When it comes to blogging and social networking, should a nonprofit organization look to the military for advice? Perhaps so, if it’s the US Air Force we’re talking about! The US Air Force does social media big time. In fact, their social media policy serves as one of the stronger models for businesses and nonprofits who want to create a social media policy to guide their staff in best practices of online conversation.
A Blog Assessment flow chart from the Air Force Public Affairs Agency (Emerging Technology) made the rounds a couple years ago, and a tip of the hat goes to Elizbeth Engel for the reminder last week about it. The diagram has been updated a bit since David Meerman Scott first discovered it – retitled the Air Force Web Posting Response Assessment, for one thing, and reworded somewhat to reflect the changing realities of the social web – but the three-stage process is essentially unchanged:
Has someone discovered a post [or social media mention] about the organization? Is it positive or balanced? (Yes/No)
Yes? “You can concur with the post, let it stand, or provide a positive review.”
No? Decide what’s going on – categorize the source as “trolls,” “ragers,” “misguided,” or “unhappy customer” to get a handle on how best to handle the event.
following the flow chart, you've got a choice to monitor only (usually best for trolls and ragers) or to respond, correcting facts and fixing the situation as required. You might also choose to “proactively share your story and your mission” or, when the post source fits none of the four evaluation categories, to write a response that’s tailored to fit the particular circumstances.
No matter how you choose to respond to a social media mention of your organization, the Air Force model provides 5 “response conderations” that I think can work nicely as “best practices” for nonprofits as well for the military, government, business, or other organizations. To paraphrase:
- Transparency – disclose your connections.
- Cite your sources.
- Take time to create a good response.
- Respond in a tone that reflects well on the organization.
- Influence –
Now, that last one is rather interesting. The orginal document says: “Focus on the most used sites related to the Air Force.” Should this really be part of the Assessment step? I read it as such – as a way to prioritize where you’ll focus your limited resources – by monitoring as widely as possible but responding first to those sites that are most used by your target audience, or have the highest public profile.
In other words, if two articles or blog posts turn up with factual errors about your organization in them, for example, you’d focus your remedial actions first on fixing things up with a major media publication, before turning your attention to a one-liner in a personal blog with a hundred readers. Similarly, on Twitter, it’s reasonable to respond first to the highly influential users with thousands of followers, and try to remedy the situation before the retweets can spread too far.
It’s also a good reminder – though it's possibly not quite what was intended – to look for opportunities to supply “official” and authoritative sources of information about your organization. When gently correcting a web posting that contains factual errors, for example, you can provide a link to your organization’s own FAQ page or to a reputable third-party site with the correct information.
What’s your take on this response plan?
Tip: the Air Force Web Posting Response Assessment (PDF) is in the public domain, so you can share it and use it freely. Download a copy to circulate at your next staff meeting or board meeting: It shouldn’t take more than a couple of small tweaks for you to adapt this flow chart as a workable social media response plan for your own organization.