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Social media guidelines for radio stations

You want to know how to verify user generated content or need help handling hate speech? These guidelines set out policies to ensure radio stations use social media productively and avoid common pitfalls.

Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have become important communication tools for media outlets around the world, including radio stations. Social media now allows a dialogue between listeners and a station, replacing what was in the past usually a one-way conversation from the radio station to the listener. Social media helps build relationships with listeners and allows them to participate and feel a part of the station in ways that were not possible before.

In addition, social media has become a useful and powerful journalistic tool, opening up new ways of gathering and disseminating information, finding sources and getting opinions from the public.

Dangers and downsides

Besides the benefits, social media also has its dangers and downsides. The ease of sending messages in seconds can mean thoughtless, insulting, harmful or even libelous comments – things that might not have been said if someone had to write a letter or make a phone call – instantly have a global reach. Social media can easily amplify the effects of any ethical misjudgments you might make. There are many instances of media professionals who have had their reputations harmed or even lost their jobs due to a careless tweet or Facebook post.

On the information side, social media allows for the discovery and dissemination of newsworthy material quickly but social media platforms are also full of rumors, unsubstantiated claims and simple falsehoods. Bad information can go viral quickly.

Therefore, media outlets must be careful about their social media use. An inappropriate response to a listener can anger your larger audience. The spreading of false reports can severely damage a station's credibility and brand.

That's what these guidelines are for, to set out policies and best practices to ensure that radio stations use social media productively and avoid common pitfalls.

In writing these guidelines, DW Akademie asked for input from its ten partner stations in western Kenya on their own social media policy priorities. We then incorporated their suggestions into this larger document. Here, you will find advice in alphabetical order on how to handle hate speech or how to verify user generated content.

Accountability  Take responsibility for your posts

Information related to your station and its programming should be posted on social media platforms where appropriate. But with that comes responsibility since your posts reflect back of your station and yourself.

Accuracy/Honesty  Stay true to the facts

Social media can be both a treasure trove of quickly accessible information and a cauldron of verified rumors, exaggerations and outright fabrications. Be careful and skeptical about ALL information you find on social media. Don't spread unconfirmed reports.

Build Community  get people on board

Talk about your social media presence on the radio. And, tell your audience why they should go there. What special, interesting content will be on offer? If you can add value to what's on the airwaves you'll gain more followers and form an active community online.

Consistency  Post on a regular basis

A social media account whose last activity was two months ago is not going to be very interesting to your audience. People want to see fresh content when they come to your page. Keep your page or feed dynamic with regular updates. At the same time avoid too much information.

Ethics/Confidential information

The same journalistic ethics apply in the online world as offline: act independently, seek and report the truth, and minimize harm. Always maintain high standards when providing information to the public –no matter what platform you use.

Hate speech  When expression turns dangerous

Social media gives people a global plattform to express their ideas and opinions, even ones which may be harmful to other groups or individuals. Social platforms are unfortunately often used for communication that fosters a climate of prejudice and intolerance – hate speech.

Personal Social Media Use  Seperating private from professional?

Your actions involving social networking sites, even your personal accounts, can affect your credibility as a journalist or other staff member. Avoid embarrassment and be careful about what you reveal.

Responsiveness  Answering your audience

Dialogue is the basis of all social media work, so a healthy and honest online conversation with readers is essential. Answer quickly, always be thoughtful and friendly when you reply to your audience.

 

Security

Since social media is so widespread and information on social media spreads like wildfire, it's important to take some general security precautions so that information doesn't get out that could harm your station. Decide who can post and take good care of your passwords.

Verification  Confirm before you post

Sometimes people spread fake information as a joke, to get "likes" and followers, or simply to cause panic. Journalists easily become the victim of a hoax and spread false content. Verifying Information is essential.

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