Facebook, Twitter, Google + and other social media platforms are great ways for churches to communicate with members, organize events, and attract new visitors. Although social media is convenient and fun, it can also have a dark side. Following these rules can help keep social media safe and enjoyable for all.
1. Be smart about what you say
As the saying goes, common sense isn’t always common practice. The purpose of social media is to communicate with and inform your network, but make sure you do so tastefully and without revealing too much information. For instance, avoid advertising the location (or future location) of minors. It is safer to say something after the fact.
Instead of posting this: The annual youth group lock-in will be at the local YMCA on Saturday night from 9 pm to 8 am – see you there!
Post this: The youth group had a great time at the annual lock-in last weekend. Thank you to everyone who participated!
Also make sure you also have permission when posting prayer requests – some people may not want personal matters shared online. If you do get permission, keep in mind that some situations are extremely sensitive and every little detail does not necessarily need to be shared.
Instead of posting this: Please pray for Susan – she is driving out of state this weekend to care for her mother who is experiencing post operative complications after her rhinoplasty.
Post this: Please pray for Susan – she is traveling this weekend to visit her mother.
Speaking of permission – verify the material isn’t copyrighted when posting things that are not your own (e.g. professional directory photos, clip art, videos, articles). Share a link to a video instead of embedding it on the church’s website or share a link to an article instead of copying and pasting it in a blog post.
Only post content that is appropriate for all audiences. You probably already refrain from posting offensive content but also make sure your posts are relevant and meaningful to everyone visiting the site (i.e. referring to an inside joke can alienate those who don’t know the story behind the humor.)
2. Monitor social media accounts regularly
Assign church staff or volunteers to monitor posts and delete any inappropriate content. Giving more than one person access to the accounts is a smart idea; that way if your social media person goes on vacation or leaves the accounts will still be updated and accessible. As insurance, post a disclaimer (just do a Google search for ‘Social Media Disclaimer’ if you need some examples.) You can’t control what others say, but most social media platforms allow you to block repeat offenders who continue to post offensive items.
3. Learn how to change security settings
Remember that social media pages can serve as a first impression to people outside of the church. Although content such as pictures, videos, etc. should be private, make sure some of the information is public so others can learn about the church and its mission. To use Facebook as an example, the church could have a public Fan Page with posts for everyone to see and also have a private group for members to share pictures, videos, and prayer requests. Read our previous post about Facebook to get instructions for creating a closed or secret group and other useful tips.