Does your organization have a social media policy? In addition to your process for posting to your official organization social media accounts, it's important to think about what type of guidelines you want to provide employees and representatives of your organization for posting to their personal accounts. With everything being publicly available online, if people are posting about your organization, it should be done responsibly and respectfully.

While you don't want to be overly restrictive, your organization and its staff/volunteers need to take responsibility for what they write, and exercise good judgment and common sense when it comes to social media content. An official social media policy will effectively communicate your organization’s expectations regarding staff and volunteer use of social media.

As you draft your organization’s social media policy, here are some helpful guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Choose your audience. Begin with a broad and basic policy that applies to your staff. Once you’ve established that, then consider drafting a follow-up policy for volunteers, which is especially pertinent if your organization works with minors and volunteers actively use social media during events.
  • Know your target audience. If you’re primarily communicating with youth, know the channels they use. Be familiar with the latest stats and slang concerning social media networks.
  • Consider additional audiences. Remember that your readers include current potential registrants as well as current/past/future employees. Consider that before you publish and make sure you aren't alienating any of those groups.
  • Keep it simple. You could have sub-policies for every social media network under the sun (from Twitter to Tumblr) but an overall policy that applies to all social media posts and digital communication in general suffices.

Now that you’ve considered your audience, you’re ready to write your policy. Here are some key points that should be included:

  • Exercise good judgment and always proofread what you post. It’s very easy to misinterpret online communication.
  • Use social media to edify and encourage.
  • Social media can never replace face-to-face communication. Social media is a great tool for ministry but it has also, in many ways, taken away much of our personal connections. One-on-one personal interaction is still best for reaching the heart, minds, and souls of your audience. It’s still pertinent to focus on small group sessions, activities, and other in-person interaction.
  • Before posting to social media, ask: Would this person be happy with am posting or comment? If there is even a hesitation, don’t do it. Once a comment or post is published on the Internet you cannot take it back.
  • Always think twice before hitting send. Consider what could happen if your organization sees what you publish on the Internet and how that may reflect not just on you, but the organization.
  • When texting, be cautious about autocorrect, popular abbreviations (such as LOL, JK, LMAO, etc.), and emoticons. Auto-correct can often change the entire meaning of a message to something unintentional and even damaging. 
  • Respect copyrights. Always give people/organizations credit for their work and make sure you have the right to use something with attribution before you publish. Properly link to source URLs in blog posts.

Once your social media policy is approved, be sure to share it with your staff and volunteers and remember it’s a working document. The social media landscape is constantly changing so be sure that you continually review and revise your organization’s social media policy.

Does your organization have a social media policy? What best practices do you find essential to include?

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