Are you prepared for a social media meltdown?


Imagine that a member of your staff posts something very nasty about you and your organisation on Facebook. Now imagine he or she has over 500 Facebook friends including one or two of the more vulnerable individuals that your organisation advises and supports.

How would you feel? What would your trustees say?

The sad fact is that workplace misunderstandings, grievances and even bullying find their way far too easily onto social media. Not surprisingly, this is leading to a growing number of unfair dismissal claims ending up in our employment tribunal system.

But social media misuse isn’t just down to employees venting their anger. Imagine the effect on your organisation if someone accidentally released confidential information onto Twitter for example, or if they shared an image via Instagram for which you did not have copyright. Worse, imagine if a poorly written post on social media was taken out of context, making the organisation appear heartless or inappropriate.

The potential impact of such mistakes could be very serious indeed. Loss of support, loss of funding, loss of credibility, and possibly even legal action.

The thing is, news and information travel fast on social media, but so too do mistakes. So how can your organisation reduce the chance of problems going viral?  Just what is needed to make you more social media safe?

Most of my experience comes from dealing with such problems after they arise. So I know that to help avoid the pitfalls, organisations need to look closely at their current social media usage. An audit of your output – what content, by who, when and where – will help identify risks. It is then a case, after proper consultation, of drawing up a suitable and robust policy that includes guidelines on content and acceptable use by staff and volunteers, account security, training, management responsibilities, and what to do when something goes wrong.

In this way, a good social media policy, properly embedded into daily use and forming part of your overall digital strategy, will go a long way to protecting you from social media meltdowns.

That said, organisations shouldn’t use these steps to restrict social media use. Indeed, given its popularity this is unlikely to work anyway. Better instead to make it everyone’s responsibility while having someone in overall charge. After all, social media is increasingly important to the voluntary sector; and as even Parliament has recognised, the sector needs to develop its digital skills in this challenging climate.

(Note: This article was first published in the May 2017 edition of the Action Planning Newsletter)

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