Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Adapting Your Policies to Social Media

Social media is not a toy. People have found a new way to communicate and nonprofits are rapidly catching on by building new relationships, promoting their missions and accomplishments, and having active, "real-time" conversations with their community.

But innovation is rarely as simple as that and nonprofits would be wise to observe what can happen when they take a reactive stance to social media.

Recently, Alyssa passed this article over to me. The article calls into question the personal activity of an employee with the Colorado Department of Ag's Animal Protection Bureau. It seems as though the chief of the department doesn't share the same personal feelings on animal rights as his employer. His posts ignited the passions of animal lovers everywhere and attracted far too much negative attention to the department.

Blue Avacado also responded to a letter about employee use of Facebook. The title: Facebook + Employees =Yikes! says it all and although I agree that nonprofits need to adapt to a changing communications landscape, I completely disagree with being fearful of social media.

We typically fear things we don't know enough about. Overcome your fear by putting together a policy. This will help you learn more and identify proper practices by those affiliated with your organization. Take the values and priorities of your organization and adapt them to social media. There are plenty of excellent existing policies that can be modified to suit your needs.
Nonprofits nor their employees need to feel fearful about this new media, but these still maturing communication channels do deserve some attention whether you plan on using them or not. Chances are that your employees ARE using them!

Use this opportunity to educate your employees about your brand and let them know what is expected of them when communicating in public. Show them how they can help your organization grow and what should, and more importantly should not, be said publicly.

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