Social media is here to stay, and there is a plethora of it. There are, of course, the big ones; Facebook, Twitter, and others that may be the “top” social sites today, but in this world of ever-changing technological invention, there is bound to be a bigger and better service that can be used both to help your ministry and to harm your ministry. Social media is one of the latest fronts that a church has to both embrace and embattle when dealing with their staff member accounts. A staff member says “My social media account is mine, right?” Yes, it is, but a church must clearly communicate that, as a church staff member, you are a de facto spokesperson for the church itself, so the staff members must be held to a higher standard.
Working with churches to develop their Social Media Policies has shown me that there is not a “one size fits all” policy. It is dependent on what the church size is, how much it is interacting with people over social media, and the comfort level of church leadership with the roll of technology in church ministry. Regardless of the limitations desired, the one thing every church needs is communication with its staff members about what is acceptable and how social media will be handled. This is why a social media policy is one of the most important documents a church can have today.
1. Logos and Use of Church Intellectual Property. One of the things often confused is where the line is drawn between “church” and “personal.” This is often illustrated by the use of church branding or intellectual property. It is always important to clearly communicate the issues surrounding the use of the church logo, special images for special events, when staff members are prohibited from using such logos and when they are going to be required to use them. Arguments can be made both ways. On one side, the use of the church logo in a personal account implies more authority is given by the church to the staff member, and on the other hand, a high attendance day may have a special logo or image that everyone could use to draw people in for a special event. A social media policy must include clear direction on when use of the logo is prohibited and when it is required.
2. Discussing the Church or a Staff Member Directly. Surprisingly, people use social media to complain. We complain about the long lines at the airport, bad customer service at the checkout, people who have irritated us, or our church. We must always clearly prohibit complaining about things in social media by our staff members. While tweeting an airlines can sometimes result in a free upgrade, tweeting about your co-worker being lazy is not acceptable. This type of post must be prohibited to keep staff members from bullying another staff member and then calling it a joke.
3. New Account Creation and Ownership. One issue that often arises in church social media is who “owns the account.” An example is when the youth ministry decides to set up a Twitter account for their Wednesday night activity, and a new account is formed. This generally only becomes an issue when the church twitter account is set up by a staff member who leaves the church, taking the password to the account with them. It is often tied to the recently departed staff member’s personal email and password recovery is very difficult. A social media policy should include very strict rules for account creation and ownership so that it is clear that the church owns the account, that the church has a password available at all times, and that access is given to more than one person. I also recommend having an email account for generic church account set up information. Many times it can be Accounts@yourchurchname.com or a generic Gmail account. This puts all the recovery accounts in one place with multiple people having access to the account, so the account can be changed if there is a negative reason for a staff member’s departure from the church.
4. Content Ownership. In every policy there needs to be a clear understanding of the fact that the staff member “owns what they say” and is personally liable at all times for what they say when they are at work and when they are not. This means that inappropriate conduct in the staff members personal life is a terminable offense. They must understand that just because they do not use one form of social media for their “church work,” it is not okay to personally post about subjects which are not allowed on the church’s social media. Often this shows up in situations where a staff member uses Facebook or Twitter for “church work,” but then has a personal snapchat account and uses that for their “personal life.” These distinctions do not exist in the church world. If it has your staff member’s name on it, they must treat it like the church owns the account and post accordingly.
I realize that creating a social media policy can be difficult and confusing, and I hope the information I am sharing will help you get started. There are four more important items to consider. Please read my blog tomorrow for the remainder of my suggestions.