Social Media Policies for Museums

White Papers,

The “social web” is a powerful tool that can be highly useful to any organization. However,
operating blogs and social networking sites requires time and a level of responsibility from users.
Creating a social media policy can prove helpful in establishing guidelines for behavior on sites
like Facebook and Twitter for those in your organization who use social media sites to represent
your organization to others on the social web.

Is a social media policy necessary?
The answer to this question lies in the answer to the next: Is your organization represented on
the social web? If it has a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a YouTube channel, or a Flickr
photo stream, the answer to that is yes, and you should seriously consider a social media policy.
Another aspect to consider is the size of your staff and the number of people who have
authorization to interact on the social web on behalf of your organization. As the popularity of
social media continues to grow, your organization’s “face” to the world as it exists on a blog, on
Facebook, on Twitter, and the like, is a critical facet of its public image. So any discussion about
public outreach, branding, public relations, communications, and marketing should include
thoughts about your organization’s social web presence, and about how your organization is
represented in those forums.

With a social media policy in place and enforced, you will be able to provide your employees
with a structured document on how to interact in the online community as a representative of
your organization. A social media policy can eliminate any uncertainty an employee may have
(or assumptions an employee may otherwise make) on how to conduct himself or herself online,
and give you something to fall back on if there is ever any question or conflict in this arena.

What should a social media policy contain?
An organization should keep its social media policy succinct. Some basic ideas to consider when
establishing guidelines appropriate for your organization are:
• Follow behavior protocol that applies “offline”
• Be smart
• Be respectful
• Think before posting
• Distinguish between social media activity as a representative of the organization vs.
social media activity as a private individual
• Avoid disclosing confidential or proprietary information
• Discern your opinion from the opinion of the organization
• Ask a supervisor if questions or concerns arise

These points may not cover all of the needs of your organization’s social media policy, but they
should provide a solid base. Social media policy is certain to vary from organization to
organization and should be tailored to each individual organization’s size, scope, and needs, with
an eye towards who is the intended (and real) social media audience.

Try not to harp on what an employee SHOULD NOT do, but rather what he/she SHOULD do.
Social media policy should not discourage activity. Spending too much time discussing the
limitations of online behavior may discourage employees from participating in social media on
behalf of your organization, and social media interactions are increasingly an important facet to
your organizational communications.

Personal Social Media Activity vs. Company Social Media Activity
The way one operates social media sites on private time should differ from how one uses such
sites on behalf of an organization. Below are helpful guidelines on how to maintain a
professional appearance for your company’s page.

How to keep your company page professional:
• Abstain from posting anything with political or religious opinions attached
• If it isn’t related to your organizational mission, don’t post it
• Regularly perform maintenance on your page. This includes removing unnecessary
comments from other users, correcting information, and updating changes
• Follow protocol already set in place for real-world interactions
• Before posting, ALWAYS review the material and confirm it has a purpose for your

VAM’s Social Media Policy
VAM has recently approved a social media policy. It applies to anyone who represents VAM on
the social web:

The following are guidelines set forth in regard to social media activity while representing the
Virginia Association of Museums (applies to employees, council, volunteers, committee
members, and others who may represent the association):
1) Engage only in a reasonable amount of personal social media activity during business
2) When posting publicly on behalf of the Virginia Association of Museums, please express
only the views of the association. Always discern your personal views from the views of the
association. To help alleviate any confusion, use the following notice: The views expressed on
this page are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Virginia Association of
3) Before posting any information for the Virginia Association of Museums, confirm its
4) Respect any and all confidential information relating to the Virginia Association of
Museums. Keep in mind that the organization’s social media “followers” may not be the same
group of people as our members. Member data must be kept confidential.
5) Abstain from publicly posting any biased content – please realize that our organization
represents a wide variety of people and organizations, with diverse opinions - professional,
political and personal. Unless our council has chosen to take a political position on an issue
officially, do not make any statements that take such a position.
6) Be respectful towards the organization, fellow employees, as well as business affiliates
and prospective members.
7) When identifying yourself as an employee of the Virginia Association of Museums, use
caution and common sense with your online activity. Assume that what you post is being read by
our VAM community.
8) Feel free to use social sites such as Facebook strictly as a personal network. If you do
not wish to friend coworkers or clients, do not feel pressured to.
9) Ask a supervisor if you are uncertain with anything pertaining to social media activity.
The guidelines above are in place to help establish a separation of your private and public
online identities, as well as assist in maintaining a public online existence that promotes and
adds value to our organization.
Your public online activity reflects you and the Virginia Association of Museums. With this in
mind, the Virginia Association of Museums asks you to be smart in your online activity.