Making the most of social media

How Head Start programs can make the most of social media

These days, all businesses need some sort of social media presence. After all, seven out of ten American adults use social media.  Chances are that your employees, constituents and funders are all checking their social media accounts daily, and you want to be noticed for all of the right reasons!

The good.

Social media offers incredible opportunities. For non-profit organizations, social media can help spread the word about available services. A Head Start agency struggling with enrollment, for example, could use social media to spread the word about eligibility requirements, the benefits of Head Start and upcoming enrollment fairs.

Social media can be an effective way to tell the world about the good work an organization is doing, keeping the organization top-of-mind for fundraising.

Social media can also be an efficient way to provide information to the public during inclement weather or emergencies.

The bad.

Done poorly, social media can be disastrous. Imagine a Head Start agency accidentally tweeting out a photograph of a child who is covered by a protective order that prevents a parent from knowing his or her whereabouts. Or imagine a disgruntled employee posting negative comments about the organization and its staff.  These scenarios– and more – have all happened to organizations that use social media.

So, how should you maximize the good and minimize the bad?

Develop a thoughtful social media policy and provide training in appropriate social media practices.

Social Media Policies and Procedures

Social media policies and procedures will vary depending on the unique characteristics of your organization, but there are some universal best practices. This ten-step process posted to the Department of Health and Human Services’ website can help you begin to draft a social media policy.  Here are some tips to consider:

1. Centralize authority to post on the organization’s social media accounts. To minimize the risk of a post with inappropriate or offensive material, designate a few people to be responsible for drafting, reviewing, posting and monitoring social media content.

2. Address employees’ use of social media. In addition to describing the process for posts from the organization’s official social media accounts, your policy and procedures should also describe any restrictions on employee use of social media during work hours. As with any policies and procedures that affect employees, be sure to have your policy reviewed by an employment attorney to make sure the policy doesn’t run afoul of federal or state employment laws, such as the National Labor Relations Act.

3. Emphasize the privacy and confidentiality of child and employee records. Head Start agencies are bound by laws protecting the privacy and confidentiality of child and employee records. Be sure that your social media stresses the importance of complying with these laws.

Training

As with any policy and procedure, the mere existence of a written document will be ineffective without proper training to inform employees, volunteers and contractors of the policy and procedure and its contents. Here are four tips for designing a social media training program.

1. Distribute the policy and procedures and obtain signatures verifying receipt. Many times, distribution of policies and procedures in the field can be ineffective, resulting in confusion. Make sure to distribute policies and procedures, including any substantive updates, to each employee, volunteer and contractor, and obtain signatures verifying receipt so that, if necessary, you can prove to reviewers that the policies and procedures were disseminated. Also be sure that online repositories of policies and procedures are updated, along with any hard copies.

2. Provide training on best practices for social media. Provide training on the contents of the social media policy and procedure, along with best practices for using social media. You may consider recording the training so that it can be viewed by new employees, volunteers or contractors during the onboarding process. Use and maintain sign-in sheets to document attendance at trainings.

3. Consider training as a continuous effort. Provide training and retraining throughout the year and as necessary as a reminder of the policies and procedures and to address questions or concerns that arise. Also provide additional training in response to any incidents involving social media use.

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