A social media policy is not to be confused with a social media strategy. The latter refers to the plan that guides an organization’s adoption and use of social media. The former refers to the rules of what constitutes appropriate behavior in the social sphere and how to handle etiquette breaches by volunteers, staff or others. A good social media strategy should include developing an appropriate social media policy.
It would seem obvious that people should mind their manners in the social sphere just as they do in person but unfortunately, sometimes interacting from behind a computer (or smart phone) can make a person forget that other flesh-and-blood people will read what they write and be hurt or offended and that that message can live on forever on the internet.
I was once told of an volunteer who developed a Facebook fan page for a nonprofit event before the organization’s leadership had even begun to think about adopting social media. The day of the event, the volunteer had a disagreement with a major sponsor and in the heat of the moment took to the Facebook page created for the event to disparage the sponsor. Needless to say the incident put the entire organization in an uncomfortable position and jeopardized their relationship with this major sponsor. The problem in this situation was twofold: 1. lack of understanding on what brand ownership means (see previous post) and 2. lack of a social media policy that might have prevented this or, at the very least, provided leadership with guidelines as to how to handle this individual’s misbehavior.
Aside from facing a similar situation to the one described, other things to consider are how to handle harsh critiques on your blog or Facebook page, how to handle the employee/volunteer who forgets to keep a negative comment private because they never turned on the privacy settings on their Facebook or Twitter account…and I could go on. No one likes to think of worst case scenarios but forcing ourselves to confront the possibility of a bad situation helps us keep our wits about us and keep negative incidents from turning into major disasters and major pains.