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HHS Facebook Guidance

Many government agencies are using Facebook to connect with members of their audience that they might not encounter through their traditional web presence.  Leveraging Facebook as part of your communication strategy often relies heavily on Facebook's power to deliver "virtual word of mouth." That is, people find out about your information because of a friend that liked or shared the content.

A Facebook Terms of Use agreement has been negotiated by the General Services Administration signed by HHS and applies to all entities within the Department. When you follow the instructions below to set up your page, Facebook will remove ads on government Pages as part of the Terms of Service (TOS) agreement.

For more detail on the different features of Facebook profiles, visit http://www.facebook.com/help/ Exit Icon.

Creating Your Government Page

As a best practice, organizations should not use a personal account to create an official Page for an office.  Organizations can create the page without creating or associating it with an individual’s personal profile. You will be asked to provide an email address and date of birth (for legal purposes), but you will not be asked for any other details about the person setting up the page. 

  1. Make sure you are not logged in to a personal account.
  2. Go to Facebook.com/page Exit Icon.
  3. Select “Company, Organization, or Institution” and select the “Government Organization” category option, or, if this is for an individual and not the office, select “Artist, Band, or Public Figure” and create a “Government Official” page. (When you agree to create a Page, the signed agreement between GSA and Facebook supersedes the site’s terms.)
  4. Enter the name for your Page.  (NOTE: You will not be able to change this name.)
  5. You will be asked to create a Facebook account.  Select “I do not have a Facebook account.” This will allow you to create an Organization Page that is not associated with a personal profile.  You will be asked to provide an email address and date of birth for legal purposes, but you will not be required to provide your name or any other details about your identity.
  6. Once you’ve created a Page, edit the settings to make the Page unpublished (not visible to the public) until you choose to publish it. The default settings make the page publicly visible.
  7. Review the Pages Manual Exit Icon to set up the Page and add other admins.
  8. Make sure to include necessary policies as you set up your Page. See more information below in the section on applicable federal policies<link within doc>
  9. REQUIRED: Email your Page URL to USgovernment@facebook.com Exit Icon and request that ads be removed.
  10. REQUIRED: Link to your .gov domain on the Info tab. 
  11. Facebook will respond to you once this request has been processed.
  12. Then you can publish!

Tips for Effective Use

Understand the Platform’s Culture

Facebook is a space for individuals to express their personal lives, tell their stories, and give their opinions on issues that matter to them. In general avoid promoting your office and focus on promoting what your office does. For example, few people may be interested in the Office of the Inspector General, but just about everyone is interested in fighting Medicare fraud and catching the bad guys who steal from the American tax-payers.  Name your Page something interesting, and avoid using acronyms unless they are identifiable by the mainstream public.

Make Your Updates Interesting

  • The vast majority of the time users spend looking at your content will be within their news feed, not on your Facebook Page.  People will read your updates among those from family and friends. Consider how you might share the content with a neighbor, friend, or family member.  
  • Multimedia makes great content for Facebook (maps, illustrations, photos, videos, audio interviews or podcasts).  Think of other content from your website for inspiration, such as featured stories, announcements, or accomplishments. 
  • Remember, not everything should go on Facebook! Press Releases are generally written for a press audience, and can be used as inspiration for updates, but should not be simply reposted to Facebook. If people annoyed or unsatisfied with the content from your page, they’ll un-“Like” you.

Give Them a Reason to Go to Your Page

A successful Facebook page is much more than an extension of your website. Use properties that are unique to the platform to help your Page stand out on its own. For many, your Facebook Page has the potential to be their portal to your agency. Treat it that way!

Customizing Your Page

Explore other Facebook Pages for inspiration. Be aware that other applications are created by third-party vendors and may have a separate Terms of Service or may pose security risks.  Carefully evaluate any application before adding it to your page.

After your page has acquired 25 followers, you can select a username for your Facebook Page.  Usernames are short URLs that make it easier for people to find and interact with your Page.

Comment and Photo Moderation

Facebook does not allow comments to be moderated before they are published. Comments can, however, be removed after they are posted. Problematic users can be banned from your Page entirely. As such, you must post a comment policy on your Facebook Page. 

In the event that you need to remove a post that violates your comment policy, take a screenshot of the entire thread in order to also preserve the context in which the offending post was made prior to deleting it.

Facebook also gives the option to allow users to add photos to your page and tag photos of your Page. These options can be used to increase interaction with your community; however, if either of the options is allowed they must be moderated like comments. If you will not have adequate time to moderate photos as well as comments, or if you want to enable the features, simply edit your photo settings.

To change the options click:

  • “Edit Page”  --> “Apps” --> “Go to Apps” in the “Photos” section.

Read more on Facebook Pages Exit Icon and creating, administering editing your Page Exit Icon.

This list of resources will all help you improve your agencies presence on Facebook.


Content created by Digital Communications Division (DCD)
Content last reviewed on February 26, 2015