Has social media become too easy? With the onslaught of social media websites like facebook, myspace, pinterest, twitter, and blogger, making your voice heard on the internet has become easier than ever. With the click of a finger, whatever you decide to type at any given moment can be posted on the internet for the public to see. For members of history organizations, this is a blessing and a curse. Certainly, the opportunity to easily educate the public about history mixed with a huge potential for free advertising is hugely beneficial. However, the inherent ease and casualness of social media can also encourage a lax attitude that can be damaging. Developing a social media policy can help an organization be prepared for an array of potential social media issues.
The first thing a social media policy should consider is the desired mission of internet visibility. Guidelines should be put in place to help direct those who are responsible for posting. What topics should online posts cover? Are there certain topics that should be avoided? Will the site be used for advertising upcoming events, and if so, how and when? Will posts be peer-reviewed before being put online? One great way to control future posting is to develop an outline or script of what will be posted in the future. This way, posts can be edited and organized before they are made public. This technique also helps with posting frequency… once a script is written, all you have to do is copy and paste your post on the planned date.
Who will be allowed to post on behalf of the organization? More variety and liveliness will exist on your social media site if a team is involved instead of just one person. However, if multiple people are allowed to login and post, it is important to be well organized so at least some consistency is maintained. This can be done in several ways. The creation of a “posting schedule” is a handy way to manage those responsible for posting during any given week or month (December happens to be my month to post on the OLHA website). An alternative approach is to assign certain social media responsibilities to specific individuals (as Education Director at The Castle, I am responsible for posting about every upcoming education event). Developing a social media policy is a good way to avoid too many cooks in the technology kitchen.
Of all social media dilemmas, photography seems to be the messiest. A social media policy should include a plan for the use of images from the internet as well as photos taken on-site. Specific rules should be put in place to help avoid legal issues, especially when photos were not taken by your organization or include copyrighted objects such as artwork. It is also important to keep in mind that there are many people who would not want their photo posted online for everyone to see. This is especially important when it comes to children. A child may be perfectly content posing for a photograph, but his or her parent may not be as enthusiastic when it pops up on facebook. Legal issues aside, it is worthwhile to protect the privacy of your visitors by making sure they know you are taking photos that will be used online. In addition, “permission to use photograph” forms are a way to keep everyone happy.
Who will be monitoring your social media site(s)? Especially for sites like facebook , where the public can post on an organization’s wall, it is a good ideas to have someone take a look at the site on a day-to-day basis. You never know what someone else might post on your facebook wall, so it is important to frequently check for inappropriate or controversial posts.
Social media is a very useful tool, especially for small organizations trying to get involved with the community. However, it is very important that organizations are careful with how they handle their sites. Before you dive in, make sure you have a plan to help prevent copyright issues, disorganization, and poor content. For a list of social media policy examples, click here.
Don’t forget to visit the OLHA facebook page!