Category Archives: Social Media Policies

Social Media Policies – NPQ Newswire

Members of the Turtle Creek Chorale, a thirty-four-year-old predominantly gay group with more than 200 performers, are using social media platforms like Facebook to voice their frustrations about the organization and its social media policies. The Chorale is not alone in its struggles to perfect a social media policy; many nonprofits are wondering how to write these short but complicated documents.

Social media policies are supposed to protect both the organization and the employees (or, in this case, dues-paying volunteers). When written well, social media policies provide the necessary balance of common sense rules (such as no profanity), organization specific protocol (don’t share confidential information), and overall guidance (be transparent). When written poorly, social media policies can lead to confusion and the perception—correct or incorrect—that individual rights are being curtailed. There are several websites which offer sample social media policies but few which provide accurate guidance as to what works and what does not.

Read the more about the case of the Turtle Creek Chorale and social media policies on the Nonprofit Quarterly website.

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Sunday Musings on the Nonprofit Governance Conference

I had the opportunity on Friday and Saturday to speak at USD’s annual Nonprofit Governance Institute. This two-day conference – for those of you who might not live in San Diego – draws hundreds of board members and senior leadership staff members at nonprofits throughout Southern California together to talk about one thing: governance.

As always, the energy was high throughout the weekend and the conversations were stimulating. It’s such a joy to be around people who are trying to make the world a better place . . . and being smart about it!

I was privileged to speak at two different sessions.

The first was a panel on Nonprofits and Civil Society. I shared about a book I had recently read and reviewed for an academic publication. The book, Measuring the Networked Nonprofit, provides a wonderful roadmap to nonprofits looking to measure their impact on social media.  I highly recommend it.

The second topic I addressed was — drumroll here — social media policies. The session focused on tips for how to create policies that are generative rather than overly rigid or controlling. It’s not easy to do, trust me. What I loved about this session was the second half: small group discussions.

Use or Lose

The attendees gathered together in small groups to discuss sample policies. Each group had a different policy which I had selected from a online database.  They played a game I call “Use or Lose.” After each reading the policies separately, they had to decide what they could potentially “use” from that policy to write their own and what they would “lose.”

The key lessons from this exercise are:
1) Social media policies are NOT one-size-fits-all,
2) Virtually no company has a “perfect” policy,
2) We can learn from a wide variety of companies, including Nordstrom.

More than 50 people showed up to learn about social media policies and I’m thrilled. We’ve been talking about social media for a long time. Now it’s time to also talk about generative governance.

Cheers!

 

 

Get your head out of the sand! Write that social media policy!

The benefits of social media are tremendous. Millions of dollars have been raised online and countless acts of advocacy been performed.

It’s exciting. And mindboggling.

Yet, despite the many benefits, social media also comes with significant risks. These risks include employee privacy, employee safety, labor relations and HR issues, brand identity, client confidentiality and so much more. Because of the ever-evolving nature of social media, we don’t even know what some of these risks will be.

It’s a scary situation, one that makes many CEOs want to bury their head in the sand.

Social media polices are one way to provide guidance to staff and ensure we avoid major pitfalls. So. . . it is critical that we get our heads out of the sand and write that social media policy!

Here are three tips to help get you going.

First: Don’t let funders pressure you!
Nonprofits are being encouraged by funders to outreach to clients via social media. For the nonprofits that have not written a social media policy, this can be dangerous. The risks to engaging in social media increase when we engage in direct client outreach. If you begin client outreach without thinking it through properly, you’re asking for trouble.

Before you outreach to clients online, make sure you:

  • Have a social media policy in place;
  • Have trained staff; and
  • Know who will and how to respond to a social media crisis.

Second: Write that social media policy!
Many CEOs aren’t familiar with social media tools and thus are reluctant to provide governance in the form of policies. This is understandable but dangerous. Instead, CEOs should use the staff resources at hand including: HR Director, IT Director, Program Staff, Marketing/Development Director, “digital native” staff, and others. Gather your team together to first identify potential risks and then craft the policy.

When you write a social media policy, be sure to include:

  • A statement of purpose, values, and/or ethics;
  • An outline of who can/cannot officially engage in social media on behalf of the organization;
  • References to any relevant internal and external polices;
  • Any branding requirements;
  • A separate policy for staff engaged in social media as a part of their job and all staff engaged in social media for personal use;
  • A list of staff who should be contacted in case of questions, emergency, policy violation, etc.; and
  • A date for when the policy will be reviewed.

Third: Help your employees understand their three voices.
It is important to help employees understand they have three main voices: official, professional, and personal. Understanding the distinction between these voices can help them to make wise social media decisions at work and in their personal lives.

1)     Official: My official voice is the role I am given by an employer. My job description will indicate what I can and cannot say on behalf of the organization.

2)     Professional: My professional voice is the image I want to portray in the professional world. This might include a Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn profile I create specifically for the purpose of career networking.

3)     Personal: My personal voice is who I am outside of my job. It is who I am with my friends and family. On social media, this might be a Facebook profile I share with friends and family only. Many choose to keep this information on strict privacy settings. If I choose to include my professional contacts on my personal social media pages, I’ll probably be more cautious about what I share.

This isn’t as easy as it looks. The distinction between these three voices may appear clear, but online, the boundaries blur quickly. We can use privacy controls and disclaimers (i.e. “these thoughts are my own and do not represent my employer”) to distinguish between our voices; but, unfortunately, there is no guarantee that professional networks won’t see personal information and vice versa.

The bottom line is this: “What happens in Vegas, stays on Facebook.” . . . We should all proceed with caution.

One final thought. Even if you don’t employ union staff, it important to understand what the National Labor Relations Board is saying in regards to social media. (Link to: http://www.nlrb.gov/)

Now . . . Get your head out of the sand! It’s time to write those policies!

Protecting Client Privacy on Social Media: 3 Tips to Minimize Risk

In nonprofits, clients are the top priority. They are the reason we exist. Many nonprofits worry about getting into social media, fearing that it will jeopardize client confidentiality. There are many risks but, with careful training and management, these risks can be minimized.

Here are three ways to minimize risk:

1)      Include social media in your general privacy/confidentiality trainings. You may have a basic privacy training or a training specific to legislation such as HIPAA and FERPA.  Either way, it’s time to include social media in the discussion. Remind employees that their responsibilities to privacy/confidentiality are the same online as in the real world.

Wherever possible, include real-life examples of exactly what is and is not appropriate. Examples help make the dangers more tangible. If you don’t have any examples of breaches of confidentiality, consider yourself lucky.

I also suggest reminding staff and board members that what they post on their personal sites is also subject to your confidentiality policies and procedures.

2)      Refer to your internal HIPAA policies in your social media policies. In our social media policies and procedures, it is important to refer back to established internal policies such as privacy/confidentiality. This helps ensure that employees think about their activities in social media with the same mindset as they use in their day-to-day work life.

Again, real life examples are very helpful.

Do you work with youth or at-risk populations? You may have some special concerns when it comes to clients attempting to ‘friend’ staff or posting their own personal information on your social media sites. These kinds of privacy/confidentiality issues should be addressed in your policies.

3)      Create what I call Community Standards. This is a public document usually shared via an organization’s website which outlines the values/standards you will expect/reinforce on your social media sites. You can link to this page on the website from your social media sites.

One of the goals of a Community Standards document is that it sets the tone. It establishes an organization’s desire to maintain a social media site that is __________ (you fill in the blank: respectful, informative, ??). It articulates what types of comments/interactions are unacceptable and will be removed.

This document also protects you. It is an opportunity for you to make it clear that clients are responsible for the information they post. It is an opportunity to remind clients that while you will protect their information according to your P&P, they have a responsibility in regards to what they choose to post on your site. (Youth are a different story – we have added responsibility to protect youth’s personal information even if the youth themselves don’t choose to.)

Not sure what I mean? Here are some examples of Community Standards and Comments Policies. With a quick glance to these, you can see that tone makes a huge difference.

If you are trying to create social media policies for your nonprofit, my website has an entire page of resources you can use. There are several hundred sample policies available through the first two links on the page.

Do you have any questions? Ask them here! I’ll be happy to answer. If your organization has a social media policy, I’d love to see a copy. Email me at jenniferamandajones@gmail.com.

The Photos that Betray Us: GPS technology, mobile phones, & nonprofits

By next year, all mobile phones in North America will use GPS to capture locations.  Many already do. This information is extremely useful in the case of emergencies. It will help us to find missing persons and to respond to disaster victims.

There is a downside. A huge downside.

Mobile phones have cameras. Many newer phones automatically tag photos with your name, location, date, time, etc. This information helps the phone to organize your photos.  If those photos are shared online, the information stored in the photos is also shared.

This is called Geotagging. According to Socialbrite.org’s Social Media Glossary:

“Geotagging is the process of adding location-based metadata to media such as photos, video or online maps. Geotagging can help users find a wide variety of businesses and services based on location.”

Why might it be unwise to automatically share this information? If you takea photo at home and then post it online, a thief or predator can learn your address. If you take a photo at a domestic violence shelter, an abuser can use the address to find his/her former partner. This is true even of the photos we take of staff or facilities at domestic violence shelters.

I spoke recently with Deacon Johnson, creator of pixelguard, an application which allows users to decide what information is stored in their photos. He designed the app shortly after becoming a father. He realized the danger of social sharing and wanted to protect his child.

In talking with Deacon, I realized how important it is to be savvy about the information in our photos. By removing the data stored in photos, we are protecting clients, donors, and staff.

Nonprofits have been quick to adopt social media. In fact, more than 97% of nonprofits are using social media of some type. However, few have explicit social media policies. Even fewer are dealing directly with issues of privacy and security posed by social media.

This is definitely an issue nonprofits will want to look into. As a Nonprofit Nerd, I can think of many causes that should be thinking about these issues:

  • Domesticviolence safe houses
  • Organizations working with abused children
  • Health care organizations
  • After school programs
  • Drug and alcohol treatment centers
  • And many, many more.

By removing the information in our photos, we reduce the risks associated with publishing photos online. We don’t eliminate risks but they are reduced somewhat.

Consistent with Deacon’s mission to protect children, the pixelguard app is free for public schools.

This post is a part of our “Stay Tuned” blog series where I interview experts on a variety of topics. If you have a topic you’d like to see covered, please add it in the comments below.

Policies as beach reading?!

“Social media culture eats policies for breakfast,” might be the 2011 version of Drucker’s wisdom, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

It is very tricky.

We can look at this from a perspective of managment vs leadership. For the purposes of today’s discussion, let’s establish some broad definitions:

Management: delineates and controls work product. Essentially, management gets things done.

Leadership: inspires and facilitates the achievement of a larger vision. Essentially, leadership moves us forward.

Typically, polices are a function of managment. They define scope of work and frame boundaries of authority. They are usually boring, dry, and not very inspiring.

Let’s face it – in general, policies aren’t beach reading.

Social media polices – to be effective – are a function of leadership teathered to managment. What do I mean by this?

Social media polices must accomplish two seemingly divergent goals:

  1. Instill caution. (management)
  2. Inspire creativity. (leadership)

Policies instill caution by articulating key boundaries such as client privacy, legal compliance, and ethical considerations. These very same policies must also inspire creativity by encouraging innovation, honoring relationships first, and putting immediate goals aside for long-term community building.

For many managers, writing social media policies may seem like a lesson in chaos. It probably is but, given the ever-evolving nature of social media, that is unavoidable.

As Frank Barrettt says, “Say yes to the mess!”

For many leaders, writing social media policies may seem like an exciting tight rope walk.

It is. And it is a dangerous one. Proceed with caution.

In 2011, we must learn to walk the very thin line between strategy, policies, and culture. Social media culture is ever changing. Policies must keep pace and anticipate changes. They must inspire creativity and instill caution, doing both in a way that moves the online community forward. If we miss the mark, we quickly become the “breakfast” of pop culture.

Social media polices should be great beach reading. Are yours?

For resources as you write your policies and learn the ropes of social media, sign up for my weekly enewsletter.

A Lesson in Twitter Handles – Learning from the New York Times

Many companies struggle to determine who owns the social media account – the employee or the company? Without clear policies, companies risk losing the fan base they worked so hard to establish. This can be devastating. Just ask the BBC – they lost 60,000 followers.

On Twitter, the biggest concern is determining the best Twitter Handle (or username). We want to increase brand exposure and yet success depends upon personality and genuine connection. How do we be humans online when wearing the mask of a brand or logo?

The New York Times (NYT) manages the balance well. Let’s take a look.

Official New York Times Wellness Twitter Account:
The twitter handle for the official NYT Twitter account is @nytimeswell. This Twitter handle clearly “belongs” to the company; however, when you look at the page, you can see personality right away. Blogger Tara Parker Pope’s photo and name are clearly displayed. You can also see her personal Twitter handle which includes her full name and no reference to the NYT.

Click on the picture below to enlarge.

It is clear that followers are following the company; however, followers are interacting with an individual. This profile builds trust and establishes a relationship.

This profile also protects the NYT. If Ms. Parker-Pope is promoted or leaves the company, the Twitter handle is still useful to the NYT. The company retains the account and its 100,000+ followers (assuming they like the next personality just as much).

If the official Twitter handle were a blend of personal and professional such as @Parker-Pope_NYTWell, the account would be difficult to salvage.  The NYT would have to create a new Twitter account and ask its 100,000+ followers to follow that new account. It is doubtful all followers would transfer; the NYT would lose valuable exposure.

Tara Parker-Pope’s Personal Twitter Account:
Blogger Tara Parker-Pope’s personal Twitter handle is her full name: @taraparkerpope. It does not include the name of her company.  She does indicate in her profile that she is a blogger for the NYT. This allows for maximum exposure for both her and the NYT. Parker-Pope’s followers can also follow the NYT and vice-versa.

Click on the picture below to enlarge.

If Ms. Pope is promoted to a different position or leaves the NYT, she should be able to retain her personal account without concern. She can easily change her profile information to reflect her new status. If her personal Twitter handle were a blend of her name and the company, this change would not be so easy to navigate.

Why is it imporatnt to separate personal from professional?
Rarely do individuals stay in one job for more than a few years; however, social media is here to stay. Companies must think long term.

It is dangerous when a company’s presence online is dependent on an employee’s twitter handle, especially an employee’s twitter handle which includes the compnay name (such as @joe_ABCcompany). There are two major risks here:

  1. First, when the employee is no longer at the company, the Twitter handle is no longer useful to either the employee or the  company. The followers must either chose to follow a different account or be lost completely. This loss is completely avoidable.
  2. Second, it is unclear who owns the Twitter account. Does it belong to Joe or to the company?  These questions are leading to some very interesting (and unfortunate) legal debates.

Social Media Policies
Social media polices are key. Policies should state upfront how decisions are made. A good social media policy will:

  1. Provide guidance as to the naming of company accounts
  2. Provide guidance to employees as to how to avoid the question of ownership of their  personal accounts

The NYT Wellness account is one great exampel of how to balance personal and professional on Twitter. Do you know of other examples  Please share here.