What the church can teach us about social media policy

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As you may already be aware, a Church of England diocese (Bath & Wells) recently unveiled its ‘Twitter commandments’. Rather than using tablets, the behavioural doctrine which all members of this particular cloth must now adhere to was issued electronically, but that’s not to say the vow of loyalty should be taken with any less sincerity.
Here at this Manchester public relations agency we have spent more time than most would care to believe encouraging other businesses to take a long, hard think before stepping up to the digital mantel, and define a clear social media policy. The list of brands that have found themselves in hot water due to careless, insensitive and wayward status updates, competitions and social initiatives is long, and given how big some of those firms are, distinguished. It can happen at any point with a mere oversight, and as such this new decision on the part of the CoE must surely offer food for thought elsewhere.
Given the idea of Christianity- with its ideals and beliefs literally put down in writing- the fact that this arm of the church has decided to issue an outline as to what constitutes suitable behaviour on Twitter accentuates the need for all organisations to do the same. We can probably predict any reactive tweets coming from  representatives of God concerning potentially contentious situations, yet even so the powers that be still think it is in their best interests to safeguard how the religion is represented online by issuing instructions to spokespeople on what constitutes suitable behaviour.
The first item of which reads “don’t rush in”, which should rightly stand as the golden rule for any company, charity or individual hoping to cement their digital status. Errors are caused by knee-jerk reactions on a regular basis, yet realistically these are the easiest fires to stop from starting in the first place. By taking a little more time stupid mistakes can be avoided, the likes of which have a habit of blowing up in your face. Quite the words of wisdom, we’d say the following, which also feature on the ‘Twitter commandments’ list, are well worth considering too:

  • Is this my story to share?
  • Would I want my mum to read this?
  • Would I want God to read this?
  • Would I want this on the front page of a newspaper?

Details aside, the overall point is that irrespective of the specific blueprint, small businesses and multi-nationals alike could all benefit from a similar but ┬ábespoke plan on what they should and shouldn’t get up to whilst networking online. As the diocese in question puts it, these communications are ‘transient yet permanent’, meaning you need to choose those words well, and attempting to use any social platform without a fit-for-purpose social media policy in place can be a recipe for disaster.