Guess what one of the biggest challenges nonprofits face today when adding a blog to their website or diving into social media? Giving up control.
Does this sound familiar?
- Should blog comments be moderated?
- Should we even allow public comments on our blog?
- How do we handle negative comments? Just delete them?
- How do we deal with trolls?
- What if the opposition takes our tweets and twists our words?
- What happens if some of our Facebook fans disagree with what we have to say in one of our status updates?
These are all valid questions and concerns and point to why it’s important that nonprofits develop and implement guidelines for blogging and managing social media. However, it should not be a guide someone in HR or Communications drafts and then distributes at a staff meeting. It should be a living document that is flexible and empowers staff to:
- Blog or tweet about policy issues that your organization advocates or analyses of upcoming legislation.
- Talk with people on Twitter or Facebook about the mission of your organization.
- Respond to constructive criticism online.
To create such a guide, organizations need to be willing to give up control, which requires a culture change organization-wide. In this fast paced online space, nonprofit senior management can’t afford to scrutinize every single word that is said on a blog post or tweet.
"If an organization simply cuts and pastes a social media [or blogging] policy without the internal culture change, it won't be effective,” said Beth Kanter. “There needs to be discussion. Not only about the potential concerns and how to respond, but how the organization or its internal culture can embrace [it]."
A variety of organizations such as the American Red Cross and yes even the US Airforce have developed internal guidelines for using social media, but before your nonprofit starts brainstorming ideas for your own organizations policies consider the principles for online participation that the New Zealand State Services Commission developed and posted to a wiki.
Be clear. Be open and transparent about the objectives, limits, resources and potential impacts of online participation.
Demonstrate respect. Show respect for the contributions, perspectives, values and prerogatives of people, and stakeholders
Confidence & Commitment
Build confidence as a basis for commitment. Online participation is a new practice for decision makers, people and stakeholders. Give it time.
Be creative. New tools mean new approaches. Success hinges on innovation.
Be inclusive. Go to where people are. Make every effort to be accessible and connect with all relevant communities, online and offline.
Be accountable. Online participation is a multistakeholder process where everyone is accountable.
Make a difference. Strive for, build on and celebrate achievements in using online participation as a means for people, government, communities and businesses to achieve their goals.
Remember people are going to talk about your organization or the issues you are working on whether you like it or not. Wouldn’t you rather be a part of the conversation than sitting on the sidelines or mulling over 140 characters to post on Twitter?