Part 3: Getting Started with Your Social Media Policies

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We’re defining “social media” fairly broadly. By “social media,” we include the best-known sites, like Facebook, Linked In, and Twitter, and any blogs the organization may have. But when organizations post photos and updates on their websites, with opportunity to comment, that can be social media too. The four areas of the organization that need to be involved with social media policies are executive, HR, marketing, and legal.


Your leadership will decide the purposes of your social media approaches, and also decide who has the authority to speak on behalf of the organization. HR will work on designing and implementing employee social media policies consistent with current law. Marketing will apply branding and PR concepts that probably include a social media approach. Legal will work with all of these to inform your goals with good legal principles. Note that your legal counsel will help your organization work out the best way to achieve its goals, not vice versa.

Here are a few things to consider as you put policies in place. Who can post comments or information on behalf of the organization? Members and employees should not all have the authority to speak in the name of the entity. Who owns the media accounts or blogs? What if that person leaves the organization? Does each person own his or her own Linked In account and its contacts? These issues can lead to tension and worse when a person leaves.

The conventional wisdom is that it’s not wise for an employer to friend employees, as there is too much chance of compromising the relationship in some way or finding out information you don’t want to know (such as GINA-protected material). Is this different in the missions context where there is more of a “family” relationship? Does it depend on whether the account is primarily personal or ministry-related? All these things can be factors, and need to be thought through.  

If you are posting photos on your organization’s website, have you checked to make sure you have permission to use those photos? There can be issues of invasion of privacy or even copyright ownership. You may want to have everyone sign a standard written consent and assign rights to use their image. Also, with the global community getting ever smaller, consider how you are using the images of people you serve in your ministry, even overseas. 

There is more to discuss, but this should get us started. What are your thoughts and concerns?


Disclaimer: not official legal or psychological advice or opinion

Because of the generality of the information on this site, it may not apply to a given place, time, or set of facts. It is not intended to be legal advice, and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations