(Nonprofits+Politics)2.0

July 31, 2009

Social Media & Employer Liabilities

Filed under: Technology — Tags: , , , , , , — kgilnack @ 4:36 pm

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a very interesting roundtable hosted by Hirsch Roberts Weinstein LLP on the legal and HR implications of employee use of social media.  So much of my thinking about social media centers around how individuals and organizations can use technology to advance mission-driven or professional goals, but it was interesting to hear the perspective of how employers view and can/should address employees’ personal use of social media.

Here are some notes on the interesting facts that I left the session with (Disclaimer: Nothing in this post is intended as legal advice or to replace consulting with an attorney)…

So can employers fire employees over their internet postings?

  • Employers are unlikely to face liability for firing an at will employee over something inappropriate on a public profile
  • Employers may face liability for firing employees over postings in a private forum, especially if they request access to that forum in the workplace.  This notably came up on the Houston’s Restaurants case, where the employer demanded access to a password protected forum and the courts found  that:
    • Company did violate state and federal wiretapping laws by demanding access to a private online space
    • Employees’ first amendment claim was thrown out pretrial
    • Jury found that password-protected pages are a private space, but in this case said there was no expectation of privacy

Can they fire you for not using social media?  Employers can require use of social media sites for company purposes if for legit business purposes like scheduling, sharing info, or project management. [Didn’t get into requiring use of personal accounts for those reasons.. assume that can’t be forced but a second profile or purely professional profile can be required. Could have used more discussion.]

Potential Benefits of using social media

  • For employees
    • Quick answers to questions
    • Personal PR and branding – a virtual public résumé
    • [not mentioned] Building and maintaining a relationships for personal and professional uses
  • For employers
    • Effective means of communication = effective company
    • Expand visibility
    • Recruitment
    • Background check for potential new employees (though one Texas bank has barred HR from using SM sites for fear of discovering, for example, a potential employee is pregnant, which they couldn’t ask in an interview.  HRW didn’t advise taking that approach, just don’t not hire people for the wrong reasons…)
    • Soliciting feedback from customers and employees
    • Modify marketing and development plans
    • Allowing collaboration and knowledge sharing
    • [not mentioned] Unsolicited feedback from customers and employees – listening via Twitter and Blog searches
    • Influence product (and brand) perception
    • Creating focus groups, direct customer contact

Potential Problems of using social media

  • For employees
    • Your words live on forever and can come back to haunt you
    • Exercise great discretion with respect to content
    • Posts can lead to job loss and other problems
  • For employers
    • Drain on productivity (though they only used simple math of multiplying 30 minutes of Soc Media x 100 Employees x 1 year to show that adds up to a lot of time not working.  They ignored a recent study that concluded allowing workplace social media uses can increase productivity by 9%)
    • Risk of malware, spam, and viruses
    • Exposure of confidential info and related liability
    • Social networking sites are premised on a user surrendering a certain level of privacy
    • Reputational risk
    • 74% of employed Americans believe it is easy to damage a brand’s reputation via social networking (whatever “thinking it’s easy” actually means…)
    • Bandwidth concerns

What’s an Employer To Do in the Workplace? Simple, pick one of three options..

  1. Ban all access to social networking sites and the internet – Draconian and not recommended
  2. Allow unmonitored access – has benefits but also increases risk
  3. Limited access – their recommendation – allow but consider safeguards

Can/should Employers Watch?

  • Monitoring online activity at workemployees should know that any keystroke, email, text, etc. sent on the company’s system may be legally monitored. Have employees sign policies related to internet usage at work and what they are permitted to say and do during work hours, as well as that failure to comply can result in dismissal
  • Perceptions of Monitoring out of work
    • Among employers
      • 60% of execs feel they have a “right to know” hoe employees portray themselves and their org online
      • 30% admit to formally monitoring social networking sites
    • Among employees
      • 53% believe that content of social networking pages are “none of any employers’ business”
      • 33% never consider what the boss would think of their postings; 27% don’t even consider consequences of their postings
      • 61% wont’ change what they’re doing if the company’s watching (includes those that are already acting responsibly)

Tips for updating/creating policies around internet use and social networking

  • No interference with work activities – consider monitoring software
  • Let employees know their social networking activities outside of work may be monitored
  • Publication of information on social networking sites must comply with all company policies regarding ethics, privacy, and the protection of confidential and proprietary information
  • Don’t share company or client secrets
  • No references to company clients, customers, or partners without permission
  • On personal blogs, make clear that the views are the author’s, not the company’s
  • No use of company logos and trademarks
  • Be respectful of company, co-workers, competitors, colleagues – online activities reflect upon the company
  • Respect copyright laws – cite sources
  • Be transparent – don’t hide behind phony identities

Some Questions for YOU…

  • Does your employer have an employee social media policy / social media & technology aspect of your HR policies?
  • How do you feel about being monitored in the workplace – or out of the workplace?
  • Have you used social network to research new hires?  How about partners, donors, or anyone else?


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July 24, 2009

Tools & Tactics – Answers to Frequently Asked Nonprofit Social Media Questions

Filed under: Nonprofit, Technology — Tags: — kgilnack @ 10:25 am

This week’s Chronicle of Philanthropy Live Discussion featured Beth Kanter, who is among many other things, the author of Beth’s Blog: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media – a must read for anyone interested in nonprofits and technology.  I strongly recommend reading Beth’s follow-up post and/or checking out the transcript from the discussion.

The discussion was so engaging it ended up running over the allotted time, and being the social media savant she is, Beth called on the community to help with some of the remaining questions.    I was pleased to help provide some answers to the remaining nonprofit social media questions based on my experience and reading (much of it done on Beth’s Blog), and after seeing that they passed muster and warranted their own post on Beth’s Blog, I thought I’d share the answers here as well.

How often should an organization post to Twitter or send out updates on Facebook? Is there a fine line between sending too much that’s irrelevant vs. useful information?

Quality is more important than quantity. Make sure you’re sending useful, relevant information, and do your best to spread it out. Also, try not to tweet about your own org on an average of more than once every seven or so tweets. You will also find your followers engage you more if you engage them. Replies only appear in your intended recipients stream and in those of people who follow both you and the recipient, so don’t be afraid to have conversations with your supporters.


Talking about time, is there an application which would post an update on all main Social Networking Sites at once? I know of some but they would pick my Facebook personal profile instead of the Organization’s Page I am admin of.

While I would suggest using automated content thoughtfully and customizing your message where you can, I realize that’s not always possible. Ping.fm allows you to publish to your Fan Pages as well as many many other social networks.

Is the stigma of having fans or cause supporters with ‘questionable’ Facebook profiles true? Does it make the organization look too lax or less professional? We are a workforce development organization, and my superiors think it could be misconstrued.

I tend to be of the feeling that if someone wants to support your cause via social media, they should be able to. I’d argue it makes your organization look open, inclusive, and accessible. Especially in workforce development, as it’s very possible that those with questionable profiles could benefit from your work. However, one thing you could do is include a disclaimer that acknowledges you accept anyone who wants to support your cause but that by no means is intended to endorse them or their content.

I would like us to get our organization on twitter, but i’m afraid that if i only “tweet” about fundraising events, people will tire of it quickly–any thoughts on this? other content i might want to tweet about?

Yes, they will lose interest quickly. Look beyond what you need people to do (whether it’s giving money, volunteering, taking action, etc.). Before you can effectively get people to respond to those requests, and to build an audience in an opt-in system like Twitter, you need to show you’re there to add value to your followers as well as advancing your mission. Talk about how your spending their money (e.g. the goings-on and successes of your programs), news relevant to your organization, RT posts from other orgs and individuals, and respond to interesting/relevant tweets your followers are sending.


What are some best practices on Facebook to generate followers and turn them into donors? Also everyone says that Twitter wont’ raise any money. Is that true?

I don’t have the stats to back this up, but anecdotally, I believe that Twitter can generate more giving than Facebook Causes. The gifts will generally be smaller, but with the right cultivation, you can use Twitter to raise funds. Here are some examples from Beth from November, 2008 – I’d be interested in hearing about more data and experiences myself .

I haven’t done a lot of work with Facebook, but integration (linking from your website and enewsletter, writing about it in your newsletter, and sharing it through your other marketing and fundraising presence will help. You might start by importing your email list and suggesting they become fans of your page / join your group. Once you have staff and stakeholders on, ask them to invite their networks and share your page in their minifeeds. You can also find potential supporters by looking at the followings of aligned groups, though I’m not sure the etiquette for cold-inviting people.


What is the best process through social media of finding new organizations/individuals interested or working in your arena of social issues and connecting with them? I usually do simple Twitter searches and @replies, comment on blogs, but are there better ways or a general hierarchy of effective strategies?

I know that Beth has some great recommendations on paid listening services that she mentioned in the forum, but Twitter search RSS feeds to a Google Reader can provide some great insights. I’m not sure what you mean by simple searches, but think of all of the names, things, words that would help you find conversations of interest. You can also consider using the localization feature of Twitter searches. Finally, don’t forget that Google Alerts have web and blog search features in the comprehensive mode.


We have blogs and forums on our site, but have a hard time getting people to comment or post anything in them. Although our members will comment and post on our Facebook and Twitter… how do we get them to jump from those sites, onto our site and start discussing there?

If it is a struggle to get people posting in your forums but are finding Facebook and Twitter conducive to conversations, it may be worth evaluating what the value of those forums are and if it might be more worthwhile to drive traffic there for interaction. However, you might find that posting something like “That’s a great point, we actually have a thread going on this topic here [link to forum]” and/or asking key volunteers to do the same. You may get more comments on your blog by using Twitter and Facebook to drive people there, as well as by promoting posts in your e-newsletter and other outlets. Is the blog to buried from your front page? Also, I’m not sure if this is true, but one stat I saw said to expect 1 comment / 100 views (though I assume they pick up significantly after the first comment is left).


What tips or suggestions can you offer for partnering with FaceBook or LinkedIn to leverage their brand as a communication platform for alums, and the private companies policies for not sharing alumni data with the higher ed institution?

I’ve seen a lot of colleges creating groups on Twitter (http://twitter.com/higheredu), Myspace, Facebook, and LinkedIn. I’m not sure the value in highlighting their privacy settings, but if someone is reluctant to share their new contact info, asking for an email to invite them to a group, or providing them with a link to join, might be a good second ask.

PS: These are just my two cents (most of it read here at some point – just google around the site and I’d bet you’ll find great answers to most of these).

We’re thinking about how human service agencies can use social media to engage clients/consumers, their families, supporters/volunteers, interested community members, donors, electeds, and other groups, so if anyone has experiences or thoughts, I’d love to hear about them and other thoughts on the interesting questions raised above.

Please share any other advice you have on these questions, or if you have questions of your own that the community could help answer!

July 14, 2009

Twinnovation & Nonprofits: Open Beats Closed

Rule #2 of Umaire Haque’s list of Twitter’s 10 Rules for Radical Innovation is open beats closed.  Haque finds this in Twitter’s dynamic of allowing anyone to connect to and receive content from anyone.  And similarly, they put this principal to work in communication about problems.. and even admitting mistakes.  You can also follow the founders: Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, and Biz Stone, and 3rd party partners can have open communication and troubleshooting through Twitter Development Talk.

There is a lot to be said for how principals of transparency might be applied to innovation and your organization’s business, program, and other practices.  And hopefully in the coming days this will be replaced with a link to that post, but until then I want to hone in on how we can use Twitter in particular to open up our doors from a communications and marketing perspective..

Nonprofits seem to get thee types of coverage (IMHO) in major news outlets: lack of funding and hard times (especially this year); feel good stories mostly from large mainstream, brand-name nonprofits; and corruption, mismanagement, or otherwise negative press.  In our newsletters and emails we highlight some of our successes – usually in articles longer than anyone is actually going to read (by the way, newsletters might or might not be an waste of time, but just in case, here are some great tips for improving yours).  But social media and Twitter in particular provide us with a new, instant, conscise way to deliver a message to our stakeholders, in a cheaper and potentially more effective way than our more traditional tools (depending on your goals).

How much are you really letting your funders and the public see of your day-to-day operations, your day-to-day successes? I found it incredibly interesting to read that a small sample done by NonprofitSOS’s look at how nonprofit organizations use Twitter found that

Some nonprofit organizations do not include much about their programming in their tweets. They will tweet requests for volunteers, requests for donations, links to studies or articles, but rarely will you see a tweet that gives you insight into what exactly that organization is doing.

For a human service agency, this could mean:

  • sharing the progress of an anonymous client to show the real world outcomes of community-based care
  • talking (deliberately and conscientiously) about tough choices that are being made and how they are putting the patient first
  • evaluation and accreditation survey results
  • event planning updates (also good for generating some buzz before a big fundraiser)
  • adding any bit of insight and humanity to an organization, whether it be through accounts reflecting the experience of a CEO or a direct care professional – and/or any and all in between that you feel is valuable

To start living up to my claim that we’ll look at politics (and I promise we will more in future posts), I’d also suggest campaigns think about tweeting their

  • canvassing stats
  • highlights of conversation at the doors
  • play-by-plays of key speeches and events
  • what you can about staff meetings and internal plans
  • and again: share something from behind the scenese to put a human face on how your spending people’s money, why, and what the results are.

All that being said, before I launch into some of the ways that this can apply to our mission-driven work, there is one disclaimer I should make.  You won’t see any communication coming out of Twitter until they have a handle on the issue.  You can read people, until they block you for being intrusive, spammy, they just prefer to keep a closed network, or for any other reason or lack thereof.  People can follow you.. and defollow you.  This is all by way of saying that just because Twitter provides access to instant communication, doesn’t mean it should always be used instantly.

Follow your crisis communication plan when something goes wrong, but also remember to include Twitter in your crisis communication plan if appropriate.  Let people into the inner-workings of your agency, but do so strategically.  First, make sure you’ve developed a social media strategy and if appropriate, develop and implement an internal social media policy that will allow you to advance your mission, breakdown barriers between you and your stakeholders, and ensure that you’re using this technology thoughtfully and strategically.

Also, this post by no means indicates that this is ALL organizations should tweet about – petitions, pleas for volunteers, organizing, mobilizing, dialoguing are all useful, but let’s change the trend that NonprofitSOS saw in the lack of insight being shared around how we advance our mission.

Is your organization tweeting about how it is advancing its goal on a daily basis?

What anecdotes, statistics, and other information have you found your followers interested in?

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