4 Social Media Policy Suggestions for Nonprofit Organizations

social media policyIn 2013 there was no shortage of social media blunders from companies and their employees. It was the good, bad and extremely ugly, but there are ways to protect your brand as you use social media effectively.

If we learned anything from Justine Sacco, it is how not to tweet.  While social media may still be a relativity new concept for human resource professionals, it can be the large help to nonprofit organizations seeking to learn more about their potential clients’ interests or liability if used incorrectly by volunteers. But have no fear, here are a few ideas to help jump start your own social media policy.

Tip #1

As your grandmother would say “mind your manners” meaning be nice. You are the voice of the company so whatever you post online is subject to intense scrutiny—so post wisely! Start with educating the entire company about expectations when it comes to posting status updates and photos online. Inform employees, and even contract workers, about what types of information is suitable for them to communicate on behalf of your organization and what is not.

Since volunteers and employees can be a great asset to your nonprofit organization, make sure that they are aware of any policies that you would like to enforce and the consequences of not following them. This can include the statement “tweets are my own” to take the heat off the company. Another question to check off your list is should employees friend customers or clients?

The short answer is no. There is too much risk involved and this is one situation where business and pleasure do not mix. Think about it, do you really want to see your dental hygienist out with friends drinking and laughing? Not really. Crossing the line and mixing the two together can negatively affect your organization’s legitimacy, so make a strong effort to keep things professional.

Create a Facebook Page and allow all business-related interactions to take place there. Sure, you can show some personality, but nothing that would decrease business or call your company into question. People have lost their jobs behind posting less than stellar comments including a Fire Department Captain that posted a picture of President Obama being lynched. It was poor test and makes your entire department look bad. Needless to say, he was fired.

Tip #2

Don’t bare it all. We all have a bad day from time to time but that does not mean go online and explode or trash clients or customers. Make sure everyone understands their role while using social media. Remind them to not be led by emotions and to be respectful when engaging potential stakeholders online.

Be direct and simply tell your volunteers and employees that it is your organization’s social media policy to “not engage in arguments or post inflammatory comments or statements in response to any negative or derogatory comments about (name of company), its employees, services or clients.” This is also a “nice” way of reminding administrators that they must think before they post.

Companies must have something in place to monitor conversations before they get out of control.  Have a practice in place before it is even needed. Consider it social media insurance!  Closely monitor comments for negativity. When someone violates your policy, you must decide how to best handle the situation.

Sometimes, a little controversy can be healthy, but draw the line when it comes to hateful or combative comments. Also, don’t post photos unless they have been cleared for use and use them appropriately.  Make sure the people who use your services don’t mind being photographed or used in your online outreach.

Tip #3

Keep it simple. Be consistent in your messaging. If your company focuses on fashion consulting services, you should post about the services and successes you have experienced. If you start posting about school lunches, politics and everything else under the sun—you can bet people are going to stop following or reading your comments. Stick to talking about business and services and not your personal agenda.  Everything you post should reflect the nature of your business.

Tip #4

Talk Back! It’s rare to see a nonprofit organization successfully increase engagement only just by sharing information on a weekly business. Make time to reply to tweets, Instagram photos and any social media updates. This shows that you understand the value and role active social media engagement plays. A simple thank you should do, but definitely speak up and respond. Even if the dialogue portrays your company in an ill manner—you still want to address the topic head on. Keep in mind no one can defend your company or tell your company’s story like you can. Own it, reply and create an open and honest dialogue not heated exchanges.

Make sure you have a well written comprehensive social media policy in place and that it is followed by all employees and volunteers.  You don’t always get a second chance to win the public’s trust so think before you post. It really could affect your livelihood and the life of your nonprofit.

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Vannessa Wade

Vannessa Wade is the founder and CEO of Connect The Dots PR in Houston, Texas. An alumna of the University of Houston, Wade specializes in public relations and community development programming for nonprofit organizations and corporate businesses and has been featured in numerous newspaper, television and radio segments.

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