A Simple Approach to Social Media Policy

Tom Jelen | 03.05.20
Topics: Web - Mobile - Social
If your organization is using social media or just starting to get serious about its management of social media, you should spend some time developing a social media policy as part of your overall digital governance plan. If the idea of developing any sort of policy makes your eyes glaze over, I can assure you that the development of your social media policy doesn't need to be a painful process. Rather than trying to account for every possible scenario you will encounter by engaging on various social media channels (which is impossible), here is a simple outline for what your team should include.



Procedure for setting up an official social media account

Starting with the basics, your organization should have a clear process for the development of any official social media account for the organization. The process doesn't need to be onerous, but every social media account should have a clear purpose, as well as a realistic plan for on-going management. Without strict controls over who gets to add social media accounts, the odds are that you will end up with a sprawling presence which will probably not serve your organization very well. One person (e.g., a Social Media Manager or Director of Communications) or a cross-functional social media team should be able to approve or reject requests for new social media accounts and that person or team should also have a process for sunsetting accounts that do not continue to fit the organization's social media strategy.


Guidelines for creating and sharing content

Depending on the number of social media accounts your organization manages, you may need more than one person developing and posting content. To help staff (especially staff who wear a variety of hats), you should develop basic guidelines for what types of content to post, the style and voice of your writing, and for the editorial process at your organization.

For any other staff who may want to support your organization in its social media efforts, you can provide a simple red, yellow, green light guide for what they can share. As an example:

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Sample disclaimer for staff who want to support your organization

While you certainly want your staff to help promote your organization using their own social media accounts, you probably want to make sure they post a disclaimer when they identify themselves as staff members of your organization. Something as simple as “The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer” can be enough to make clear that your staff are not official spokespeople for the organization. It's important to note that a disclaimer doesn't mean that they can say whatever they want (that is why the red-yellow-green lights help). Rather, it establishes that a staff person’s personal opinion on some topic is not the same as an official position of the organization.


Reminder about existing policies

Social media should not require your organization to rethink your entire employee handbook. Rather, it can simply reference many of the same policies that probably already exist in your handbook. You don't need to rewrite a new policy on the need to respect confidential information. You can just remind staff that the same policies that govern their day-to-day employment also apply to social media.


Some closing advice

As I mentioned earlier, you cannot account for every possible scenario in your social media policy. Simply having a conversation with your team about your organization's social media policy and discussing the possible issues you may encounter has its own value. With the importance of on-going communication top of mind, you may want to close your policy with a statement that encourages staff to "phone a friend" (e.g., an immediate supervisor, the Social Media Manager, the Director of Communications) if they ever have any doubts about whether or not something should be posted. When in doubt, doing nothing is generally a better approach than posting something that causes a negative consequence and dealing with the fallout.


Talk to DelCor Today!

Tom was a guest on DelCor's Reboot IT podcast, Episode 6: Defining Digital Transformation.

About Tom Jelen

Tom has been working in nonprofit and association technology since the era of Web 1.0. He gets energized by helping associations use digital technology to build new products, services, and business models.

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