Tag Archives: policy

Social Media Policy

Policies are part of an organizational culture. As the old adage goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Implementing a social media policy won’t prevent misuse, and can even block effective use of new media tools. For social media to be successful, an organizational culture must embrace the viral nature of these new tools. And that can be easier said than done.

Reality is: people already talk about our organizations and brands online. The best way to ensure a positive image is to be actively involved online before issues are manipulated or a crisis develops. After all, you can’t respond to criticism if you aren’t present! Yes, it’s true–90% of social media can be a waste. It’s the 10% that can be stellar that we’re aiming for.

Colin McKay in his Nonprofit Secret Underground Guide To Social Media Adoption suggests that most large organizations already have policies in place to deal with potential concerns, as social media doesn’t create new behavior, it only amplifies existing behaviors. Those policies–and some small organizations have even a few of these–may reference confidentiality, designated spokespersons, internet use, approval of official communications, use of logo, privacy, and appropriate behavior. Following the organization’s core principles is a good rule of thumb when drafting a social media policy–don’t stray to far from what you already have, and don’t create a solution that’s looking for a problem, so to speak. My thought is this: If you don’t already have a crisis communications plan in place–long upheld as the gold standard in non-profit communications preparations, you don’t need to start down the social media policy road just yet.

Discussion with staff, media consumers, and departments concerned with IT, fundraising and marketing issues will provide insights into boundaries and potential uses of the internet or social media. If your organization is fearful of social media–or heavens above: personal internet use at work!–these dialogues need to happen for the benefit of your organizational culture. They’re not just about ‘it’s time to create a social media policy.’ Opening the discussion and working towards some simple guidelines on how your staff and volunteers can communicate (onlien and in person, too!) on your behalf instills a foundation of trust and gives everyone the same expectations for expressing individual views about an organization.

This is an outline of a very basic social media policy. It’s important, too, to be very clear in these that your organization supports online participation for the benefit of your mission. You can elaborate on each of these principles in accordance with your existing values and policies.

Be transparent. : Say who you are, and be clear that your views are your own unless you’re posting on an organizational site.

Be connected. Share with others, follow other policies, cite sources, and have open dialogue.

Be respectful. Think twice, maintain confidentiality, respect work time.

Be thoughtful. Question motives, be consistent, protect your own privacy, uphold your liability.

Most importantly, policies should support efforts of staff and supporters who are adding value to your mission. Don’t put out the fire before it starts!

Read more:
This policy is from DePaul University’s Social Media Working Group.
Beth Kanter writes and links to a range of though on these policies, as does Nancy Schwartz.
More on specific blogging policies from the Groundswell blog.
Here‘s what WildApricot and others have to say about the social media policy debate.

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Losing Control…It’s a Good Thing!

There’s already lots of info in cyberspace about how to be successful at using social media in non-profits.
But before we can be successful, there’s still a major hurdle to get over.
It’s control.

turtle by tsakshaug

turtle by tsakshaug


The idea that we can control what’s out there about our organizations is one that’s come and gone.

Here’s why we need to let go:
Try searching for your organization and the word ‘sucks’ or ‘hate’. Or just searching for your organization’s name or mission.
The BAD STUFF IS ALREADY OUT THERE.
So, what will you do with this info?

Will you use this as an opportunity to accept feedback and make change? Will you reach out to the offended customer and ask for another chance? Maybe, you’ll use this to implement what I call the ‘turtle assignment’–like asking the first-grader who’s out of control to be the one to take care of the classroom turtle, turning those negative energies into a positive contribution.

There are some strategies to protect our brands, though:
Have a goal so success can be measured. Measurements can be used over time to make the case to the powers-that-be that, yes, social media can be helpful in communicating.

Create a policy–but not one that’s any different in principle or practice from your regular communication policy!
WildApricot’s blog gives you lots of ideas for social media policy.

At this year’s NTEN conference, keynoter Clay Shirky, (author of Here Comes Everybody reviewed here), gave his thoughts about what’s out there: “When bad things happen with your brand (and they probably already have), people no longer blame your organization. Control has already been lost.”

And from one of the conference sessions on managing tech change (BTW, one of the co-presenters joined in via Skype!) come these notes about addressing your social media strategy internally:
Who of your various staff are early adopters vs. laggards? The nay-sayers can sabotage new technology adoption.

Why tech projects fail:
lack of executive support, lack of user involvement, inexperienced project management, unclear business objectives, too large of a scope…..(The results of this survey, done every year since 2001, has never fundamentally changed.) People are obviously very critical to change!

People not only want information, they want to be involved. Understand that change naturally creates anxiety; your people need a warning system and a grieving process for the old system.

Tie your change to your mission.
Not everyone thinks technology is cool; be sure you’re not implementing technology for fun. How will this tool help you magnify your impact, and by how much? You need a leader (buy-in necessary from the top level, but your champion can be someone else). Get engagement from all levels.

And learn about getting started with some basic good practics from Deb over at CommunityOrganizer2.0:
* Set up “listening posts” to monitor online conversations about your organization.
* Buy your domain name, those related to your organization, and potential common domain name misspellings.
* Create a blog so that your organization has a platform from which to issue its own stories.
* Pick two social networking sites to join where your stakeholders hang out, and begin to converse with people there.
* Create an organizational social profile on a handful of social networking sites. You don’t have to be active on them, but you’re ready to be if need be, and it will help increase your organization’s search engine rankings.

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