Creating a Social Media Policy

With social media becoming a key part of most organisations’ communication with beneficiaries, donors and the public, it is important to have measures in place to ensure that yo ur social media is used effectively and is not abused.

What is a social media policy?

When people talk about a social media policy they are usually referring to one of two things:

  1. A policy which controls staff members' use of social media at work. For example, accessing Facebook at work; or
  2. A policy which outlines the organisation's use of social media to achieve its aims. For example, tweeting about the organisation's latest achievements.

A social media policy can, and probably should, be both of these things (depending on your organisation's requirements of course).

Reasons to have a social media policy

In essence, a social media policy protects your organisation’s reputation and resources by providing clear guidelines about what staff may and may not do when interacting with the online community. More specifically, your policy specifies:

  • Your organisation’s social media profile, channels, purpose and strategy
  • Your staff’s personal and organisational social media constraints and obligations
  • Expectations to privacy (or lack thereof)
  • Monitoring of adherence to policy and implications of non-adherence.

General rules

Your social media policy will need to be tailored to your organisation’s specific needs. However there are some standard things that the policy should include, these mostly relate to online etiquette and legal protection.

Your policy should require staff members to:

  • Respect privacy
  • Never make posts that are obscene, libelous, harassing, embarrassing or defamatory
  • Specify whether the post is in an official organisational capacity or a personal capacity
  • Never disclose confidential or proprietary information
  • Never use copyrighted material without permission
  • Ensure that posts are factually correct
  • Never air organisational grievances via social media

Organisation specific clauses

Non-generic clauses that detail the specific requirements for your organisation may include the following:

Description of your organisation’s social media profile and channels.

This would include details about which social media channels your organisation has set up profiles on, what the purpose is for engaging with social media and what strategies the organisation uses to achieve these purposes. Specifically, it will speak to:

  • Who has access to the organisation’s official social media accounts
  • Who is expected to post on different channels
  • Who is allowed to post on different channels
  • What kind of content should be posted via social media and how often
  • Who is responsible for responding to comments and what the guidelines are for doing so

Staff personal engagement vs representing the organisation

It is very tricky to separate staff’s personal social media presence out from the organisation’s involvement. Important guidelines in this regard to have in a policy include:

  • Whether permission needs to be granted to mention the organisation in personal social media posts
  • Whether the same constraints apply to staff’s personal use of social media as well as their professional use
  • Whether and how to use a disclaimer saying that your personal opinion does not reflect the view of the organisation
  • Whether there are organisational guidelines around “friending” colleagues, especially for management staff
  • Whether the organisation can ever require you to use your personal profiles for work purposes

Adherence to the policy

Finally, your policy should include clauses that speak to adherence to the policy, basically:

  • Who is responsible for monitoring adherence to the social media policy?
  • What are the implications for non-adherence?

Drafting your own Social Media Policy

If you don’t feel comfortable drafting your own social media policy from scratch, you can use the PolicyTool.net online social media policy generator as a starting place (but it is not sufficient in and of itself!).

Another very useful resource is the Idealware Nonprofit Social Media Policy Workbook which walks you through a step-by-step process for creating your own social media policy. They have also published a social media policy template.

Remember that creating the policy is only the first step. You need to ensure that your staff are aware of the policy and understand it. And you then need to ensure that people adhere to it.

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