Adapted from Sara Dale-Bley’s article in eConnect Number 31, the LLL US West Area Network publication for Leaders and LLL Administrators, April–June 2014
Facebook, a useful tool
As an online social networking platform, Facebook can be a useful tool to create bridges between mothers and La Leche League, where none may have existed in the past. However, as with any method of communication, it is vitally important that we consider all the implications of interactions that take place on Facebook before designing a presence on that platform. Although it would be difficult to issue guidelines for all the interactions between LLL Leaders and breastfeeding families that may occur, here is some general guidance for Leaders and Groups as they decide whether or not to use Facebook for conducting LLL work.
Security online cannot be guaranteed
Although Facebook makes every attempt to protect the privacy and information of users, nothing online can ever be guaranteed to be completely secure. Because companies change ownership and privacy policies change, Leaders need to remain aware that, when representing themselves online as Leaders, what they say in a secure forum may not remain private in the way they intended. Even if Leaders are approached for support by a mother, it is important to remember that if the “conversation” about a topic becomes specific to her situation, it would be wise to direct the conversation to a more protected medium. A good rule of thumb is to keep the information shared on Facebook as general as possible. For instance, avoid saying or asking anything that you would not say or ask in a crowded elevator.
Discuss with co-Leaders
If your Group or Area decides to keep a presence on Facebook, discuss with your co-Leaders what it will look like, how it will be maintained, and what kinds of interactions with breastfeeding families (if any) will be permitted. Whenever possible, it is good practice to keep your personal and LLL information separate. If your Group maintains a business page, Leaders can be given administrator privileges and their posts will not be seen to come from the individual, but rather originating from the page’s title entity.
The page can be configured in such a way that only administrators are able to post to the page. However, posts and the “posts by others” section will need to be monitored for comments that need to be addressed, redirected, or deleted.
Another option: manage invitations
The other option on Facebook is to maintain a Facebook group discussion page whereby members are able to post and receive input from other members of the Facebook group. Who is invited to join these Facebook groups can range from only the Leaders in the LLL Group or Area, to LLL members, or to anyone who wants to join. These Facebook groups can also be configured so posts are visible to the public or not, and the Facebook group itself can be public, private, or secret. If you and your co-Leaders decide to have a private Facebook group page (meaning only group members of the Facebook group can see the group page’s contents) and if you have decided that anyone can apply to be a member of the group, it will be helpful to think of these discussion group pages as online Series Meetings. It will be the Leader administrator’s job to keep the discussions on track and positive. However, because of the inherent insecurity of the online format, it will also fall to the Leader-administrator(s) to ensure that each family’s privacy is protected. She can indicate that any mother with specific individual concerns can contact an LLL Leader by phone or email for individualized support, and refer mothers to the “Find local support” banner and “Use the map” feature on the LLLI home page.
It would also be good practice to remind members that even though the Facebook group administrators make every effort to protect their privacy, anything disclosed online could be shared beyond the private Facebook group by individuals determined to do so. I have even heard of information being shared through screen shots of discussions in a private Facebook group. Revocation of member privileges may be appropriate after such a violation if it is discovered.
Designing an LLL presence
When designing your LLL Group’s presence on Facebook, it will be important to place disclaimers in a prominent location, easily viewed by all visitors. Addressing issues up front—such as how to discern the posts from members from those of Leaders, and what kinds of discussions will be allowed—will help minimize problems as your Facebook page gains fans or your Facebook group gains members. Many Facebook groups have found ways for disclaimers and rules of conduct to be well placed with a “pinned post” that remains at the top of the page with new discussions appearing below.
As an additional avenue of support for Leaders, Groups, or Areas that choose to maintain an LLL presence on Facebook, there is an LLL Facebook support group. This group is maintained as a “secret” Facebook group strictly for Leaders, so you will need to request permission to join—you can ask a member of the informal LLL Leaders group to add you.
For a discussion about the differences between traditional series meetings and online support see our article Face to Face or Facebook?