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Sample Social Media Policy

For the purposes of this sample social media policy, social media is being defined as any online method of publication and commentary, including blogs, wikis, and social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Flickr, Storify, etc. Publication and commentary on social media carries obligations similar to those of any other kind of publication or commentary, including being grammatically correct and maintaining an organization's tone.

This sample social media policy is based on best practices. You may include some or all of these suggestions as you customize this sample social media policy to meet the unique needs of your Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) grantee jurisdiction.

Digital Team

  • [Enter the names and roles of your digital team members. You may also want to consider including personal contact information for each team member so that you can be in contact outside of office hours if the need arises.]
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Social Media Accounts

[Enter your grantee's social media accounts (i.e., Twitter, Facebook, Storify, etc.), the profile name/URL for that account, and the name of the team member responsible for managing each account.]

Social Media Account

Profile Name/URL

Team Manager

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

Sample Policy for Opening New Social Media Accounts

Profiles on social media platforms should be consistent with your jurisdiction's overall Web presence.

Sample Policy for Adjusting Profile Settings and Passwords

Only members of the digital team listed above should be able to adjust social media account settings and change passwords. They should not share login details and passwords without the written permission of another one of the digital team members.

Sample Policy on Disclaimers

It is a good idea to include a disclaimer on your online properties that indicates that your material is not in any way a substitute for obtaining professional help. You also may want to provide additional resources for individuals who may be in crisis or need assistance (such as SAMHSA's Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990).

Sample Policy on Privacy Issues

Social media encourages candid dialogue, but that candor does not constitute permission to publish confidential information, such as personal details about youth or any information that might compromise anyone's physical, social, or emotional well-being. When the dialogue involves children or youth, online protection and safety are especially paramount. To avoid revealing children's identities, consider using an avatar image online-and never reveal the child's full name. Remember to be respectful of children at all times.

Sample Policy on Protecting User Privacy

Privacy settings on social media platforms should be set to allow anyone to see profile information similar to that on your jurisdiction's Web site. Set other privacy settings, such as those that allow users outside of your organization to post information or see personal information, to limited access to protect the privacy of all users. Be mindful of posting information that you would not want the public to see.

Sample Policy on Copyright Laws

SAMHSA makes many resources — including those from the Caring for Every Child's Mental Health Campaign — copyright-free, which enables the public to use, publish, and distribute these resources as needed.

Other organization's materials may be covered by copyright, and it is important that you research whether or not the material you plan to place online has been copyrighted, which would preclude using it without permission. This includes videos, print materials, and photos, even when used on social media platforms such as Pinterest. Do not quote more than short excerpts of someone else's work, and always attribute any work to the original author/source. It is good general practice to link to others' work rather than reproduce it.

Sample Policy on Developing Messages and Content

To boost interest and engagement in social media, keep messages relevant, short, and simple. The best way to be interesting, have fun, and stay out of trouble is to write about what you know. There is always a good chance of being embarrassed by a real expert or of sounding boring if you write about topics you are not knowledgeable about.

The ability to publish your thoughts in an instant is both a great advantage and downfall of social media. You must take time to edit or reflect, and if in doubt over a post, either step away from it for a few minutes and look at it again before publishing it, or ask someone else to review it first.

Remember that quality matters. Use a spell-check function before sending out messages. If you are not design-oriented, ask a design professional whether your blog looks decent, and take their advice on how to improve it.

Be aware of your message length. Consider the following character length targets for each social media platform when developing messages and content.

Social Media Platform

Target Character Length
(includes hashtags, spaces, and punctuation)

Twitter

Messages must be no more than 120 characters to allow space for "RT @[your Twitter handle]" to appear in retweets

Facebook

Post copy should be no more than 250 characters

Pinterest

Pin descriptions should be no more than 200 characters

Google+

Post copy should be no more than 250 characters

Instagram

Caption copy should be no more than 120 characters

Storify

Description copy should be no more than 180 characters

Sample Policy on Distributing Messages

Do not use HootSuite, TweetDeck, or the same Internet browsers for both professional and personal social media engagement. Mixing professional and personal social media accounts on similar management systems, devices, and phone apps can increase the possibility of messages being accidentally sent to the wrong account. For example, you can use Google Chrome for your jurisdiction's accounts and Firefox for your personal accounts. You can also use two social media management systems. For example, use HootSuite for your jurisdiction's social media engagement and TweetDeck for your personal social media engagement.

Sample Policy on Monitoring Messages

Keeping an eye on the conversations taking place on your agency's social media platforms is an important part of successful social media engagement and protecting the agency's brand in the social media universe. If you are responsible for messaging for one or more of your jurisdiction's social media accounts, you are expected to monitor followers' messages and responses throughout the week and also several times over the weekend.

Sample Policy on Correcting Errors

Mistakes are bound to happen. If you make an error, be up front about your mistake and correct it quickly. If you choose to modify an earlier post, make it clear that you have done so. If someone accuses you of posting something improper (such as their copyrighted material or a defamatory comment about them), deal with it quickly-better to remove it immediately to lessen the possibility of a legal action.

Sample Policy on Responding to Comments and Replies

When writing on behalf of your jurisdiction, you should ensure that your comments reflect the policies of your jurisdiction, as well as the System of Care values of being youth-guided, family-driven, and linguistically and culturally competent. Online comments written on behalf of your jurisdiction should be fact-based and should not disparage any person or entity. That includes avoiding ethnic slurs, insults, or curses, as well as comments that disparage political or religious beliefs. If you see misrepresentation about your jurisdiction, your response or correction should be respectful.

Use your best judgment when responding to followers' comments, questions, and replies to social media messages and posts. If the comment or message is antagonistic or argumentative, it may be best to ignore it, unless not responding would hurt the jurisdiction's brand.

Sample Policy on Sharing Links

Since retweeting, linking, and "liking" on various social media platforms implies endorsement, please use your best judgment when interacting with organizations and individuals online on behalf of your jurisdiction.

When linking to other content, be sure to check the links, not only to ensure that they are working, but also to ensure the appropriateness of the content you are linking to.

Sample Policy on Using Hashtags

Include relevant hashtags in Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram messages when appropriate, utilizing the hashtag as part of the content of the message whenever possible to save characters.

The following are some of the hashtags frequently included in social media messages:

  • [enter frequently used hashtags]

If you are planning to use a hashtag that is not currently on this list, make sure to search that hashtag on the social media platform, as well as consult Hashtags.org or Twazzup.com to see how the hashtag is being used and to confirm that it will enter the message into relevant conversations.

Sample Policy on Tracking and Reporting Engagement

Evaluation is the best way to ensure growth and increased visibility for your content. Work with your digital media team to determine and establish benchmarks prior to your engagement and then use recommended methods of tracking to evaluate engagement and report findings to the team.


If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs to talk, please call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).

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