Social media communication is a constantly growing and evolving landscape, full of possibility. I love it. Facebook groups, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, Instagram posts, and website forums provide valuable spaces where we can exchange information, share experiences, discover new programs, connect with other Girl Scout volunteers, and make new friends. But there be monsters here too, sometimes lurking on the edges of the map, sometimes unwittingly behind your own keyboard. Navigating the World Wide Web may be old territory for some, but if interacting in a Facebook group feels like sailing into uncharted waters, let the Girl Scout Law be your guide. Just as it guides you and your girls’ actions in person, the Law can chart a path for how we adults interact with each other in virtual spaces, especially social media.
Honest and fair
- Be honest about your role within Girl Scouts of Northern California when you are communicating about Girl Scout-related topics online. Be sure to clarify that the views you are expressing are your own, not necessarily the views of the council.
- Don’t spread false or exaggerated information. Yup, this is that fake news you’ve heard about. It circles the web quickly and can be hard to spot at first glance, since it masquerades as a legitimate news story; and unfortunately, plenty of fake news goes around about Girl Scouts, especially during Cookie Sale. Check your sources, and if you’re in doubt, send GSNorCal the story you’re concerned about. We find it super helpful when our volunteers loop us in on rumors so we can address them before they spread.
Friendly and helpful
- Social media makes it so simple to share resources, find support, and brainstorm activity ideas together with other volunteers. Not sure where to start? Join one of the many GSNorCal-related Facebook groups that already exist to share your expertise and stay in the loop on council happenings:
- GSNorCal Parents + Volunteers – the main Facebook group for all council parents and volunteers (Note: this is the only group actively monitored by council. Most are administered by volunteers.)
- North Coast Girl Scouts
- Redwoods Girl Scouts
- Shasta Trinity Girl Scouts
- Tehama and Glenn County Girl Scouts
- Butte County Girl Scouts
- GSNorCal South Bay Alumnae
- Girl Scout Alumnae, North Coast Chapter
- GSNorCal Golden Gate Bridging – Is your troop planning on joining us for Golden Gate Bridging 2018? Hop into this group to connect with other bridging troops, get advice from GGB veterans, and swap SWAPS inspiration.
- Many service units and troops have also created their own groups for more local communications, so check in with your service unit leaders to see if you have one.
Considerate and caring
Let’s create a culture of caring! In all your online doings, be respectful of other people’s boundaries and be aware that they may be different from your own, especially when it comes to the information they’re comfortable sharing online.
- Before you share something from a private forum or Facebook group, think twice. The members of your group trust you to keep things private within that group. Always ask the OP (original poster) whether it’s alright to share publicly.
- Before posting photos or videos of Girl Scouts under the age of 18, please ensure that all the girls have signed photo release forms. When sharing photos publicly, please check that everyone is okay with you sharing it online and do not include the girls’ last names. This is a good habit to practice, whether your subjects are Girl Scouts or not.
- What do you do to make sure you’re being considerate and caring on social media? Share your helpful ideas in the comments.
Courageous and strong
- It takes courage to stand up for our convictions and to speak up instead of staying silent. Closing out a tab, shutting down your computers, and ignoring the harsh things on the internet is easy. Sometimes letting things go or blocking posters is the better way to go, but when the time’s right, try speaking up, especially if you have the energy and time.
- If you see another Girl Scout volunteer online acting in a manner you don’t think is very Girl Scout-like, take a moment before calling them out publicly. Try reaching out to them via direct message first, and give them the chance to rectify their mistake or clear up the miscommunication. If at all possible, arrange to speak with them in person or over the phone—it’s easy to misinterpret the writer’s tone and intentions in written communication, no matter how carefully crafted.
Tip: If your conversation escalates and doesn’t seem to have a resolution, or you encounter a situation you feel unequipped to handle, please pass on your concern to Member Services. Call our main line at 800-447-4475, or email us at email@example.com. (Just remember our member services team works regular business hours Mon – Fri, 9am – 5pm, so be aware that they cannot always respond immediately, especially if you reach out to over the weekend.)
Responsible for what I say and do
- Nothing on the internet is truly private. There’s potential for anything you share to become public knowledge—that’s just a fact of the internet. That said, most social sites have security features and ways to filter out unwanted viewers. Be aware of your audience. Before posting, think about whether or not you’d want your girl stumbling upon your content—if not, you may want to hold off on posting.
- The way you interact and behave online when you participate in Girl Scout related groups, will, whether you mean for it to or not, directly reflect Girl Scouts as a movement and your troop. Remember that you are just as responsible for the words you write and the things you share online as you are for the things you talk about and share with your friends IRL (in real life). I know I’m not the only one who has gotten carried away in the heat of the moment when replying to a troll (someone who purposely stirs up trouble by starting arguments or posting inflammatory, insulting, or off-topic comments). Sometimes, when rising to the defense of others (or ourselves), our own response can stray into troll territory. No one will notice if you don’t comment. A hostile and insulting post, however, will be burned into their memory. So be careful, because even if you change your mind and delete your comment, screenshots are forever.
Pro Tip: Especially when a situation is emotionally charged, I pause for a few minutes, check in with a close, trusted friend, take a few deep breaths, then decide if what I’m saying comes from a place of caring.
Respect myself and others
- Remember that behind every social post is another human, with thoughts, feelings, and opinions. When you communicate respectfully and responsibly online, you set an example for your Girl Scouts that they can respect when you teach them about internet safety and proper behavior on the net.
- Give yourself a break. If a discussion becomes too heated, exhausting, or upsetting, it’s okay to step away from the keyboard. Get a drink of water, go for a walk outside, or hug a loved one. I can’t emphasize this enough. Engaging on social media can be challenging, as well as fun, and self care is important to avoid burn out.
- Girl Scouts of Northern California welcomes interaction, discussion, commentary, questions, and even criticism, but we ask that you keep your comments and posts on our social media platforms relevant and respectful. The GSNorCal Marketing and Communications team may remove any post or ban anyone who violates these guidelines. In particular, personal attacks, inappropriate language, spamming, and excessive posting will not be tolerated.
- When in doubt, double check that the information you’re sharing is allowed. We love how enthusiastic everyone becomes during new campaigns, but please respect any content embargoes or sharing policies. For example, I can see how appealing posting cookie sales info to Craigslist might be, but don’t do it, it violates policy.
Use resources wisely
- Have a question? Not sure about a policy? Concerned about a situation you’ve seen online but not sure how to address it? Rather than blindly forging ahead, arm yourself with the many volunteer trainings and resources council has available, including Volunteer Essentials, Volunteer Toolkit, and The Trailhead blog!
- Use the Internet Safety Pledge for All Girl Scouts to start a conversation with your troop about how to conduct yourselves online.
- Later in the fall, I’ll share cyber safety tips in conjunction with the new cybersecurity badges Girl Scouts is releasing. In the meantime, you can equip yourself with this pamphlet on Internet Safety.
Make the world a better place and be a sister to every Girl Scout
- Use your social influence to spread positivity! If your troop has done something wonderful in your community, share it online to inspire your Girl Scout sisters. If you see other troops or volunteers being awesome, share the love by liking or resharing/retweeting their post. Don’t forget to tag “Girl Scouts of Northern California” on Facebook or #GSNorCal on Twitter and Instagram—I’ll be on the lookout for your stories!
- Whenever you can, share your tips, trips, triumphs, and golden moments. Even if you only have a few minutes, taking the time to send some words of encouragement to a struggling volunteer can make a world of difference.
If you have questions about these guidelines or would like more clarification, our Marketing and Communications team would be happy to help you. You can reach us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or via direct message on any of GSNorCal’s social media sites—you can find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Throughout the year, I’ll be sharing more tips for navigating the internet and helping your Girl Scouts stay safe online, so if you have any questions or topics you’d like me to touch on, let me know in the comments section below!
Ashley Redfield—Ashley is the Digital Marketing and Social Media Coordinator for Girl Scouts of Northern California, where she’s constantly planning, creating, and managing awesome content for social media. After graduating from Mills College (a women’s college in Oakland), Ashley joined the Girl Scout movement where she loves being part of a team that helps girls unlock their potential and continuing that legacy of women’s leadership. She has spent much of her life exploring Northern California, especially the Bay Area, so when not behind a blue-lit screen, you’ll probably find her hiking through a local park or at a café planning her next road trip.