By Zoe Amar
Many charities now have a social media presence, and are findingthat a growing number of their leadership team are using these platforms themselves. Social media offers great opportunities to the sector, whether through fundraising, influencing key stakeholders or researching potential corporate partners. As a consultant, I always advise charities that a social media policy should empower people and help them understand what they can and can’t do. So what should you bear in mind when planning yours?
1. Get buy–in. It’s critical that you take people with you when putting the policy together. Interview key staff and find out how they are currently using social media. An informal workshop is also a good way to discuss key issues and work out some practical solutions. Remember to involve people widely across the organisation and discuss what steps are necessary to deliver the policy. One charity encouraged employees to let their contacts know about fundraising campaigns via their social media accounts, only to find out that Facebook had been blocked by IT.
2. Empower people. Staff are sometimes nervous about using social media so the policy should encourage them whilst making remits clear. For example, if a donor tweets your head of fundraising to say something positive about your charity or ask a question, why shouldn’t they respond? Breast Cancer Care have even put their leadership team’s Twitter handles on their website.
3. Be clear about ownership. Who owns LinkedIn connections when employees move on? A recent court case ruled in favour of the employer. The law regarding ownership of Twitter followers is less clear. One sensible approach could be to say in the policy that as long as the Twitter account is not branded as belonging to the organisation then it is owned by the account holder.
4. Learn from other social media policies. There are some excellent examples available online. I particularly like the BBC’s policy, as it is simple, clear and pragmatic. IBM’s policy is also worth reading as its goal is to encourage employees to create inspiring online content. However, the policy should be the right fit for you. I advise organisations that their social media policies must work well with their mission and culture.
5. Make sure people know what is appropriate. Your policy must be clear on when employees should keep information confidential, and what they are allowed to share, for example, only information that is publicly available should be posted. And of course the policy must say that employees shouldn’t put inappropriate material on social media, as it will create a negative impression of them or the organisation.
6. Bring your policy to life. Once it’s been completed, it’s helpful to do a session for staff and work through plenty of real life practical examples. Social media is evolving rapidly so you might want to revisit the policy every few months.
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