Social media guide for EDF employees

More and more important conversations are happening through social media -- social networks, blogs, wikis and other open, collaborative spaces. EDF welcomes the opportunities that these communication forms bring, and recognizes that participating in social media is critical to advancing EDF's goals.

We encourage you to jump in to the conversation. Social media raises new questions about the lines between your personal and professional worlds.To avoid awkward situations, we've created these guidelines and extensive training materials to help you follow best practices. 

If you're representing EDF through social media, these guidelines are for you. If you're supervising staff, interns or consultants doing this work, it's your responsibility to make sure they are using these guidelines, too.

These guidelines are an extension of the same core values and standards that the organization lives by in any medium, so we hope you'll find them both familiar and helpful. The usual standards of conduct for everything from interacting with co-workers to conflicts of interest apply in social media.

Three fundamentals

  1. Anything you post online can be found by anyone, for years to come. Even material with supposedly limited access can end up being shared widely.
  2. People are likely to see you as an EDF representative, even if you're online for personal activities, so be up-front about your association with EDF.
  3. If you have questions, consult your manager, the digital marketing team or human resources staff.

Representing EDF in social media

Learn about the tools. Before you plunge in, get familiar with the tool you're using. Our training materials include both technical and cultural tips. If you have further questions about how to use social media, please ask the Digital Marketing Team.

Before you start an EDF account, have a strategy. The digital marketing team will help you develop your strategy. Email to get a planning template and learn more about best practices for promoting and maintaining an account.

Identify yourself and your role when you post under your own name. EDF's credibility and integrity are damaged if we appear to be sneaking around or "Astro-Turfing" (faking grassroots support). EDF employees, consultants and anyone else we direct to participate in social media must also be clear about the relationship. (More about how to identify yourself.)

You're on the record. Treat all social media comments and posts as though you were giving a quote to a reporter – reporters often quote tweets or blog posts without obtaining permission or alerting you. When appropriate, seek the same approvals that you would in dealing with traditional press, particularly if you are sharing new information or responding to criticism. Be sure of both your facts and the appropriateness of sharing them.

Once it's out, it's out. You can't effectively delete tweets or posts, so be clear on what's EDF-confidential or otherwise unwise to share. If you're having second thoughts about posting, wait, or talk it over with someone. It's better to be right slowly than wrong quickly. Here's an example of a reporter not being able to remove a tweet of an off-the-record quote by President Obama.

Respect copyright laws. If you didn't write the material or take the picture, be careful how you use it. For writing, quote and link to the original source. For pictures, only use images you have permission to use (through fair use, creative commons licensing, or explicit permission from the owner).

If you make a mistake, correct it. The fast pace and transparency of social media mean we'll get things wrong sometimes. That's okay if you handle it gracefully, starting with acknowledging your error. If you need to edit a post, make it clear you have done so. Here's an example of something we got wrong on the main EDF Twitter account, but we got good visibility for our messages because we corrected quickly.

Use caution with political candidates and campaigns. Political communications from 501c3 nonprofits during election cycles can receive tremendous scrutiny. Senior staffers and recognized spokespeople of EDF should view their Twitter accounts as official communications and avoid commenting on political campaigns. For all other staffers, when tweeting from your personal account, please use discretion and remember that what you choose to tweet does reflect on EDF. If you or someone in your program feels the need to communicate about a candidate or their position, please contact either Keith Gaby or Joe Bonfiglio to discuss next steps.

Participating in social media outside of work

In social media, your professional and personal lives are likely to overlap. EDF does not use social media to investigate the private lives of employees or job candidates, but it's important to realize that others might.

Here are some guidelines to help you navigate the overlap.

Expect people to see you as a representative of EDF, especially if you discuss environmental issues or your work. To avoid misunderstandings in these cases:

  • If you disagree with the position that EDF experts have reached on an issue, discuss your concerns privately with your colleagues, not publicly. If you're not sure about EDF's positions, ask or don't comment.
  • Identify yourself and your role at EDF. If it appears that you are trying to be sneaky, you could damage both your own and EDF's credibility.
  • No matter how you protest that you are speaking on your own behalf, not EDF's, expect people to consider your words as representing EDF anyway. In some cases, because of your role, it just isn't credible to claim you don't represent EDF.
  • If you are going to use your personal Twitter account to tweet on behalf of the organization, let the Digital Marketing Team know. They'll share the requirements to be added to the official EDFers Twitter list and get other support from the EDF brand account. 

Be thoughtful about how you mix professional and personal contacts. On your personal accounts, you can develop connections that include both personal and work contacts -- co-workers, staff of other organizations, reporters. That's fine as long as what you share is appropriate for professional contacts, and you are comfortable including them in other parts of your life. If not, limit who you connect to or what you share with your professional contacts.

If you need to explain to a professional contact why you aren't connecting with them on a personal account, be gracious, and offer people another way to connect. For example:

  • "I don't use Facebook for professional connections, but I just sent you an invite to connect on LinkedIn."
  • "Actually, the best way to follow my work is by subscribing to the EDFish blog – I don't tweet about work stuff."

Keep your professional image in mind even in a social context. If you use social media to connect with any professional contacts -- co-workers, colleagues at other organizations, reporters, etc. -- always speak professionally about work-related material and people. A comment might feel private and personal, but if it's visible to your work-related connections, it reflects on both you and EDF.

If in doubt, don't share. Since you can't truly un-share anything, err on the side of caution. It would be unfortunate if a rash comment or questionable photo damaged a professional relationship or your reputation.

Keep in mind your friends' power to share things, too. No matter how professional you are in your own conduct, your friends and family can still embarrass you! For example, your mom could post an old picture of you in a "Pave the planet!" T-shirt, and make it available for all your connections to see. To avoid this:

  • Explicitly tell your friends and family that you are maintaining a professional image on your profile.
  • Again, consider using different networks for personal and professional contacts.
  • Manage your privacy settings thoughtfully; Facebook in particular offers a lot of post-level control.

We've had thoughtful conversations across EDF's staff about how to navigate these issues. If you have questions or concerns, again, please discuss them with your manager, human resources staff, or the Digital Marketing Team.