Thinking Ahead: Creating a Sound Social Media Policy
I nearly hit the pavement, literally. Moments before my older, fun-loving brother had unexpectedly hurled a basketball at me while yelling “Think fast!” Sometimes you just have to think fast. When you have the opportunity, however, it’s better to think ahead and prepare for the unexpected.
It’s a no-brainer that organizations should plan in advance and anticipate problems if they expect to avoid looking like a bench warmer when an inevitable social media snafu comes flying by. Critical to preparedness is creating a sound social media policy. A social media policy is a document that provides guidelines for employees or volunteers that post content on the internet either as part of their job or as a private person. There are countless reasons to have a social media policy, chief among them is to reduce the organization’s legal liability, protect the organization’s reputation and educate employees on the risks involved in social networking.
Much like the circumstances of my brother’s “game,” there is an uncertain environment and unclear risks concerning social media. Courts are still in the process of interpreting laws regarding digital communication and have provided little definitive guidelines. This is not to say, however, that an organization cannot draft an effective social media policy to address potential issues that may arise and take the guesswork out of what is appropriate to post on social networks.
A solid social media policy, which covers both organizational and private social network accounts, will follow these 9 essential tips:
Draft statement of why the policy exists. This statement should ideally empower staff members/volunteers rather than restrict them. Focus on what an employees/volunteers can and should do rather than what can’t do.
Claim the organization’s ownership of its intellectual property and social media accounts. Explain that the accounts, content and contacts developed using the accounts are the sole property of the organization and make clear that employees/volunteers must not appropriate the accounts for any personal use.
Assign roles of who will be posting content and interacting with your organization’s community through social networks. Who will be posting on Facebook and Instagram? Who will be responsible for tweeting? Who is charged with monitoring and responding to comments, both positive and negative?
Define appropriate content standards including, what can and cannot be shared on social media (i.e. confidential information, such as prayer requests, etc.) what constitutes acceptable profile pictures and so forth. Emphasize professionalism.
Require employees that could be construed as speaking for the organization to make a disclaimer on their personal websites and social media profiles that states that the views expressed on the [website, profile, etc.] are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organization.
Avoid blanket prohibitions damaging the reputation of the organization or employees.
Prohibit or otherwise limit one-on-one communication with minors through social media.
Outline the procedures for the employee/volunteer to turn over control of the accounts to the employer upon the employer’s request and/or the employee’s termination, and make clear that the employee is not to use the account(s) for any personal use.
Specify the consequences of failure to follow the social media policies.
Even if you are the Lebron of social media, you most likely won’t be able to predict every potential problem. But, by proactively developing a social media policy that provides clear guidelines for how and when to use social media, you can improve the effectiveness of your organization’s digital communication efforts and minimize complications.