Mean Girls on Social Media: The Nonprofit Edition

18 Sep

It's true because its on Facebook!

Have you ever read something on Facebook and had a “Yikes!” response? What were they thinking? Do they realize how it sounds? This mostly happens on someone’s personal Facebook page, right? Nonprofits only post nice things and anyone who has a well-thought out social media plan would never post something inappropriate or tacky? 

Not so much. Keep two important things in mind when it comes to social media. 1) A thoughtful social media plan is just that–a plan. It does not indicate tone or word choice or remove the human element. 2) Humans execute social media plans, and humans make mistakes. They get drawn into drama, they have emotions and personal opinions. And this sometimes comes out through your organization’s social media efforts. 

I witnessed this recently when a local nonprofit underwent a rather dramatic change in leadership, replete with rumor and innuendo created by disgruntled staff. Supposedly none of it was substantiated, and all of it was denied. I have no personal knowledge of anything that did or did not transpire, so it’s not for me to comment on. 

However, a local philanthropy web-based magazine offered what I felt was a very…snide, breathless and gossipy blow-by-blow Facebook account of a press conference in which the transition was announced. I felt the content was inappropriate and biased with personal opinion and comments. Which made me cringe since the poster was not representing herself, but her employer. 

Someone got drawn into drama and dragged her organization’s name into it. 

Your Facebook posts and even your Tweets should look spontaneous, but actually be planned carefully. However, breaking news will happen. You will need to react. But before you do, CALM DOWN, take a breath. Ask yourself if the post represents your organization’s officially sanctioned stance on this issue or if you are inserting your own personal agenda or opinion. Run it by someone else first.

Which brings me to my second recommendation–along with your social media plan, you need a social media style guide. This will dictate message, tone, word choice and ensure a continuity and identity for your organization. Corporations do this all the time, and in fact, some have a training program complete with certification for their employees who are involved with social media. 

Lastly, before you hit “publish” on any Facebook post or Tweet, especially those that are not planned or scheduled, ask yourself how you’d feel about it if you were on the receiving end.

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