The world of social media offers many opportunities to support communication between services, families and associated professional organisations. While there are many advantages in using these mediums, there can also be an element of risk, which if managed well can result in rewarding and efficient benefits.
Many of our members use Facebook as a preferred social media communication tool and have identified the following service focused benefits:
- Display photographs depicting daily events, environments and activities;
- Use photographs and words to demonstrate learning through play;
- Convey to family and carers information and suggestions about possible resources and activities to use at home;
- Provide important links or information relating to early childhood education, health and wellbeing;
- Seek family and carer feedback;
- Promote upcoming service or related community events;
- General service notices and reminders;
- Raise awareness about new child, family and community resources;
- Reaffirm details provided through other communication sources such as service newsletters, notices and flyers.
Social Media Policy
Although recognising there are many advantages in using social media networks within service operations, it is important to approach usage with caution, by carefully and thoroughly managing its usage. Protecting service, family and children’s privacy is of utmost importance, with appropriate settings carefully identified to meet this aim.
Having a robust Social Media Policy is essential. Every service will need to create a policy that is unique to their service, there will of course be similarities in most policies.
Some key areas to consider in developing a social media policy are:
Culture – Foster a culture of openness, listen to and respect the opinions of staff, families and educators. Include information and convey the social media policy of the service as part of all family and staff orientation processes.
Trust – Staff and early childhood practitioners should understand the boundaries when using Facebook and maintain respect for others.
Training – Provide training about what is appropriate to share on your social media site, how to navigate and use the site to gain its full potential. Include social media and discuss the policy as an agenda item for staff meetings to support staff and early childhood practitioners to understand appropriate use.
Transparency – Transparency and authenticity are the keys, keep your comments and relationships professional at all times.
Accuracy – Share information that is current, interesting and accurate.
Comments – Be clear on your responses to comments; ask staff and educators to seek help and guidance on what is appropriate information to share online.
Developing Guidelines – Take a look at your existing communications policies.
Plan – Plan ahead in your social media policy development, think about whom, what and how you want to reach your community.
Legal and Ethical Responsibilities – As a team discuss your legal and ethical responsibilities to children, families, community and colleagues. If you have access to a legal department, ask them for advice.
Responding to Comments – Facebook is current and people expect a reply within 24 hours.
Protect Privacy – Be clear to staff and educators on what information is appropriate and inappropriate to share on Facebook. No private emails, private phone numbers, private mobiles and private address to be shared on Facebook.
Respect Competitors – Do not write about other services or organisations. Be respectful of others in your community.
Feedback – Value feedback, let customers (families) know you are listening when they post feedback.
Links – Provide links to appropriate organisations that are relevant to education and care.
Confidentiality – Keep information confidential. One way to support a safe environment for families when providing feedback in the form of comments is to ensure there is a high level of administrative care. As an example, Facebook settings can be defined so as only the site administrator receives postings thus any information posted is not made public unless the administrator approves it. This provides an environment for honest feedback without the risk of inappropriate comments being made public.