Social media can be a great way to talk to lots of people at once, and with so many options you can communicate in any way you like. Just look at our official Facebook page to see how much we love reaching a whole new audience, and tell them all about how great MyTime groups are. You might think giving your group its own online presence would be great, but there are a few things you need to consider before you start.
The risks of social media in MyTime
If you’ve ever said something on Facebook that’s been taken the wrong way, you have an idea of the dangers of social media. When things are on a screen there’s no context, which means jokes or comments can be interpreted in very different ways to how we meant them. People also behave differently online, saying things they would never say offline. Over time, we’ve received quite a few complaints about postings made on Facebook, by members and by facilitators.
Another important thing to consider is the way MyTime is meant to be delivered. MyTime groups are face to face – this is how we’ve designed the program, and this is what our funding is for. Groups are also funded to be facilitated, but it’s hard to facilitate online groups, and takes a lot of planning and skill (just think of trying to manage a discussion where some people speak in the morning, some at night, some giving all their focus to the topic, and some busy multitasking).
Finally – did you know more than two out of five Australians never use any form of social media? As a MyTime partner, it’s your role to make sure groups are open and inclusive to everyone, so you need to think about whether your social media could exclude members (not just your current members, but also future ones). If you’re using social media for things like offering peer support or updating members on changes to sessions, what happens to those who don’t have social media?
No MyTime partner (facilitator, coordinator, play helper or provider) can start, run, or be a member of a private or closed social media groupfor their group’s members.. This includes Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn groups, Google Hangouts or Communities, YouTube channel, or any other group that hides content or membership from other users.
This is because an important aspect of having facilitated peer support is that facilitators have a clear role in the group, that isn’t the same as being a group member. Even if you have a child with a disability, or were once a member of MyTime, it’s important that your group’s members see you having a set role. This doesn’t mean that you can’t be a member of an open group, or a member of a closed group you attend as a parent instead of a facilitator.
What we suggest instead
There are lots of ways to have a social media presence for your group, and how you do it really depends on why you want it. If your members want more peer support outside the sessions, they can set up and manage their own group without you – you might want to remind them of your group rules, and how they might apply to online groups – for example, confidentiality and respect for the opinions and choices others make. Also remind them that activities or content posted on the internet are in the public domain and are effectively permanent.
The best way to use social media for MyTime is for promotion and communication. Partners can be a part of and manage social media designed for these purposes, but you might need some help managing it from interested members, since we can’t fund your time spent on managing this.
Facebook is a great place to start for a social media presence, since 93% of social media users are active on it. Facebook pages are the easiest to manage – similar to your Facebook profile, a page is a place to post comments or photos, share links or posts from other people, or organise events. The difference is Facebook pages are public, and so can be seen and liked by everyone. You can also set up a page so that anyone can make posts, and moderate it to avoid spam or inappropriate comments.
Google+ lets you create a page, with a bio of your group (remember to check the acknowledgements section for what to include), and pictures. You can create to share content publicly, and users can “+1” (similar to Like on other platforms). Like Facebook, Google+ also supports posts events, and let you put your group’s details (eg. address or regular session details).
Instagram is the second most popular public social media platform (after Facebook). You can create an account for your group to share photos and videos, and it works well if you’re quite creative. Instagram is mainly a picture and video sharing service, so it doesn’t support things like events or link sharing. Remember, because Instagram is all about photos and videos, you will need to check with everyone about consent before you start posting (more on that below).
Everybody’s favourite place to find cat videos, YouTube is where you can find millions and millions of videos on just about everything. It’s designed for sharing videos, so most people won’t see your profile, just your videos. YouTube is part of Google, which means if you are thinking of having a YouTube channel it’s a good idea to think about having a Google+ presence so you can make the most of it. Like Instagram, you will need to get consent to put up anything.
If you want to push lots of information out, Twitter is a great option. Twitter lets you send short messages (called “tweets”) out, which your followers will see. Like Instagram and YouTube, Twitter doesn’t let you put much on your profile, it’s mainly used to share things.
Something to think about when you post
It’s really, really important to remember that you must have permission to post anything about members. Before you post anything about members on social media, even if it’s from your own account, you need to check and make sure they’re ok with it. Members might be uncomfortable having their (or their child’s) picture or name in a public space, or being associated with a MyTime group. Sometimes members might be ok with you using their information in general, but might not want to be associated with a specific thing (we all have photos of ourselves we wish weren’t on Facebook, don’t we?). Remember your group’s rules (especially any rules you have about not sharing things discussed outside a group), and if you’re at all unsure it’s better to double check.
There are a few levels of permission members can give for social media:
- No consent – when a member says they don’t want anything with them in it being shared. This means being able to see their face in pictures or video, having their name (even just their first name) in text, or tagging them in a post.
- De-identified – when a member says they’re ok with things they’re in being shared, but they don’t want to be identifiable. This means taking their name out of or changing their name in text and quotes. Just remember, if you change their name it needs to be in a way that makes them unidentifiable, so think about the name origins (for example, it’s pretty identifiable if there is one Vietnamese person in the group, and you change their name from one Vietnamese name to another), gender (if there is only one male in the group, changing the name to another male name isn’t really de-identified either), and similarity (Christina to Chrissy or Elizabeth to Liz are still very identifiable).
- Partial – when a member says they’re ok with some content but not others (eg. they’re ok with you putting something on Instagram but not Facebook). If this is the case, you should be careful never to make assumptions (eg. if someone is happy to have their name shared, they might not be ok with being tagged).
- Pre-approved – some members might say they’re happy to be included in content in principle, but want a chance to agree to what you’re planning to use before it goes out.
- Full approval – when members say you can use any of their details for anything. Even if someone says this, you should still check with them before you do something new (eg. if you’re thinking of using another site, or you’ve never used pictures or tagging before).
You will need to keep a record of member’s consent to protect yourself. The easiest way to do this is to have members sign a consent form before you take any photos or videos, and keep it somewhere safe. This means that if someone changes their mind, or thinks they haven’t given permission, you have a way of proving they gave consent. Without this, you may leave yourself open to serious consequences, including legal action.
Social media is a very fast moving technology, and it’s difficult to keep up. There are lots of resources online for using the various social media platforms, and the different platforms often have guides that can be useful (Facebook has some great information about getting the most out of your page).
We’re here to help you with any question or ideas you might have. Let us know via the suggestion box if you would like some help or advice with promoting through social media, consent, closed groups, or any other issues.