There’s no escaping the fact that social media is a part of our connected world. Initially, social media was purely for social interactions, as distinct from professional. Those lines are now blurred, with an abundance of professional, government and educational organisations establishing strong social media presences across a number of platforms.
It is of critical importance that any social media or social networking account established for an organisation takes into account the protocols around engagement. Who is expected to interact with the social media presence? What are the rules of engagement going to be? And most importantly, how can you ensure that users are aware of these guidelines when engaging with your networks?
When establishing a social media presence for community engagement, it is important to consider the following five points:
1. What is the objective of the social media account?
Social media is supposed to be exactly that – SOCIAL. If your purpose is to create a space where people can find out dates of events, and receive updates about what is happening in your organisation, but don’t want them to provide feedback, or don’t want to allow comments or contributions from the community, then perhaps a billboard or a static website might be more suitable than a facebook page. If you want to create a space for sharing of ideas and discussions, then perhaps a wiki would be useful. If your objective is to curate a wide range of links and resources, then a site like diigo or pinterest might be the best place to start. Organisations need to ensure that their accounts and sites meet their needs, and provide appropriate opportunities for engagement.
2. How will the account be administered?
There are some serious admin considerations that need to be taken into account when setting up social media accounts on behalf of an organisation. Protocols for responding to complaints or suggestions, appropriate timing of posts, and the development of a style of posting/ sharing which reflects the organisation are all elements which need to be taken into consideration. Who will be responsible for creating and sharing content? What will happen it there is a controversial issue? How will the account passwords, privacy details, etc, be managed, in order to ensure that the account is sustainable, and not just reliant on the efforts of one enthusiastic person?
3. What regulations need to be abided by?
There are legal and ethical considerations when setting up a social media account. If your target audience is primary school aged children, then a site which requires members to be 13+ to create an account is not going to be suitable. Sites which don’t allow you a level of control over privacy and sharing of personal information could be a serious concern when children are anticipated users. Any site that is being considered for use should be closely examined to ensure that it fits with the guidelines for appropriate communications, as required by the organisation in question.
4. What are the “rules of engagement” for the account?
It is important that all users are aware of what the guidelines are for social media interactions. All social media accounts should provide some information about what is appropriate in terms of communication, response times, etc. For example, the Evans High School facebook page provides an outline of the types of behaviours that are expected from the school community when interacting with the page. This highlights the importance of contributions by all community members, the desire for the page to reflect the school’s PBL focus of “cooperative, polite and responsible” behaviours, and the expected time frame for any responses to requests posted on the page. (Evans HS, n.d.). This allows for positive management of the page, and ensures that users know what is expected when interacting. It is important that these rules of engagement are consistent across all social media accounts, and reflect the image and message of the organisation.
5. What policies and procedures are required to govern the social media accounts?
Establishing policies and procedures for social media will vary depending on the context of the organisation, and the framework within which it operates. Government organisations have specific requirements about representation and participation which may not apply to all organisations, for example. As a teacher librarian in a NSW public school, the key documents that I must refer to are the NSWDEC policies and procedures relating to Online Communications Services – specifically, the Social Media Policy and Guidelines for staff, and the Online Communication Services: Acceptable Usage for Students policy.
DETNSW. (2015). Social Media Policy. Retrieved 12 May 2015, from https://www.det.nsw.edu.au/policies/technology/communication/PD20110418.shtml
Evans High School (n.d.) https://www.facebook.com/EvansHighSchool/info?tab=page_info
Socialmedia.biz,. (2015). Best practices for developing a social media policy. Retrieved 15 May 2015, from http://socialmedia.biz/social-media-policies/best-practices-for-developing-a-social-media-policy/