A recent post on nonprofit audience engagement blog Know Your Own Bone illuminates some of the common pitfalls of social media in the workplace. As the corporate world digests recent court rulings on the balance between freedom of speech and employee use of social media, KYOB suggests that some nonprofits still sitting on the sidelines are missing out; that others have embraced social media but only in a haphazard way; and that still others are using social media well, but have policies that are too restrictive.

She argues that if your organization is still avoiding social media, you are courting disaster:

“Web and social media are the public’s number one method of accessing information – and social media plays a leading role in driving the decision to visit a museum or other visitor-serving organization. Social media is critical to increasing online reputation, which directly aids in long-term financial solvency. An organization that runs from social media, or tries too hard to control it rather than contemplating how the organization may benefit from digital communications, may risk speedy irrelevance.”

It may seem risky or ill-advised, but KYOB points out that staff are often an organization’s best “brand ambassadors” — and that giving them the tools they need to share and promote your work can build audience engagement and loyalty:

“Staff members are your behind-the-scenes evangelists – the people whom the world looks to for the “inside scoop” about how your organization functions. What is best for them is – increasingly often – also best for you and your organization.”

But organizational use of social media should not be random — you should have a plan and a policy in order to prevent embarrassing public gaffes and to strike a balance that helps encourage employees to build public awareness of your cause, but also sets some practical boundaries on who publishes content and how, and what they should and should not say about the organization. And this policy, she emphasizes, should be revisited and updated often to reflect a rapidly changing technological and legal landscape.


For more information

For some inspiration and best practices, check out this slideshow on nonprofit social media tactics … and if you’d like a colorful (if slightly outdated) glimpse of how the world’s most effective nonprofits are using social media, here’s a closer look.