November 17, 2009

Finally! An enlightened social media policy

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Bread for the World

Bread for the World spells out the opportunities for working together

JD LasicaFor the past few days I’ve been hip deep in social media policies, social media guidelines — the increasingly common rules of the road that companies and nonprofits are laying down for how

In a perfect world, organizations could issue a policy like this: Oh, behave!

Or, as Microsoft’s policy famously puts it: Don’t be stupid.

But these days, as more employees are Twittering and posting Facebook updates both at work and at home, it makes sense for businesses and nonprofits to offer them guidance about what’s acceptable behavior and what crosses the line. Some companies, like Best Buy, have said the landscape is changing so quickly that they don’t want to commit the guidelines to paper. But many others are adopting written policies.

In the long run, that may be good news for employees: Mashable reported recently that 8% of U.S. companies have sacked “social media miscreants.” (What Mashable calls miscreants I would call employees with a naive streak.)

Still, the temptation remains for nonprofits and businesses to crack down on social media use by letting the lawyers and out-of-touch managers write the policies, as all too many news organizations have been doing.

Bread for the World’s new policy

In looking over the scores of social media policies littering the landscape, one has risen to the top for its enlightened view that social media use is an opportunity rather than a threat. Perhaps surprisingly, it comes courtesy of Bread for the World, a Christian charity seeking to end hunger at home and abroad.

I’ve republished Bread for the World’s social media guidelines on (with permission), and posted it as a downloadable PDF (4 pages).

A few of the highlights:

• Bread for the World’s policy properly breaks down the participants into two stakeholder groups: those who represent the organizations and individuals who use social media outside of an official capacity.

• The team commits to “actively invite and/or engage our con­stituents” across a number of social sites.

• The Bread team encourages “exper­i­men­ta­tion and test­ing of new social media tools and func­tion­al­i­ties not cur­rently used” and promises training for employees not familiar with the tools.

• Bread for the World will support cause sites set up by outsiders in its name, with a proper disclaimer.

• Staffers will provide transparency into their relationship with Bread.

• Staffers are properly reminded not to pursue legislative agendas that differs from the organization’s.

• Staffers are also treated like adults, so instead of Twitter and Facebook being banned from the workplace, employees are reminded that “our blog­ging and social net­work­ing activ­i­ties will not inter­fere with our work com­mit­ments.”

I would have phrased some passages differently, but on the whole this is one of the most forward-looking social media policies I’ve come across. Naturally, other kinds of nonprofits and businesses have other interests that need to be addressed, and not all of them would be able to adopt a policy that’s tailor made for a charity that so widely uses social media in its work.

Thanks to field organizer Holly Hight for your help on this. (Please note that these guidelines may be modified at any time.)

Folks, what do you think of Bread for the World’s policy?

Do you know of other social media policies that you think do a good job of striking the right balance between an organization’s interests and an employee’s freedoms?


JD Lasica, founder and former editor of Socialbrite, is co-founder of Cruiseable. Contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

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6 thoughts on “Finally! An enlightened social media policy

  1. This is a great start . . . but I'm wondering what resources there are for smaller organizations, where there isn't enough staff to parse out site managers/teams for different networking tools. The Bread for the World guidelines are good for not restricting staff use of social media, but where can "lean-sized" nonprofits find resources for how best to engage the social media, without overburdening their smaller staff or initiating a whole bunch of online accounts that there really isn't time to keep up?

    Lois Leveen
    Grantmakers for Education

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