Office of Communications
Social Media Best Practices
The use of social media is increasingly an aspect of the work activities of a subset of CDA employees, while still more utilize such tools irrespective of their specific duties. More than a billion people have an active social media account on major and minor platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, YouTube, Tumblr, Google+, and more. The Vatican, dioceses around the country, and the Catholic Diocese of Arlington are expanding the use of “new media,” strengthening both evangelization and communication efforts.
The most important guideline is the reminder that the Catholic Church’s message is the heart of all diocesan communications efforts. Content used in social media and other websites needs to enhance that message and should never contradict or confuse it. Your use of social media should be creative and have a specific voice intended to interest our audience. With that in mind, please remember to follow this “best practices” guide to social media use. This policy should serve to protect you, our employees, and the Catholic Diocese of Arlington. Please review and consider all the recommendations in this guide before acting as a social media representative for the diocese. Please also be mindful that as an employee of the diocese, you may well represent the diocese even in personal uses of social media.
Best Practices Tips for Diocesan Social Media Use
· Identify your audience. Who am I trying to reach? For what purpose? What type of message would best reach them?
· Use variety. Informing, challenging, thoughtfully provoking…mix it up! Use images, text, links to articles and resources. Studies show that people need to hear a message at least seven times before they take action on it in some way. So we need to really grab their attention!
· Use discretion and prudence. Is this post likely to cause unusual anger or dissent? Can the message be delivered in a way that will minimize any negative impact?
· Think before you post. Use common sense. Is the content necessary? What is the purpose of this particular communication? Re-tweets are considered institutional endorsement. When in doubt, do not re-tweet.
· Once written, never forgotten. Many social media users will share, copy, or take a screen capture of content they like or dislike. The Library of Congress preserves every Tweet, so it is important the content remains professional and related to diocesan matters.
· Respect is important. Please see the Catholic Diocese of Arlington Social Media Policies below for appropriate use and language.
When Using Social Media, Before You Publish Any Content, Reflect First:
· “Will this message represent the Diocesan message? Could it negatively affect my professionalism?”
· “Will it make my fellow employees or local Catholics uncomfortable?”
· “Could it, in any way, damage the character or misrepresent the message of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington?”
If any of these questions make you hesitate, then refrain from posting the content and discuss with your supervisor. The content you wish to publish may be valuable, but should always be discussed if it focuses on a sensitive or serious issue.
N.B. Always bear in mind that non-Communications Department Chancery staff who are approved for official social media use must limit their usage to the topics and prerogatives of their office unless specifically approved by Communications to do otherwise. In other words, avoid commenting or being drawn into interactions on unrelated and possibly controversial topics (e.g. gay marriage, capital punishment, female priests, etc.).
· Cooperate with diocesan media efforts.
Regularly monitor and retweet, share, or repost other diocesan communications platforms, especially the main diocesan Twitter, Facebook, YouTube accounts and blog, Encourage and Teach. Through this collaboration, other offices using social media can contribute to building community among our family of faith online.
· Promote diocesan events, campaigns, etc., through sharing links to the event or calendar.
· Engage with users, but use discretion.
You are free to engage with followers and supporters and share or retweet followers’ posts or comments, but you should refrain from getting into a lengthy or heated discussion. Many modern social issues are “hot button” topics that can cause intense, emotional reactions, especially online. This does not mean employees should shy away from discussion or espousing Catholic positions. In the occasional case of a negative reaction, you should always respond respectfully and direct the user’s attention to a clear and specific source of information like the Catechism, the Bible, a papal letter or an approved author. If you encounter negative reactions and are unsure of how to proceed, please feel free to consult the Communications Office. There is a positive side to this situation: You’re reaching people who clearly really need to hear the Gospel message, even if they don’t think so. You might even be posting the only faith-based message they hear all day. Way to go!
· “Don’t feed the trolls.”
Please remember that any public Internet forum allows for malicious anonymous users, commonly called “trolls,” to post hateful or abusive content through replies, comments, or page links. Determine whether negative content is legitimate and within acceptable bounds, and quickly block any content that is obscene or indecent. Content is considered indecent if it attacks a specific person or group of persons, uses expletives, or could be interpreted as insulting or inappropriate. You should also block the specific user and let the Office of Communications know about the incidents, especially if they increase.
· Monitor content, replies, followers, etc.
Please keep track of the account’s replies, comments, number of followers, and any use of your username. This will help in determining the best use of the account, how useful the account is, and help prevent anonymous abuse or “trolling” from remaining on your page unnoticed.
· Make your password different.
Your password should be hard to guess and different than any other account password your office holds. Keep it secure.
· Try to keep your social media account icons/profile pictures the same.
Change them only if necessary. For example, if your office’s theme/logo changes every year, it’s appropriate to change your profile picture. Otherwise, however, changing the icon confuses Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and other users because it’s hard for them to recognize your profile when it doesn’t have a standard image associated with it.
· Put important information that draws attention in your Twitter and Facebook descriptions.
Don’t obsess over this, but be sure to include things like your website, part of your mission statement, etc.
· Make your Twitter background(s) and Facebook cover photo(s) interesting.
Your background photos and pictures can attract or detract viewers once they on your page. The background photo is something you can change frequently, to represent a season or event.
· Utilize applications that allow you to schedule tweets and posts.
If your schedule is unpredictable, then make use of applications that allow you to schedule tweets and posts ahead of time. That way, there is never a lapse in your publication of content, and you avoid missing promoting something important – especially when you are working off site! Some examples of good (free!) applications:
Ø TweetDeck (tweetdeck.twitter.com) – Allows you to schedule tweets from as many Twitter accounts that you have the password for, simultaneously.
Ø HootSuite (hootsuite.com) – Allows you to schedule on more than 35 public networks that your office owns, including Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc.
· Use hashtags!
This does not only apply to Twitter anymore. Hashtags seem to be used on almost all social media platforms nowadays. Coordinate the use of specific hashtags with other social media account holders. If you’re having trouble determining one, use the search function in Twitter to find an appropriate one that is already trending (make sure its secular use doesn’t mean something you don’t want to say). Use hashtags that work, like #throwbackThursday (or #tbt) or #followFriday (or #FF).
· Take advantage of the FYI publication.
When you create a new account (ask us first J), publish this news in the FYI so people all across the diocese can follow you! Email with a bulletin blurb.
· Follow all other diocesan accounts!
This is very important. Traffic and engagement between accounts means more followers – for you and for other diocesan offices! Please follow all of the following (Do not discriminate!). Engage with them, and they will engage with you!
Catholic Diocese of Arlington (www.facebook.com/arlingtondiocese)
Catholic Charities, Diocese of Arlington (www.facebook.com/CatholicCharitiesArlington)
Office for Family Life accounts:
Arlington Young Adult Ministry (www.facebook.com/arlingtonyoungadult)
Catholic Sports Club (www.facebook.com/CatholicSportsClub)
Office for Family Life, Catholic Diocese of Arlington (www.facebook.com/FamilyLifeArlington)
Project Rachel, Help after Abortion (www.facebook.com/pages/Project-Rachel-Help-after-Abortion/115374908975)
Gabriel Project Arlington (www.facebook.com/GabrielProjectArlington)
Office of Vocations accounts:
Arlington Vocations (www.facebook.com/arlingtonvocations)
Quo Vadis Page ~ Diocese of Arlington (www.facebook.com/quovadisarlington)
Fiat Page ~ Diocese of Arlington (www.facebook.com/fiatarlington)
Oym Arlington Diocese (www.facebook.com/oym.diocese?ref=ts&fref=ts)
Ø Other Arlington Catholic Herald accounts
· Who else should I follow?
We leave this to your discretion. You should be trying to engage with other accounts – truly, throughout the world! – that have your same mission and specific goals (i.e. Multicultural Ministries follows other Catholic multicultural groups and ministries). We also highly recommend following larger Catholic media sources, including but not limited to, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (@USCCB), Pope Francis (@Pontifex)
The more creative your content is, the more followers you’ll get. From infographics to photos, videos to neat sites like Storify or ThingLink. Here are a few creative examples.
· Use shortlinks.
Go to bitly.com to register a free account. If you don’t do this, the shortlinks you create as simply a visitor to the site will expire. So create a free account! It’s free! You can also create custom URLs – such as http://bit.ly/loverdekresta or http://bitly.com/RiskJesus14photos or http://bit.ly/PSLSynod – to save space or draw attention to the link.
· Advertising through social media.
We recommend this, but only in specific cases. Some good examples of when you should advertise through Twitter or Facebook might be when you are hosting a large conference or annual event (i.e. Risk Jesus, Life is Very Good, Catholic Charities Ball, etc.). You don’t want to waste advertising money on something that will only happen once. And you don’t want to waste advertising money on something that lies two weeks or a few days away. Start planning far in advance and advertise far in advance. Please talk to us if you need help with the advertising platform on social media. We have used it before through our own accounts for events like Risk Jesus and The Light is On and are willing to help!
· How to increase your following:
o Meet people where they are. Are they just into Pope Francis? Are they all about Instagram? Think about your audience and how to target it.
o Use new and different methods of telling your story. Make it creative. See the above “Infographics” bullet for examples.
o Use images! Photos, photos, photos. Facebook posts are 80 percent more likely to be clicked if the post is a photo.
o Use/tag high-profile names or organizations involved with what you are posting. If your post is about the New Evangelization, find a quote from Pope Francis to go with it. If your post is about chastity, tweet it (or message it to) Morality in Media to see if they will spread the word about your media, as well. Spread your media and diocesan stories through as many applicable and valuable sources you can think of. It may take an extra bit of time, and more time in the beginning to build a list of organizations to go to, but doing this can only increase your bandwidth! An example of a tweet that targets media – even secular media! – with our diocesan stories and media: