The Importance of Social Media Policies

By April 2, 2019Nonprofit

Do you know the name Justine Sacco? Justine made the news when she made what she considered a joke on social media. The PR executive sent a poorly worded tweet out on her feed, and the world saw it. They also condemned it. We won’t bother repeating it here (and we don’t want to) but suffice to say, it’s not the kind of attention you want for your nonprofit organization.

Justine’s story, and that of many other people who made bloopers on social media, underscore the need for all businesses, but especially nonprofit organizations, to have social media policies in place. These policies should be carefully crafted and reviewed with everyone associated with your organization. An ounce of prevention, especially in the case of a nonprofit and social media, is worth a pound of cure. In an age when one poorly worded tweet can ruin a woman’s career, a poorly timed or badly worded social media post can shatter the hard-won reputation of a nonprofit organization.

What Are Social Media Policies?

Social media policies are guidelines that spell out when, how, and what may be shared on social media. They certainly apply to the people guiding social media efforts at your organization, but they should also guide all employees who post online.

People may not realize that even during their “off hours” they may still be viewed as a representative of the organization. Certainly, people have the right to free expression. But when that free expression crosses the line into casting doubt on a nonprofit organization’s mission, vision, or efficacy, it should be taken seriously.

Policies on social media may include:

  • What is—and what’s not—acceptable to share on company pages
  • Guidelines for public posts on employee social media pages
  • Guidelines for board members and others involved at an executive level with an organization

Don’t Just Prohibit Social Media Behaviors – Encourage Good Ones, Too!

Policies are fine, but there’s another side to the social media coin: social media can be used to encourage positive behaviors, too.

For example, employees and board members may be great advocates for your organization’s mission. Instead of worrying about what they will say and how they will say it, provide them with appropriate graphics and messages to share across their social media pages.

It doesn’t take long to generate 10-20 messages that the organization approves and that can be widely shared by everyone at your nonprofit. By providing people with positive, share-worthy items, you’ll help steer the message in the right direction without coming down too hard on people who honestly want to promote the organization (but may not have the best way of doing it).

Choose Social Media Representatives

Like all public-facing or marketing initiatives, there should be someone who can represent the organization well and guide the content appropriately. Choose one or, at most, two people to handle your overall social media work. These people should be trusted members of your marketing team and deeply involved in the organization’s work so that they can message it adequately across social media.

Guide Use of Images, Memes, and Third-Party Content

Another often overlooked aspect of social media posts is the sharing or use of third-party content. Sharing links to approved third-party content is appropriate. For example, an environmentally-focused nonprofit may develop a list of recommended websites from which team members may find and share links on social media platforms.

However, copying pictures from the internet and using them to illustrate your social media posts isn’t legal and may construe copyright infringement, unless the images are licensed for social media use. It’s safest to use images you’ve taken yourself or pictures which have a clear license agreement and are licensed to your organization.

Social Media: Use Wisely

Social media offers numerous ways in which nonprofit organizations can connect with the world and share their mission. Used wisely, it offers a great way to promote your cause, connect with members and donors, and share great information. With the right guidelines and policies in place and strong leadership at the helm, you can have a strong social media presence.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.