Social media is an important tool for charities seeking to promote activities and engage with existing and new supporters. From Facebook to Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest there are many social media platforms available for use. But think carefully before sending that tweet or posting that picture.

Social media mistakes can damage your charity’s reputation and generate unwanted publicity or media interest. From a legal perspective, the risks include fines, warnings or disciplinary action from regulators, such as the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), and claims under defamation law, data protection law and intellectual property law.

Here are some easy ways to minimise the risks associated with using social media platforms:

  1. Treat it with respect - social media is here to stay so ensure your charity has an appropriate social media and e-safety policy. This will help to make everyone within your organisation aware of the dos and don’ts, particularly when it comes to dealing with any negative comments.Prevention is better than cure - Incorporate training on social media into your induction and on-going development programmes for staff and volunteers. This helps to keep your charity’s approach to social media in the spotlight
  2. Stop and think - never post personal, sensitive, or confidential information on social media unless you have obtained the necessary consent. Remember, you may need to obtain such consent from a third party depending on the nature of the information you are posting.
  3. Don’t forget to switch accounts - many people have personal and professional accounts on social media and post on behalf of their charity. The right message needs to come from the right account.
  4. Mind your manners - every post from your charity’s account is a reflection of your organisation’s values and beliefs. If you wouldn’t say something in person, don’t say it online.
  5. To tweet, or not to tweet - if you re-tweet someone else’s post, you can still be held liable for the contents of that post even though you didn’t write it.
  6. Don’t be a copycat - it can be tempting to copy and paste text or images that you find online, but be aware that doing so could put you at risk of a claim for copyright infringement. Just because something is already on the internet that does not necessarily mean that you can freely use it.

Social media allows charities to reach millions of people instantaneously. Ensure your charity is noticed online for all the right reasons!

For more information

For advice or further details on the legal aspects of using social media for your charity, please contact Rebecca Ward. More information about our work with charities is available on our website.