Social Media is defined by Wikipedia as “interactive platforms via which individuals and communities create and share user-generated content”. Basically stated, it is a way to communicate with people all across the globe – sharing information, ideas, videos, photos, articles, and games. Social media can provide a way for people to keep up with family members, friends, celebrities and politicians, and it has even been known to reunite long-lost old friends.
What is social media useful for?
Much like anything else social media has its down side, but when used properly can provide a very effective communication or community support tool. Some people see Facebook (for instance) as a time-waster that is full of trivia or narcissistic rantings, or as providing a way for stalkers to prey on vulnerable people. While this might sometimes be the case, there are also Facebook pages that have been set up for many positive purposes – from support for business and commerce, to various causes, suicide-prevention and cancer support groups. In addition, social media can (and frequently does) provide a very effective communication tool for church organisations.
Staying safe online
It’s important that churches intent on using social media make sure they plan well in the process. As part of this it’s important that a social and digital media policy is established that aims to ensure that all users are protected from harm or invasion of privacy, and that protocols are defined and set up for use of social platforms.
In addition, it’s important that churches understand their purpose in using social media and establish what they hope to achieve in the process, and that they know who their audience is at all times.
- Purpose – your church’s purpose in using social media might include communication, outreach, provision of discussion forums, and / or to provide information, updates and invitations to events.
- Rules for use – these need to be clearly established. For instance, you may need to decide whether users can make their own posts, or enter comments on posts only. Other issues to consider include moderating online conversations to keep them respectful and on-track.
- Privacy – while social media is very public, many platforms allow you to decide your own privacy settings. This means that you can decide who can see certain posts and pages and who cannot. On Facebook for instance you can set up ‘private’ sub-groups for various purposes – such as for your church youth, or for parents.
- Health and Safety – guidelines should be established regarding who communicates with whom, and what sort of content can be posted. This includes rules for communication between adults and minors, and actions for dealing promptly with any incidents of online bullying or aggression.
- Disclaimers – these might include statements to the effect that the views posted are not necessarily those of the church leaders or pastors.
Who should manage all this?
A social and digital media manager may need to be appointed. If so, it would be his/her responsibility to develop social media policies and strategies, monitor online conversations, establish privacy settings and rules, and train and supervise staff and volunteers for various tasks as required.
To assist you in developing a policy, we have posted guidelines and a sample policy form on the ‘Forms‘ section of our website (under the ‘Training / Forms’ tab).
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Written by Tess Oliver
Tags: employees, health & safety