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In Social Media Policy, One Size Won't Fit All - 2/28/2012 -

A simple way to tackle your associationís social media policy needs is to consider your stakeholdersí needs by category.

By Terrance Barkan, CAE

Most everyone agrees that an association needs social media policies. However, it is not a "one-size fits all" propositionóespecially for associations that have volunteers that can be viewed as individuals who represent the organization publicly.

When an association is drafting its social media policies, think of these four different categories of stakeholders and adjust your social media policies accordingly.

1. Staff with an explicit social media responsibility. This is for anyone who is required to use social media as part of their job description and responsibilities. These policies should be clear on how to use social media (desired behavior) and what is explicitly prohibited use.

2. Staff not required to use social media. Most likely, you will have a large number of staff who do not have any requirement or duty to use social media as part of their job. A social media policy for this class of staff member should be clear on how social media may be used, if at all. That will depend on your association's strategy and plans and whether staff that are not required to use social media are allowed to use social media for association business-related topics. This is a judgment call that should involve the associationís CEO.

3. Staff that have a hire/fire authority. Any association manager that is in a position to make a hire or fire decision needs a separate human resource-related set of social media use policies that covers the hiring process (e.g. how your association can use social media when vetting or selecting candidates), as well as management issues such as disciplinary proceedings and termination. This falls into the "risk management" category of social media issues, and the associationís CEO definitely needs to provide direction in this area of the organizationís policy.

4. Volunteers and members. Most likely, you will need separate policies for your volunteer leaders, starting with your board of directors (or the equivalent). Again, this is a judgment call whether you want to have volunteers using social media or if you feel that it is not appropriate for volunteers, members, speakers etc. to use social media in the name of your organization. If you have no policies in place, then expect that sooner or later an issue of inappropriate use will arise, including things like a member starting a LinkedIn group using your logo but without your permission.

Approaching the formation of association social media policy in terms of categories forces association publishers and leaders to consider a broader social media strategy for their organization, including important decisions on how you intend for different stakeholder groups to engage with your association and the broader community through social media. 

Terrance Barkan, CAE is chief strategist for SOCIALSTRAT, a social media strategy consultancy.


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