Are you crossing the social media line at work?

publication date: Sep 25, 2017
author/source: Sylvie Labrosse, CFRE

A few months ago, while browsing my hometown news on Facebook this headline caught my eye.

“Five nursing home employees fired for ‘inappropriate’ Snapchat photos”

As I read the articles and scanned the comments, it became very clear to me that while social media has been around for years, we shouldn’t take for granted that everyone will know, or understand its use, especially in the workplace.

Being let go for inappropriate use of social media is not a position that any of us wants to be in. It does bring to question though – whose responsibility is it to keep on top of it?

The answer – if we are going to use it - we all are responsible.

From a fundraising and communications perspective, we want to tell the stories. Pictures are a big part of the story telling process – they are worth a thousand words, right? If we go back to the “nursing home employees” … where do they fit in with the story telling?

Employees can be an important part of the team… but only if they have a clear understanding of how social media works, and what’s appropriate and what’s not in terms of their roles at home vs at work.

Working in human services, I’ve seen how close front line staff can become with the people they support. When you work that close with people you get to know them well, they get to know you… you become “family” and the personal and professional lines can become blurred.

It’s not only front line staff though – it can happen to anyone who is passionate about their work and the beneficiaries they get to know.

We are all responsible for the privacy of the people we serve – no matter what job we do and this case is an important reminder of just what that means. With social media - very little remains private. In the workplace, it’s more important than ever to ensure that clear social media guidelines and policies are in place and reviewed regularly. It doesn’t end there though.

The majority of people are now using social media in one form or another personally. And if we’re honest, this is likely to cross over at work. Whether it’s part of their role or not. On top of good policies, education and training needs to be available to employees.

This training doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive. Chances are you have in-house experts on your communications team. Training can be as simple as skills sharing workshops, the creation of user guides included in orientation packages and shared on the staff intranet.

Peer training can help build confidence in the use of social media, help define what’s appropriate and not for the type of organization you work for, it will help build strong relationships between frontline staff and communications staff.

This is where frontline staff can become part of your storytelling team. This will differ with each organization. In my organization, staff are encouraged to share photos with our communications team of outings, special occasions or events, etc. We also have a policy where no photo is shared unless a waiver is signed giving permission to use the photos.

It’s not to say that we won’t hear more stories in the media about the misuse of social media… that would be naïve. However, with the processes and regular peer training in place, we can all work together in using these tools for good.

Five take-aways:

1. Ensure that social media policies and procedures are updated and reviewed regularly

2. Regular peer skills sharing or training can help employees stay up to date

3. Front line staff can be part of the storytelling team with the right knowledge and tools

4. The privacy of the people we serve is crucial – if you wouldn’t post a personal photo of your grandmother for all the world to see… why do it while at work

5. Be careful not to cross the line between personal and professional – when in doubt ask.

Sylvie Labrosse, CFRE is the Manager of Fundraising at Community Living Toronto a developmental services agency that supports people of all ages who have an intellectual disability. Contact Sylvie at 647-729-1180, connect with her on LinkedIN or on twitter @sylvieclabrosse


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