The Boy Scouts in America are one of a growing number of organizations that now post their social media policy online and available to the public. Anyone can view it. Even you, right now.
And the policy covers it all. Starting with an explanation of how the BSA are using social media to connect with others, this policy is easily readable and offers Scouts guidelines to navigate social media. They suggest abiding by the guidelines offered by each individual platform. Furthermore, they remind Scouts that the guidelines offered by the Scout Oath and Law and other Scout commitments must still be adhered to while participating in social networking. They go on to outline some of these commitments. The policy itself starts with a general set of internet safety guidelines, such as “if somebody tells you to keep what’s going on between the two of you secret, tell a parent or guardian”. This is followed by a section entitled “General Considerations for Social Media Use”. This offers suggestions of how to increase engagement and best utilize social media in a safe way. As the policy digs in further, key social media channels and considerations for use are outlined. These include descriptions of specific platforms and how to approach them. Platforms addressed include Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. A final thoughts section re-emphasizes one of the points that has been carried through the entire policy: that social media is designed to be public, should remain that way, and should be understood as such. Other final thoughts emphasize general points to remember, such as the eternal lifespan of information placed on the internet.
The BSA social media policy is an in-depth but readable document that was thoughtfully crafted. The policy offers a unique double function as a document that parents may use to talk to their kids about social media by encompassing many different elements of social media rather than just what is relevant to BSA. This is a smart move by BSA, as it is a youth serving organization that aims to keep youth safe. The document offers many practical suggestions and often relates these suggestions or explanations back to Scouting related events that those in the BSA would be familiar with. This is a smart tactic that increases the likelihood of the audience understanding the messages the BSA intends to send with this policy. Through its readability and thoroughness, the BSA has crafted a social media policy that is incredibly informative and useful for their audience. Although somewhat on the lengthy side, the document is useful for all people involved in BSA, and would be for many who are not as well.
Although the policy is extremely well done, the BSA may want to consider more specifics to social media in relation to the Boy Scouts of America. Are there specific things that should or should not be addressed on social media? Do they have any specifications about how people should present themselves in terms of their affiliation with BSA? Do they have rules in place for people who abuse social media while identifying as an affiliate of BSA? And what actions would be considered abuse of social media for BSA? And what would be the consequences? These are all questions the BSA may consider including answers for in their social media policy.
Unfortunately, the BSA is in the minority as an organization that publicly shares their social media policy. With the rising integration of social media into all organizations, it would be advisable for each organization to make their social media policy visible. In the case of a visible violation of policy, the company is then in a better position to illustrate to those involved in the organization that, although this person is affiliated with the organization, the organization does not condone their online behavior. Furthermore, the companies that don’t have a social media policy should consider putting some thought and effort into creating one. When a person is listed as an influencer in your brand or product, they are given the ability to benefit or harm your organization. By creating a social media policy, the brand regains some control over this sector and is given grounds to react. Finally, this policy should be readable and accessible to all involved. All employees should be aware of it and it should be frequently reviewed, revisited, and talked about to keep up with social media’s ever changing landscape.