Social media has been in the news a lot lately; Meta is laying off thousands of workers, Facebook’s growth has slowed, and Instagram is reportedly toying with the idea of paid verification. Suffice it to say, though – for all its ups and downs – social media isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Social media has turned all its users into publishers: Publishers of thoughts, ideas, complaints, praise, and even private company information. In 2017, a woman in the UK lost her job over a Facebook post after she violated the company’s social media policy. The woman worked at a care home and posted a photo to Facebook, which included one of the residents who has Down Syndrome. This was against company policy, and the employee was dismissed from her position. And perhaps most famously, a PR director lost her job after an offensive tweet she published while traveling to Africa.
Whether or not your association has a social media policy, the writing is on the wall: Be thoughtful and cautious before posting anything online – it could cost you your reputation, your job, and more.
Many companies have social media policies specific to their industry. Some companies actively encourage social media use, particularly if you work in media. But what about associations? Should your association have a staff social media policy? Many people would agree that it’s advisable for a few reasons.
As Benjamin Franklin said, “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.” Having a social media policy in place for an association can make all the difference in protecting an association’s reputation – online and offline. Reputations matter; people join associations based on their reputation, and other organizations work with associations based on their reputation too. Protect your association’s reputation by making it clear what members can or cannot share online when it comes to the association.
Clear is kind. Being clear with your association staff about the expectations for their social media use – as it relates to the association – is kind and transparent. It’s helpful for people to have a road map for what’s okay and what’s not okay; that’s healthy boundaries. A social media policy provides clear, hard guidelines around what’s allowed, what can be shared, and what should stay off social media (i.e. conversations from a recent staff meeting).
Increasingly, social media blurs the lines between work and personal. LinkedIn, for instance, added a “feed” feature to its platform, making it more similar to Facebook. When a workplace platform and a social media platform start looking and feeling like the same thing, it makes sense that the lines might become a bit blurry. Social media policies leave no room for confusion – here’s what’s okay and here’s what’s not. This helps establish boundaries between a person’s working world and their personal world.
A social media policy typically tells people what they can and cannot share on social media. You’ll often see in Twitter bios the phrase: “views my own,” to protect a person from potentially violating a social media policy and also to reinforce that the views shared are the individual’s, not their employer’s.
A social media policy may include what sites staff members are and aren’t allowed to use while at work. It can also include rules around the use of the association’s official accounts, like who is allowed to use them, post via the accounts, and manage them. The policy may also include a code of conduct, which can include values like practicing respect and integrity while using social media.
A policy may also outline behavior that is prohibited, like inappropriate jokes, discriminating language, offensive comments, or obscene words. Often, an organization will also forbid staff members from publicly sharing confidential information about the organization, such as sales figures and business plans.
Regardless of whether you decide to implement a social media policy, having guidelines around social media that staff members can turn to for clarity will likely be welcome. Transparency and clarity are helpful to people and creating an environment where these values are elevated will make your association an even more successful one.
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