In 2017, 84% of Protestant pastors reported that their church used Facebook as their primary online communication tool. (Source: LifeWay Research) With the social distancing and safer-at-home realities of COVID-19, this percentage will increase on all social media platforms. “Online church” is part of the new normal, and social media is a significant portion of “online.”
As more and more churches, and their parishioners, turn to social media, it’s only natural to assume the social media history of significant church leaders will be examined. Church leaders will connect with church members and, by doing this, will expose their prior social media behavior and some content hidden from public view (social media privacy settings have matured in recent years).
Do you know what lurks beneath the surface of your church employees’ and leaderships’ social media profiles?
That may have been a bizarre question 5 or 10 years ago, but today it’s become a routine process to inspect the social media history of new hires and existing staff, and the question is mainstream.
According to a 2018 CareerBuilder survey, about 43% of employers use social media to review their employees, and 70% use social media to screen potential hires. When it comes to churches, however, many are still hesitant to screen their personnel’s social media accounts.
Recently, I was discussing this very topic with a friend who is the Pastor. My friend indicated that as they began the process of hiring a new Minister of Youth, the first thing he personally did was check their social media profiles. Any questionable content he saw in his mind immediately disqualified that potential candidate. I don’t think my friends’ actions are out of the ordinary.
In this post, we will address those uncertainties and answer some of the most common questions churches have about social media screening.
1. Should my church prepare a social media code of conduct?
A code of conduct outlines expected online behavior and defines the consequences of those behaviors. Maintaining one is beneficial for a variety of reasons. Stating what you expect from your employees reduces misunderstanding and protects your church from legal allegations both in the hiring process, during employment and if there is need for termination.
2. Why should a church screen the social media accounts of their personnel?
Whether you’re looking at a new hire or current employees, social media screening can tell you a lot about a person’s belief system, online behavior, and even their work ethic. Because social media is so commonly used, an employee’s misuse can cause irreparable damage to your organization. For churches, reputation is an invaluable asset. Social media screening allows you to enforce your social media policies and uphold the standards that are important to your church.
3. What are the benefits of social media screening?
Besides protecting your church’s reputation, social media screening can also protect your personnel. Church personnel are often known and recognized by the community, and there is a significant amount of responsibility that goes along with that. While monitoring may look at what has already been posted, it can be influenced by clear social media codes of conduct that help personnel to pause before posting- making sure the message behind their post is clear. This approach to social media usage helps protect your organization and staff from careless mistakes that might damage your reputation.
4. What about employee privacy?
While we can’t speak for other vetting and monitoring companies, Social Media 23 uses a customizable software-based solution to monitor social media accounts. This method provides information for analysis and shields the reviewer from the actual posts. Having the ability to compare and analyze social media risk without viewing a candidates’, employees,’ or staffs’ post protects the privacy of everyone and protects the church from the perception of bias.
However, content that is made available to everyone to see by the employee on their social media platforms is not considered private. There may be private posts not intended for anyone who views the employee’s social media profiles that remain private.
5. What should my church consider when selecting a social media screening provider?
Hiring a third-party reviewer keeps your church safe. When choosing a provider, choose one that goes beyond publicly available social media content and reduces the appearance of bias by scoring profiles against others in your church or that hold the same church position or title. Social media monitoring can reveal a lot of valuable information, but it can also potentially show a lot of protected information. The right provider will produce comprehensive data while protecting your church from accusations of bias or discrimination. Whether you are screening potential job candidates or current employees, the right provider will keep you in compliance and out of legal hot water.
Social media screening is often a less invasive process than many companies and churches fear. It can play a crucial role in upholding your church’s public reputation and role. Social media codes of conduct and monitoring help church personnel use their platforms to make a positive impact and reduce the chance of thoughtless posting. For more information on how we’ve helped other churches accomplish these goals, contact Social Media 23.