10 Social Media Tips for Organizational Leaders

1. Keep Your Professional and Personal Social Media Profiles Separate

Everyone has family, friends and interests outside of their careers. It’s important! But once you reach a certain level in your professional life — a high position in either your place of employment or through your volunteerism — expectations are raised for demonstrated leadership. In short, you have become more exposed.

Protect yourself and your reputation (and the privacy of your friends and family) by keeping your personal life separate from your professional social media activity. That doesn’t mean you can’t post a message of support to your local sports team or retweet (RT) a great photo, but you shouldn’t post messages about religion, politics, other sensitive issues or personal details from your professional account. Think of it as prevention: “If I do this, will thathappen?” Maybe. “Do I want to risk my reputation or my organization’s reputation over it?” No.

2. Post a Professional Photo to Your Professional Profiles

Do not use a candid snapshot that crops out someone with their arm around your shoulders, and never use a photo where tobacco and alcohol are visible.

3. Use Your Full Name and Credentials in Your Professional Profile

Your first and last name identifies you as an individual, and your credentials identify you the food and nutrition expert. Don’t be cute, HotFoodie65.

4. Disclose Your Leadership Position

This is important if you ever plan to share messaging about your organization or profession from your professional social media profiles. (Not disclosing your position could even be a potential liability.) For example, leaders of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics would use the following:

Twitter examples (limited About Me space):
i. @eatrightPRO Board of Directors
ii. @eatrightPRO House of Delegates
iii. @SCAN DPG chair

Facebook/LinkedIn examples (more About Me space):
iv. Board member for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
v. Member of the House of Delegates for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
vi. 2015-16 Chair of the Sports, Cardiovascular and Nutrition DPG

5. Disclaim Your Messaging in Your Professional Profile

Be sure you are qualified to represent your organization. For example, only the president, president-elect, past-president or a media spokesperson of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics may publicly represent the Academy. Note: Your place of employment may appreciate or require this as well.

Twitter examples (limited About Me space):
i. Tweets are my own.
ii. Opinions are my own.

Facebook/LinkedIn examples (more About Me space):
iii. Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of the Academy.

6. Don’t Be “Too Social on Social”

If you are at a business meeting or attending an invitation-only professional event, you shouldn’t post photos of wine toasts or dinners, or messaging that could be perceived as either inappropriate or an irresponsible use of organizational member dues. “Did I spend the day in meetings?” Yes. “Do I deserve a nice meal and some downtime?” Yes. “Do I really need to tweet about it or share photos of said downtime?” No, especially if your followers may feel they are footing the bill. Think of the unintended consequences before posting.

7. But Feel Free to Be a Little Social on Social

When you’re at a state annual meeting, FNCE® reception, Public Policy Workshop social outing or other social event in which you are engaging with the general membership, it’s perfectly fine to take a picture or post messages about the social event. It’s even OK if you have a glass of wine in hand as long as you don’t look like you’ve had too many and the reception is a social event that is part of a larger professional conference for which members can register and attend.

8. Be Aware Before You Share

Always think hard before you post a message on social media. “How could this wording be misinterpreted? What ramifications might come from this message or photo?” In addition, be sensitive to perceptions of endorsement. Avoid tweeting or posting about specific products or brands from your professional profile. Yes, you have a disclaimer, “Opinions are your own,” which is a legal safeguard, but the only true safeguard is: When in doubt, just don’t do it.

9. Choose Your Channels Wisely

No one has time to engage effectively across all social media channels, all the time. Decide where your organization will focus its resources. The three main channels for Academy members are:

  • LinkedIn, for professional networking only. It is arguably the lowest-maintenance social channel in terms of time commitment, but it’s still smart to check once a week to ensure you don’t miss any connection requests or messages.
  • Facebook, historically for social engagement but now being used (by some) professionally. FB talks a big game about privacy controls; however, its privacy rules change regularly, and it is difficult if not impossible to prevent certain kinds of sharing in your feed. It is strongly advised that you do not try to manage personal and professional “friends” and activities from the same account.
  • Twitter, the highest maintenance channel in terms of response expectations. It moves fast, and you have to move fast with it — especially as leaders who will frequently be pursued by members (or potentially targeted by critics).

10. Stay Positive!

Engaging in social media can be a productive way to support messages and foster community. It’s also a playground for negative naysayers and individuals who may think they are social savvy, but actually are not. You usually can spot them through passive-aggressive (or just plain old aggressive) messages, and their social engagement is much like a bull in a china shop. Many hang their “expertise” on the number of followers they have rather than qualitative engagement metrics. The trick to dealing with a bully, harsh critic or a “friendly time bomb” is to be polite and avoid them otherwise.

By its nature, social media is an opportunity to crowdsource and share ideas, but it can be a slippery slope to ranting or negativity. Your organization’s members will look to you, as leaders, for cues on how to engage, so set a good example by keeping your posts positive and enthusiastic!

Liz Spittler
Liz Spittler is the executive editor of Food & Nutrition Magazine and creative media director at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.