Do You Need a Social Media Policy?

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February 24, 2011; Source: USA Today | Sometimes technology just gets ahead of people’s good sense. So it was for the recently dismissed Jeff Cox, the deputy attorney general in Indiana who replied to a Mother Jones magazine tweet about the Wisconsin union demonstrators, suggesting that “live ammunition” be used on them and that demonstrators were “thugs” and “political enemies.”

Hardly behavior befitting an elected official, it took only a few days before Cox was fired.

Lori Bentley, who writes a blog for IT Business Edge titled Governance and Risk, suggests in a post on the topic that the situation should suggest to us that we should all have policies related to the use of social networking tools by employees.

A spokesman for the AG’s office points to the employee handbook which contains a provision “requiring employees to act in a professional manner during and after work hours” but he also says, according to the USA Today article, that the office is developing policies related to the use of social media. Here is a link to a sample social media policy at IT Business Edge. But we'd love to hear your feelings on the matter. Do you have a social media policy? Do we all need one?—Ruth McCambridge

  • Lea Spencer

    I think we all need a social media policy. It’s where marketing is heading. In ten years asking this question will be like asking, “Does a company REALLY need to advertise?”

  • Lorraine Teel

    I think there is a need for TWO policies — the first being a policy / procedure set of guidelines for employees who use social marketing as PART of their job (e.g they work in fundraising or communications or work to recruit new clients via social media. The second is the more complicated one and that’s the policy for all employees regarding their use of social media etc. for their own personal use. It gets confusing to not make this differentation.

  • mjfrombuffalo

    NO and YES.

    For nonprofits, the need for social media policy can be multifaceted. The Development and PR people should be using social media as part of their strategies, but also to monitor for what’s being said about their agency and their agency’s particular field of service.

    The HR people need a policy regarding what they can or cannot do , ethically or legally, in social media when researching a potential employee’s background.

    The professional staff needs a social media policy that stems out of the general conduct and communication they expect from their workers. Depending on agencies’ client bases and cultures, there may be different answers to questions like “should a worker ‘friend’ a client or former client or what does the agency want workers to avoid posting on their blogs or Facebook pages (e.g., pictures showing a foster child’s face). Of course employees have free speech rights, but the rights of the client and the need to have employees appear professional to the clients are also important to at least advise workers about.

    Finally, agencies need a social media policy for the not-quite-employees, like board members, volunteers, foster parents, etc. They need to know where client confidentiality applies and what guideines they should follow. Of course an agency does not have the same kind of hold over these folks as others, but an agency can advise them with some guidelines and, in the process, make them realize some things they might not have realized before (such as how public their Facebook walls might be).

    So YES, you need a social media policy, and NO – my organization (and many others in my agency’s field) do not but really, really need to have them.

  • Matt

    We see churches looking at this question more and more. The primary reason: Legal liabilities with issues of confidentiality, the use of names and images, and so on (