Enter Social Media with a Spirit of Fun and Caution

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Social media is the hot new topic at this year's Training Institutes, and for good reason! For the first time ever the National Technical Assistance Center for Children's Mental Health is supporting a social media backchannel that will revolutionize many attendees' experience of the conference. Rather than sitting passively and listening to presenters share information and knowledge, attendees will now be able to actively participate in dialogue with presenters and other attendees alike. The Children's Mental Health Network is partnering with the National Technical Assistance Center for Children's Mental Health to facilitate and run this backchannel. We're so excited about this opportunity and this historic moment for the Training Institutes, but we also wanted to share some wisdom and caution about ways to use social media successfully while at the Training Institutes and long after the conference is over.

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I'm a self-identified "social media evangelist" and love talking about and sharing the importance of social media - particularly as it relates to advocacy and community organizing. My role at the Children's Mental Health Network as the Director of Community Management is to support and improve our use of social media and new technology in our education and advocacy work. From my perspective, social media is all about establishing relationships founded upon mutual empowerment and support. To learn more about the benefits of social media and why it matters for children's mental health watch my archived webinar with Community Solutions at the University of South Florida. Social media is an important tool that's here to stay, and it behooves us all as professionals, advocates, family members and youth to educate ourselves about ways to more effectively reach out to, and serve children and families. However, social media is a high stakes, highly public, rapidly changing game and needs to be entered with thought and intention, in particular as it relates to children's mental health.

The advice that I give to most individuals using social media in a professional capacity is to go back to their organizations and make sure that their organization has a social media policy in place. Having a policy in place is a win-win for everyone. It protects employees by letting them know what type of social media behavior is encouraged by their organization, and what type of behavior supports the overall goals of the organization. A policy also protects organizations, because if an employee starts behaving inappropriately on social media, that reflects poorly on the organization and the situation will need to be handled quickly and efficiently with as little drama as possible. Because platforms such as Twitter are entirely public (except for Direct Messages) employees' behavior on Twitter can have a large impact on an organization. For an example of why it's so important to have a policy in place read this blog about the PhoneDog Twitter lawsuit.

While I'm not a lawyer, I would love to help you and your organization come up with a solid social media policy. Get in touch with me! To get an idea of the Children's Mental Health Network's social media policy check out my bio on Twitter: "Micropreneur passionate about social media and organizational development. Director of Community Management for @CMHNetwork. Views are my own." I clearly state that I'm an employee of the Children's Mental Health Network, but I'm equally clear that my tweets are my own. This means that when I'm tweeting on my personal Twitter account, I'm not specifically representing the Children's Mental Health Network. Of course I work hard to support the mission and goals of the Network on Twitter, but my Twitter account is my own and I pursue other interests in this space, such as organizational development and knitting. Before you start tweeting away, think carefully about how you want to represent yourself and your organization on Twitter. 

So while I encourage everyone here at the conference to join the social media bandwagon I also strongly encourage you to think carefully before joining this bandwagon. Make sure that having a social media presence is a good fit both for you personally and as an employee of your organization. I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions about this - both here on our website and on the backchannel. Social media belongs in children's mental health, so let's work together to think about how and where it belongs and what meaningful engagement on social media looks like. 

If you want to learn more about social media and see what all the hype is about, join me in the Tweet Seats we have set aside for all of the Plenary Sessions at the conference. I'll be live tweeting and would be delighted to walk you through how to craft your own successful tweet.

Brittany Smith, Director of Community Management, CMHNetwork

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