Specialist and executive social media accounts are used by specialist or executive-level staff interested in sharing their expertise in a particular subject area relevant to their role in government.

A specialist account is used by a subject matter expert (for example, a chief geologist, biologist, agriculture advisor, soil management specialist). These accounts are owned by and managed by the specialist who may use the account to speak about the work they do.

An executive account is used by executive-level leadership who work for the government (for example, a deputy minister). This account would be owned by the individual and could be used to speak about the work they do.

These accounts are primarily personal accounts, but there are some additional considerations based on their visibility and connection to official work in government.

A specialist or executive social media account:

  • is owned and managed by the individual account holder
  • is primarily used for work-related activities and content
  • may represent an expert in a particular subject area or executive-level positions such as a deputy minister
  • remains in the control of the person using it even if they change roles (it would be their responsibility to make any necessary updates)
  • if required, clearly identifies the user as an Ontario Public Service employee in their bio, but does not state that it is an official Government of Ontario account
  • is maintained only by the account owner and is not supported by any additional Ontario Public Service staff in any way, including content creation and account management
  • does not contain visuals (images, logos, etc.) or naming conventions that officially represent the Government of Ontario

Guidelines for a specialist or executive account

Specialist or executive social media accounts should:

avoid actions which compromise, or appear to compromise the integrity of the public service, including with respect to non-partisanship as outlined in the political activity rights and restrictions

consider your obligations under the conflict of interest rules for public servants, including protecting confidential, private or personal information obtained through work

although not mandatory, consider an inclusive approach when developing and managing the account (for example, in both official languages, in adherence to the French Language Services Act, and accessibility under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

be courteous and stick to facts. In the event of an error, be honest and upfront about it, and try to correct quickly

be mindful that all comments are on the record, so be clear, transparent, accountable and respectful

If in doubt, don’t post it.

Account Approvals

It is up to each individual ministry to determine what level of approval would be needed. Because of this, individuals should brief all necessary parties, including the ministry’s communications branch, before creating, starting or using a specialist or executive account.

Minister’s offices and ministry communications branches may also need to be notified depending on the public profile of the employee.

Individuals approved to run a specialist or executive account will require a trusted level of political acuity.

Best practices for appropriate use

Appropriate social media use is based on specific circumstances. Before using social media, you should know who your audience is and create a strategy so your followers will understand what kind of information you will be sharing.

Here are some examples that may help guide the use of a specialist or executive account.

Sharing job-related/ministry content

When sharing and publishing content on your personal channels, consider your Oath of Office and your responsibilities as a public servant, including conflict of interest and political activity rules.

Appropriate use

Examples of use that may be appropriate include:

  • re-sharing a ministry’s post about a program
  • sharing expertise or answering questions on a specific subject area(s)
  • reposting government, colleague or industry news and initiatives

Inappropriate use

Examples of use that may be inappropriate, because they go against a policy or principle, include:

  • writing a public post critical about a ministry or stakeholder policy that violates applicable legislation, principles or policies that pertain to your role and the relationship to the government
  • showing personal bias towards a vendor, business or stakeholder
  • sharing confidential information

Talking about the workplace

Appropriate use

Examples of use that may be appropriate include:

  • sharing a post congratulating a stakeholder on a successful project
  • sharing photos on social media of visiting dignitaries or an expert in your field
  • engaging with the public to provide information and promote awareness

Inappropriate use

Examples of use that are inappropriate, because they go against a policy or principle, include:

  • publishing a post questioning a colleague’s work ethic
  • responding to a critic argumentatively or unprofessionally
  • sharing images of government documents that could be enlarged to view personal or confidential information

Sharing personal content

Appropriate use

Examples of use that may be appropriate include:

  • discussing a personal hobby or activity not related to work
  • sharing family anecdotes and photos
  • engaging with audiences in a professional or personal tone

Inappropriate use

Examples of use that are inappropriate, because they go against a policy or principle, include:

  • discussing a Government of Ontario business opportunity to benefit a friend or family member
  • sharing or tagging content/photo with derogatory (for example, racist or homophobic) or harassing content
  • sharing copyrighted content without proper attribution

Sharing, tagging and liking

Specialists and executive social media account are encouraged to share ministry content if the content may be of interest to their followers.


There is always a risk (for example, reputational damage to a person or employer) if you are sharing, posting, liking or interacting over social media.

Using a disclaimer like, “opinions are my own,” can help clarify that the account does not speak on behalf of the government, but it will not remove your obligations and responsibilities.

You may face employment-related consequences if your specialist or executive social media account violates applicable employment legislation, principles or policies. These consequences may include discipline — up to and including dismissal.

Participating in political activity

While your social media account is designated a specialist or executive account, do not engage in political activity of any nature to ensure your actions or opinions do not compromise, or appear to compromise the non-partisanship of public service.

Please refer to the Political Activity Rights and Restrictions.

Collecting personal information, privacy and permissions

In regard to work-related activities, it’s important that you do not collect, post or share private or personal information about others without proper permissions and approvals.

For photos or videos of individuals, proper permissions and approvals could include:

  • verbal ok (understanding that this approval could be revoked at any time)
  • consent forms
  • posting a notice of collection at a work-related event

If you are unsure about what permissions are required or whether something is deemed private/personal, please speak to your manager or refer to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Example scenarios

The following scenario demonstrates how to apply the social media guidelines. However, the potential risks and considerations are not exhaustive and people are always encouraged to speak to their manager or Communications Branch if they are unsure how to proceed.

Scenario 1

A manager is approached by a ministry specialist who would like to open their own social media account dedicated to the work they do on a daily basis.

Potential risks and things to consider:

  • Is the person a trusted contributor who is qualified to speak to the work/initiative?
  • Will the account be managed by the individual without additional ministry support?
  • Is there a strategy for the account?
  • What happen to the account if the person vacates the position?
  • Is there already a similar account?


Before agreeing to the individual promoting their work, in relation to the government, the ministry should consider the risks.

The ministry should be okay to proceed with their approval if the individual:

  • has advised what types of information they would be publishing
  • has shared what their strategy is
  • is validated as a subject matter expert that would assist and promote the work the government is doing
  • is trusted and known for their political acuity