Respond to as many reasonable queries as possible, even those that don’t directly tag your account (you can find these using social listening).

Handling negative feedback

Social media is a two-way communication channel. Feedback from the community should be expected, this can be both positive and negative. Negative feedback is okay and can be used as an opportunity to address public concerns. Don’t delete or hide feedback just because it’s negative, as this can be perceived as censorship or an attempt to hide a problem. Instead use it as an opportunity to demonstrate transparency and responsiveness to the public.

While not all feedback requires a response, here are some things to consider if you reply:

  • Respond to the comment promptly, politely and professionally, keeping responses factual and aligned with current policies. Ensure the tone used is appropriate to the feedback, as to avoid sounding dismissive or flippant if too casual.
  • Be empathetic and try to understand the concerns or frustrations expressed by the user. Respond in a compassionate and understanding manner.
  • If relevant, provide more information to relevant and reliable resources, such as NSW Government websites.
  • Monitor the conversation thread and moderate any abusive or derogatory language in line with your community management guidelines. 
  • Escalate issues to appropriate personnel or department if necessary. For example, if someone complains about an error on a linked government website, the relevant team may need to be made aware so they can fix it.
  • If the situation requires a more detailed or private discussion, consider moving the conversation to direct message, email, or another appropriate channel. If the situation involves customer personally identifiable information (PII), always recommend that the customer contacts your agency using email, phone or another owned-appropriate channel due to privacy limitations with collecting PII over social media.
  • Learn from feedback. Negative feedback can be an opportunity for growth and improvement. Take constructive criticism seriously and consider whether it can be used to enhance your services or communication strategies. This may include passing it on to the relevant program area or department. 

Following these steps can help your page maintain trust, transparency, responsiveness and engage effectively with the public on social media.

Respond to a social media crisis 

A social media crisis refers to activity on social media that has the potential to cause physical, psychological, financial or reputational damage to an individual or organisation, including your agency.

A crisis may involve one or more of the following incidents: 

  • A community member threatening harm to themselves or others.
  • A community member disclosing and/or encouraging illegal activity.
  • Defamatory comments about an individual/s on content your account has posted.
  • A significant surge in conversations about a program, service, event or personnel belonging to your agency.
  • Misuse of your agency’s intellectual property on social media. 

When facing a potential crisis, consider taking the following actions:  

  • If you believe that a person engaging with your account is a danger to themselves or others, contact the NSW Police.   
  • Remove and report content or comments that are bullying, defamatory or dangerous to the community.  
  • If removing allegedly defamatory content, keep a record of what was posted and consider seeking advice from your legal team.   
  • If asked to delete content you believe doesn’t need to be, work with the stakeholder to help them understand your approach to community management.   
  • Seek advice and assistance from your legal team and subject matter experts (including your media team), where appropriate.

Put the customer first

Customers today expect more secure, transparent, accessible, and responsive services from government. 

On social media, you should:

  • answer legitimate queries transparently 
  • use plain English
  • tailor responses to individual queries (as opposed to linking off to websites where customers need to read through the information to find their answer)
  • make sure everything you post is accessible.

Consider developing an escalation matrix to help your team understand how to manage difficult enquiries. 

Download escalation guideline matrix (DOCX 348.14KB)

Engage in-language experts  

People from diverse backgrounds should have the same access to the NSW Government as everyone else. For in-language posts that are published for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) audiences, it’s critical that appropriate in-language experts are used to translate comments and provide a response in the same language. You may choose to use an external agency for this purpose. It is important that comments are left on and responded to, as they would be for English posts.   

Allocate sufficient resources 

Allocate dedicated resources to monitor your channels, including comment moderation, social listening, and community management. 

If dedicated resources aren't available and community comments present a high risk, consider hiring a (carefully vetted) external agency to monitor comments.  

If your account is targeted to children, there may be specific legal or regulatory requirements. You may need to employ moderators who:

  • have a Working With Children Check or National Police Check
  • are trained to identify suspicious behaviour (for example, grooming or other predatory behaviour). 

The Office of the eSafety Commissioner website provides guidelines on social media platforms or websites that may be directed towards children. Check with your department’s legal team if you think this is relevant to you.

Remove posts and users that breach policies  

In line with your community management guidelines: 

  • remove posts or comments that breach your guidelines or are defamatory 
  • report posts or comments that breach the platform’s policies to the platform 
  • block or ban users who post threatening, discriminatory, offensive or defamatory comments. Keep a record (including screenshots where relevant) of those you have warned and those you have banned, including the comments that lead to the ban.  

Report unofficial or fake NSW Government accounts to the platform and escalate to your manager. If nothing is actioned by the platform contact the NSW Government Social Media team.

Deleting comments

Comments should only be deleted when they:

  • breach your community guidelines
  • breach the social media platforms’ community standards
  • may cause harm to or by people who can see them
  • name individuals that are defamatory in nature.

Try to avoid deleting comments regularly, so that the page isn’t seen as ‘censoring’ public opinions, as this can lower community trust. Once a comment is deleted, it can’t be seen again. If a comment does not breach the above standards, then consider hiding the comment instead, if the platform allows. 

Hiding a comment allows the author and their friends to still view the comment which helps mitigate the risk of agitating the author. Hiding a comment can be undone. 

Prior to deleting the comments, make sure to record it and include the following details:

  • a screenshot of the comment
  • the date it was deleted
  • link of the post the comment belonged to
  • reason for deletion.

The comments need to be kept within your agency’s record keeping system for 7 years.

Posting sensitive content

Generally, avoiding posting content because it may receive negative responses is not recommended. The community is welcome to share their views and have robust discussions. However, if your agency is planning on publishing content that is likely to attract potentially defamatory comments (for example, when mentioning or depicting an individual/individuals), you should consider taking additional measures to reduce the risk of attracting potentially defamatory comments. This may include allowing for additional temporary moderation resourcing or selecting placements where community engagement is not public (for example, 'stories'). 

If you choose to post something that is likely to elicit strong responses because it is an emotive issue or a sensitive/divisive topic: 

  • word the post carefully and with sensitivity to the subject matter
  • test the post with customers (for example, A/B test 2 dark posts on Facebook to learn which wording/imagery works better)
  • sense-check the post through your normal approvals process, including with subject matter experts
  • anticipate what questions users will ask and draft answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) ahead of posting
  • seek approval from your legal, policy or media team, if in doubt
  • know who you need to contact in the event an issue arises that requires escalating
  • know when it’s time to pause (for example, during times of crisis, like bushfires, consider pausing non-essential social media activity, as being active might be viewed as insensitive)
  • allow people to have their say, even if they’re critical of the NSW Government. Don’t censor unfavourable comments unless they breach the community guidelines. 

Managing communities in Web3 

Web3 (also known as Web 3.0) refers to internet services built using blockchain, 3D graphics and AI. Although in its infancy, brands are already using Web3 tools to deliver customer-centric services and build authentic relationships with their communities. 

The NSW Government Social Media team will share advice relating to best practice management of Web3 tools and services as it emerges. If you’re considering establishing a presence for your agency in the Web3 space, the same community management principles as outlined on this page apply. If you’d like to discuss your agency’s approach to Web3, please get in touch via our contact form.

Guidance from platforms

Check community management guidance for each platform.

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