Ensuring safe and appropriate use of social media

Improper use of social media presents a risk to your organisation’s reputation. This resource shows you how to write a policy for staff and volunteers to maintain integrity and effectively build your online profile.

This resource is available in English and Welsh
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Image by Ioan Said ©

Ensuring safe and appropriate use of social media

1. The importance of being safe and appropriate

Social media is a hugely beneficial tool that can positively enhance the profile of heritage organisations when used effectively. However, inappropriate use of technology and social media pose significant risks to not only the individuals involved but to the integrity of the organisation’s reputation. Indeed, safeguarding the reputation of their charities is an important responsibility for its trustees. In this resource, you will be introduced to some tools to help you ensure that social media is used appropriately in your organisation.

2. Safe social media use

Our expert, Dr Ruth Daly, University of Leeds, discusses what you need to think about when anyone uses social media in your organisation. 

Staff and volunteers need to be aware that they are ambassadors for your organisation and that social media is publicly accessible. It is also important that you communicate your organisation’s ethical stance clearly to the staff handling your social media. Having your own written policies for staff and volunteers on safe and appropriate use of social media is important. These then become appropriate acceptable use policies (AUP) which can be adopted throughout your organisation. Staff and volunteers should read and agree to their conditions before commencing paid or unpaid work for the organisation.

Key recommendations include:

  • Ensure that all social media communications are aligned with your organisation’s ethical policy.
  • Potentially defamatory, obscene or libellous content should not be shared.
  • Comments that exhibit or appear to endorse grossly irresponsible behaviour or law breaking of any kind should not be posted. Staff and volunteers must be made aware that they are responsible for the data on their electronic communication devices.

The Manchester Safeguarding Partnership’s (MSP) good practice guidelines offer a useful starting point for thinking about safe social media use.

There are innumerable positive effects of social media engagement for heritage organisations. To ensure these are realised fully, it is advisable that you develop a social media use policy for your organisation. You will find one suggested approach in section three of this resource.

3. Create your social media policy

It is best practice for your organisation to have a policy in place on the safe and appropriate use of social media. Remember that individual organisations are responsible for ensuring policies are legally comprehensive. To help you with this, you can download a useful social media policy template (PDF file, 603kb) created by Voluntary Action South Lanarkshire (VASLan).

Download an editable Word version of the template (219kb).

Note that you will need to make a separate tailored policy document for each grouping in your organisation, for example, volunteers, paid staff, consultants, contractors etc. You may also find the Heritage Digital template for social media guidelines helpful.

4. Further resources

Museum of Oxford – Social media policy

Health and care professions council – Social media case studies

MSP: Use of social media by practitioners & volunteers – advice for all

More help here

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The leader’s guide to social media

Social media enables heritage institutions and practitioners to participate, preserve and interpret heritage content and practice. It can also support your heritage organisation to market itself and raise awareness of its practice to local, national and international audiences. This guide will provide a brief overview of social media platforms, tips for using them effectively to encourage participation and how they can be used to improve marketing and fundraising in your organisation.

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Networking Safeguarding
Published: 2022
Resource type: Articles

Creative Commons Licence Except where noted and excluding company and organisation logos this work is shared under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 (CC BY 4.0) Licence

Please attribute as: "Ensuring safe and appropriate use of social media (2022) by Dr Ruth Daly supported by The Heritage Fund, licensed under CC BY 4.0


More help here

Digital Heritage Hub is managed by Arts Marketing Association (AMA) in partnership with The Heritage Digital Consortium and The University of Leeds. It has received Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and National Lottery funding, distributed by The Heritage Fund as part of their Digital Skills for Heritage initiative. Digital Heritage Hub is free and answers small to medium sized heritage organisations most pressing and frequently asked digital questions.

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