If you’ve ever launched a blog, Twitter account or Facebook Fan Page for your nonprofit’s event, it only takes one email from an intern, volunteer or staff member asking “How can I write for the blog?” to realize that you need a social media policy.

The Environmental Defense Fund has just released their Social Media Guidelines for Employees on their public website. Kira Marchenese, Director of Internet Communications at Environmental Defense, has written a great summary on her Online Communication for Nonprofits blog on why EDF developed the guidelines, who wrote them and how they decided what should be included:

Why develop guidelines? Within minutes of the final applause at our all-staff social media extravaganza, we started getting questions about what was okay and what wasn’t in using social media for work. Lack of clarity about what behavior was expected was going to be a hurdle to participation.

Who wrote them? We assembled a working group of six people. Lauren Guite and I represented the web team, and we asked colleagues from HR and the media team to join us.

How did we decide what they should say? First, we agreed to a goal — guidelines that would help employees exercise good judgment as they use social media. We didn’t want to prescribe in too much detail or scare people off completely.

Next, we reviewed all the social media guidelines we could find. We looked at a huge range of examples — formal, casual, restrictive, open, indecipherable, friendly. Intel’s guidelines stood out as striking a tone that felt right for EDF. If you look at our guidelines, you’ll see their influence. We also asked our lawyers what they recommended, and were pleasantly surprised when their advice wasn’t too legalistic to follow.

Then we circulated and refined several drafts. This ended up being much less painful than I imagined it might be. The team had reached good consensus already, so declaring the guidelines “final” was almost anti-climactic!

Visit Kira’s blog for the full story.

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