Your Nonprofit Needs a Social Media Management Guide

When my clients tell me that dozens of their staff help to post on social media, I can’t help but cringe. Don’t underestimate your staff’s knowledge of what is appropriate to post. All social media managers should be trained on best practices, and I highly recommend having a social media management guide on paper no matter how few or many people have access. I even suggest having this document legally written or reviewed. 

Your nonprofit needs a social media management guide.png

To be clear, a social media management guide is different from a social media policy that most organizations have, which includes the staff’s personal social media use. A social media management guide is specifically for staff, interns, and volunteers that post on behalf of your organization. 

Here are the kinds of guideline sections that you should consider including in a social media management guide.

Who Can Post

Some organizations are liberal with who has access to their social media channels. A good guideline is that each person who posts on your social media platforms at the least has authorization to do so, and may even be required to take a training. This should all be clear in this section so staff don’t create and manage pages for their programs without oversight.

General Guidelines 

This section should outline the top guidelines social media managers must adhere to. A good rule of thumb to start with is: “when in doubt, don’t post it”. Other guidelines may include being responsible, accurate, transparent, and responsive.

Content Guidance 

Content guidance will give direction on what to post and what not to post. You can start this section with a general voice and tone guideline (friendly, knowledgeable, and fun). 

This section should be very clear on content that needs to be approved and content that is off-limits. Some organizations label content green, yellow, and red. 

Green content may include content already published on the website, blog, and in press releases, or in internal staff message guides.

Yellow content may include political posts and client stories. This kind of content should be brought to a senior staff person for guidance and approval. 

Red content generally includes material that is confidential in nature, nonpublic financial information, inaccurate or not truthful information, copyrighted material, false or defamatory statements, and staff, member, or client information without consent. This kind of content should absolutely not be posted. You may decide that all political posts are off-limits as well. 

Note that all social media platforms have their own Terms of Service that you should link. See the following examples: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Copyrighted Content

While copyrighted information warning should be in the content guidelines, it’s worth going into a bit more detail. Here is an example of wording:

Any and all images, videos, or other multimedia created by a second party must be cited. You must obtain permission when using online material that includes direct or paraphrased quotes, thoughts, ideas, photos, music, recordings, and/or videos. 

Media Use

Quality media is a must for your nonprofit storytelling. That often means profiling clients, members, and staff. Be clear on what kind of permission is needed (ie, written vs. verbal). You should also set guidelines on whether or not you will tag individuals in the post. In case they are public persons and influencers, you should not. 

Negative and Abusive Comments

Someone had an unsavory experience with your organization (it happens!) and left a negative comment on one of your posts. What should the social media manager do? 

It’s bad form to remove a negative comment. In some circumstances, it should be ignored, addressed directly and privately to the commenter, or addressed publicly on the platform.

A social media manager should also recognize the difference between negative and abusive comments. Abusive comments include spam; are off-topic; promote services or products; are false or misleading; are unsupported accusations, obscene, vulgar, defamatory, profane, libelous, threatening, bullying, harassing, abusive, hateful, incite violence; or are offensive terms that target specific ethnic, racial or religious groups based on gender or sexual identity or individuals because of membership in those groups. These kinds of comments should be documented and removed or reported. 

Not too complicated, right? Just like taking the time to create Communications Policies & Procedures, this guide will benefit your organization for a long time to come. It will be well worth your efforts.