Does your organization have a social media policy?
Social media can be a powerful tool for not-for-profit organizations to use in promoting their brand, raising awareness and raising money. Just ask the ALS Association, which benefitted from the viral Ice Bucket Challenge in 2014 to the tune of $115 million.
Social media can also damage your brand, even if the missteps are unintentional. To decrease the chance of errors, you should draft and implement a social media policy for your organization, and then educate your employees and volunteers on the importance of protecting confidential information and promoting your brand respectfully.
We’ve gathered a few tips on drafting a good social media policy for your organization.
- Identify confidential information and define it. Your social media policy should clearly define what type of information is confidential, what is acceptable to post on social media and what is off limits. For instance, you might have a policy of not including names of the individuals you serve, particularly if they are minors, in social media posts. Donor names might also be confidential information that should not be shared without express, written permission. Maintaining confidentiality protects your stakeholders and your organization’s reputation, so be sure your employees know exactly what is confidential.
- Give credit where credit is due. Include guidelines in your policy for respecting copyrights and other proprietary information. It’s okay for organizations to share information written by others; in fact, it’s part of what makes social media work. Just be sure that your posts credit the original authors and avoid any attempt to represent the material as your own.
- Establish roles for posting and engaging on social media. To avoid sending mixed signals through your social media channels, everyone in your organization should have a clear understanding of their role in using social media. Who administers your official social media accounts and develops the social media strategy to align with organization goals? Who creates posts and responds to comments? Will your employees be asked to like and share your organization’s posts? Defining these roles will help ensure your engagement is timely and considered, rather than delayed and haphazard.
- Expect respectful behavior. Your policy should make it clear that harassment, discrimination and other inappropriate content has no place in your social media sites, just as it does not belong in the workplace. All employees, whether they are official users of your organization’s social media accounts or not, need to know your expectations for appropriate behavior on social media.
- Avoid mixing of personal and professional use. It can be a PR nightmare if an employee with access to your organization’s social media accounts uses a brand account but thinks they are logged in to their personal account. Even if the employee tries to unlike and delete posts they made in error, some things can live on the internet forever (can you say “screen shot?”). To avoid this, consider including some safeguards in your social media policy such as a requirement that users log out as soon as they are finished using your organization’s account. You can also require use of different apps or browsers for personal and professional accounts, and you can take advantage of features, such as Tweetdeck’s “Ready to Tweet?” button, that adds a verification step before publishing the post.
After you’ve drafted your social media policy, two steps remain:
First, you should check with legal counsel to ensure your policy doesn’t run afoul of National Labor Relations Board rulings designed to protect employees from dismissal for engaging in protected activity on social media. For example, organizations should not fire employees for criticizing a board decision on social media. Your attorney can also ensure your policy complies with applicable state laws that address similar employment issues.
Second, although most of your employees and volunteers probably use social media on a daily basis, don’t assume they know best practices involved in promoting your organization. Educate everyone in the organization on a regular basis so they know what’s contained in your new social media policy. And be sure to teach your people about the different cultures of each social media platform. For example, Facebook is seen as a more laid-back and casual platform, whereas a site such as LinkedIn might call for a more professional tone.
Social media platforms are constantly changing, so your policies need to keep up. Be sure to periodically revisit your social media policy to ensure it still makes sense in the current landscape.
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