A few weeks back a colleague in NCCL asked about how I make decisions regarding social networking on behalf of NCCL and my diocese. This was my off-the-cuff reply:
Some quick background: My criteria for making these decisions when acting in an institutional capacity is different than my criteria for my personal accounts, especially re: Twitter; for my personal account I’m pretty indiscriminate about who I follow, since I believe the value of Twitter is in making connections and self-limiting those connections diminishes that value.
My decisions about whom to follow via the NCCL Twitter account are based on two criteria: 1) Who has information relevant to our members? and 2) Who has need of the type of information NCCL provides? These two categories are not mutually exclusive; for instance, Nick Senger, as a Catholic educator, both tweets information pertinent to our members and can be a conduit through which NCCL information can flow to people not directly associated with the organization. So it makes sense to follow him and hope that he follows us (which he does).
Pursuant to the second criteria, this means that I’ve tended to follow anyone in a catechetical ministry in the Church as a way of establishing a connection with NCCL. This includes DREs, self-identified catechists and Catholic school teachers.
The first criterion is a little trickier since it requires a judgment call about the needs and values of our membership. I’ve picked the major catechetical publishers with a Twitter presence as well as groups and individuals that are representative of the broadness of the Church without straying outside the folds, so to speak. Figures such as Sr. Helen Prejean, Fr. Robert Barron or Christopher West, while appealing to different constituencies within NCCL, nevertheless stand firmly (and without major controversy) within the Catholic Church. On the other hand, if Fr. Charles Curran or Fr. Alvaro Corcuera, LC, (General Director of the Legion of Christ) were to start tweeting, I would not follow them, even knowing their appeal to some members of NCCL, due to their controversy within the Church.
My final criterion for Twitter is that anyone associated in a direct way with NCCL (past or current leaders, members) gets an automatic follow. Of course, this assumes I can identify them as being associated with NCCL.
Linking fan pages on Facebook is not as integral to the experience as following someone on Twitter. Because of the terminology in use, I’m a little more selective about linking our Facebook fan page with other fan pages. Following someone on Twitter doesn’t have the same connotation as being a “fan” of someone on Facebook; the latter implies a level of approval that isn’t present in the former.
To give a better example of how I handle Facebook, for my diocese’s Facebook fan page I have linked us to groups with whom we have an established institutional relationship (CRS, Catholic Committee on Scouting, NCYC) and the schools and parishes of our diocese. This might be a model for how to handle future Facebook links and other relationships.