ILRI social media risk mitigation guidelines

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ILRI social media (risk mitigation) guidelines

These guidelines have been largely inspired by the social media guidelines issued by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) from April 2011. The authors are thankful to Roxanna Samii from IFAD for kindly agreeing to re-use and adapt the IFAD guidelines to develop the ILRI social media guidelines.

Purpose of these guidelines

These guidelines aim at providing ILRI’s workforce (staff and anyone with an ILRI contract of any sort) with practical guidance on what social media are at use at ILRI [1] are and how to engage with them, particularly from the perspective of mitigating risks in using social media personally and organizationally.

The guidelines below consider:

  • General use of social media (outside ILRI’s official social media accounts);
  • Use of ILRI’s official social media accounts;

These guidelines do not consider personal use of social media by ILRI staff (i.e. for private, non-professional use), except for the cases involving or concerning ILRI and having implications on the organization’s integrity.

What are social media?

Social media can be defined as works of user-created video, audio, text or multimedia that are published and shared in a social environment, such as a blog, Facebook, Twitter or photo and video hosting site. More broadly, social media refers to any online technology that lets people publish, converse and share content online.

Social media connect people all across the globe - via networks of interest - who share messages with each other, jointly comment, discuss, rate and create unique social content. They facilitate large-scale conversations and distributed problem solving, creating waves and endless possibilities for collective social action. For this reason, social media have fundamentally transformed the way organizations, communities, and individuals communicate.

Compared with conventional ‘broadcasting’ media such as print journals, radio and television channels, social media are multi-directional outlets to share information and stimulate conversations. For organizations, they complement conventional media and offer opportunities to advocate to, inform, engage and co-create with audiences, end-beneficiaries, partners and colleagues.

What do we use social media for at ILRI?

At ILRI, we use social media for various purposes:

  • Inform partners and audiences about important ILRI developments and issues related to a broader livestock agenda
  • Advocate for higher consideration for and integration of livestock issues in funding agendas and project activities
  • Contribute to broader global development discourse
  • Engage in a dialogue with partners and wider stakeholders to explore new and gather feedback on existing activities and ideas
  • Enhance internal communication for ongoing sharing of information, joint reflection and planning
  • Plan, organize, run and document project and corporate events
  • Collect and store information about project and corporate activities for endless re-use possibilities across conventional and social media

ILRI encourages staff to use social media to encourage the expansion of these efforts and the inter-connection of knowledge and information flows across the organization and around its edges (with partners and wider stakeholders).

Guidelines for general use of social media

ILRI encourages staff to be familiar with and use social media to conduct business. Many partner organizations, information networks and other companies have interesting social media channels that relate to the work and interest of ILRI and of its staff. The more connections with those channels, the more widely and deeply engaged ILRI becomes as an institute, which is beneficial.

However, professional and private spheres are blurred in the social media world, emphasizing the need to realize the risks that come with using social media for the organization as a whole.

Unless you specifically decide to have a private, bilateral conversation (e.g. using Facebook or Yammer’s private message functionality), all your online interactions leave open traces, whether they be posts, comments, votes, uploads etc. The social media world is essentially public.

This publicity is the raison d’être of social media, but it requires ILRI staff to realize that, through their interaction, they need to ensure and maintain the impartiality, objectivity and integrity of ILRI as an organization. This is the object of the first part of this section. The second part of this section is to offer guidelines to make the most of your social media experience – which help you preserve your own integrity and ultimately that of ILRI.

How to preserve ILRI’s integrity

When engaging in (professional) social media interactions, all staff members should follow these rules of thumb…

Some simple rules of thumb

  1. Be a good ambassador
  2. Be honest, transparent and open
  3. Be responsible
  4. Be conscious when mixing professional and personal
  5. Correct mistakes and admit it quickly if you made a mistake yourself
  6. Do not commit ILRI to any activity, unless you are authorized to do so
  7. Do not post offensive material, spam or abusive information
  8. Have a disclaimer - Mention that your opinions are personal and do not reflect the corporate position of ILRI
  9. Respect confidentiality
  10. Respond to constructive criticism (Be polite when you disagree with the opinion of others)
  11. Safeguard ILRI content
  12. Safeguard ILRI’s name
  13. Separate opinions from facts
  14. Spread the work and connect with people
  15. Write about what you know (Stick to your area of expertise)

Be a good ambassador: Be aware that your behaviour and opinions on social media channels directly or indirectly reflect on the organization. Make sure your profile picture, online identity or avatar reflects your professionalism. Promote ILRI’s social media channels such as ILRI blogs, ILRI wikis, Twitter, Facebook (See annex I for a complete list), by adding (some of) them to your email signature block and/or documents you produce. Link to these platforms and relevant pieces of content in your documents and online posts and comments – and always introduce yourself as working for ILRI.

Be honest, transparent and open: If you are blogging about your work, identify yourself and clearly state that you are working for ILRI. If you have a vested interest in something you are discussing, be the first to point it out, by making it clear that you are expressing your own opinion. Bear in mind that transparency does not mean disclosing confidential and/or proprietary information. And remember not to disclose confidential information on your personal blog, micro-blog platforms (Twitter, TumblR etc.) and websites.

Be responsible: You are responsible for what you write and how you behave on social media channels. You are encouraged to participate in online social media, however, you are urged to do so properly and to exercise solid judgment. Do not say anything online that you would not be comfortable to be quoted about or reported to your boss or mother. What you post makes who you are in social media. Better don’t embarrass yourself and rather stand for constructive work.

Be conscious when mixing professional and personal: As an ILRI employee and international civil servant, you have certain obligations and need to abide by ILRI’s code of conduct and staff rules. Make sure you comply with these in your online interactions too.

Correct mistakes and admit it quickly if you made a mistake yourself: If you come across a misrepresentation of ILRI’s work, identify yourself and correct the mistake. In most cases people do not mind being corrected. However, if you get the feeling that someone is deliberately misinterpreting what you are saying, ignore them. If you are in doubt and not sure what to do, please contact someone from the Communication team. On the other hand, if you have made a mistake yourself, be open and admit it as soon as possible.

Do not commit ILRI to any activity, unless you are authorized to do so: Social media interactions sometimes lead us to be part of conversations that are geared towards action and initiative. This is very valuable as it demonstrates the potential and strength of online interactions for collective action. However, you should make sure that the activities you commit to do not involve ILRI more widely or impact your ILRI workload – unless you are authorized by your line manager to do so.

Do not post offensive material, spam or abusive information: Being responsible and ensuring ILRI’s integrity also means you should not be: attacking or abusing colleagues, partners and other people online; spamming them with unsolicited information; posting offensive material of any kind. The same applies to your reactions to other peoples’ content by means of comments.

Have a disclaimer: If you publish on a third party website or on your personal blog, use a disclaimer similar to: “The information posted on this blog and/or website are my personal views and opinions and do not necessarily reflect ILRI’s positions, strategies or opinions” – this will give you more liberty while protecting ILRI’s integrity.

Respect confidentiality: Some ILRI content is meant for internal audiences only. That content should not be used and referred to on social media – unless specifically authorized by Peter Ballantyne and/or Susan MacMillan. Some content on ILRI online channels is copyrighted – either under Creative Commons Licences or otherwise. You should respect the principles behind these copyrights carefully and unless authorized, not use that copyrighted content.

Respond to constructive criticism: Turn negative comments and reactions into opportunities to have a constructive dialogue. Thank the commenter and engage them in a conversation. Remember, when responding you are representing ILRI. Take time to read between the lines and understand the arguments. In correcting factual errors and responding, be respectful, sincere, confident, honest and truthful. If you are not sure how to respond to criticism, please consult someone from the Communication team.

Safeguard ILRI content: Staff are encouraged to share ILRI content through their personal social media accounts. When sharing original ILRI content (text, audio, video, photos) produced by ILRI and/or shared on ILRI’s website and/or ILRI’s social media channels through your personal social media accounts, please make sure you attribute it to ILRI (e.g. in the metatags). Should you wish to use ILRI content on your personal or third party sites, please indicate the source and if in doubt, contact someone from the Communication team. Content produced for internal ILRI use cannot be published on external sites. Copyrighted ILRI content can be made available upon request.

Safeguard ILRI’s name: You may not use ILRI’s name to endorse or promote any product, religion, political party and/or political opinion. ILRI is seeking to consolidate its brand and boost its existing web and social media channels. You are requested not to fragment ILRI’s brand and identity by creating pseudo ILRI accounts. If you need to create web and/or social media channels on ILRI’s behalf, please consult Tsehay Gashaw and/or Susan MacMillan and/or Peter Ballantyne.

Separate opinions from facts: When interacting on social media, make sure you separate opinions from facts. If you are giving your opinion, make sure you have stated a disclaimer (see above), indicating that you are expressing your personal opinions, which do not necessarily reflect ILRI’s corporate position on the subject.

Spread the work and connect with people: Do not talk about yourself exclusively, but also share the successes of your colleagues, peers, ILRI as a whole and its partners. Make sure you are connected with ILRI’s social media channels (see Annex I for complete listing).

Write about what you know: When writing about livestock, agriculture and global development-related issues write in the first person and stick to your areas of expertise. If you are writing about an ILRI-related topic and you are not the topic expert, make it clear to your readers or co-author the piece with a topic expert.

If you don’t know what to do…

If you are not sure about sharing or responding to a comment, a blog post, a tweet, please consult your supervisor, the communication specialist in your team and/or Susan MacMillan/Peter Ballantyne.

If a member of the media contacts you, please notify the Public Awareness team (Susan MacMillan) – they will determine how best to handle the inquiry.

How to make the most of your social media experience

Using social media can be a great, sometimes even liberating, experience. These tips and tricks will give you added confidence to make the most of your experience using social media.

Be passionate and engaged: Share the passion you feel for your work and talk about your successes and challenges, for the sake of learning and sharing learning curves with others. Do not be afraid to bring in your personality.

Be conversational: Talk to your readers, comment on others’ blogs and avoid being pedantic. If you are writing a blog, encourage your readers to provide feedback and comment. Read the contributions of others and see how you can contribute to the conversation. Respond to comments you receive as a priority task. Think of your online conversations as open-ended, exploratory, soliciting answers and questions from others. Cite others when you blog.

Be respectful: Respect your audience’s privacy, respect your colleagues and peers. Respect your “competitors”. Disagree in a respectful manner.

Be aware of global implications: Your interaction on social media channels can have global significance. The way you answer a question online or write may be appropriate for some parts of the globe, but considered inappropriate or illegal in other parts of the world. Therefore, keep the “world view” in mind when engaging with social media tools.

Bring (social) value: The best way to get your thoughts and words across is to write things that people will value and respond to. Write informative, interesting and thought provoking content. Help build a sense of community by sharing and discussing your experiences and challenges. Talk about projects you are involved in and working on. Social communications helps people to familiarize themselves with ILRI’s work. If what you write helps people do a better job, understand what ILRI does, learn and gain knowledge, enhance their skills, solve problems, overcome challenges, then you are adding value. Do not forget you are responsible for what you write. Aim for quality and not quantity.

Build relationships: Engage with your audience and build trust to develop a “relationship” rather than just exclusively using social media as an advocacy or broadcasting tool – you would be missing out on the main value of social media – the conversation…

Give credit where credit is due: Do not claim authorship for something that is not yours. If you are using third party content, make sure you have permission to use it and provide appropriate attribution. Do not use copyrighted and trademarked content without asking permission. Respect Creative Commons Licensing.

And last but not least: when in doubt, ask!

The Communication team is here to help you make better sense of social media and how they can help you work smartly and productively. Asking them for help is just asking them to do their job, and it might make yours a lot easier…

Guidelines for use of ILRI’s official social media accounts

Annex I provides a list of ILRI’s official presence on social media channels. ILRI uses social media channels to increase its global presence by reaching out to a broader audience in a more interactive way, providing a wide range of content and information in real-time and opportunities for information and knowledge sharing, social learning and joint problem-solving.

The Communication team (namely the Public Awareness team headed by Susan MacMillan and the Knowledge Management and Information Services team headed by Peter Ballantyne) is responsible for establishing ILRI’s presence on social media channels. Tsehay Gashaw is in charge of setting up these platforms for any given project or initiative.

ILRI projects and initiatives may require a certain set of social media (see ILRI’s official social media channels section) which goes beyond the possibilities offered by ILRI’s corporate social media (i.e. for the use of ILRI as an institution, not as projects). These accounts and related social media channels should be set up, managed and sometimes eventually removed with care and in consultation with the Communication team.

Creating ILRI social media accounts

To create a new ILRI social media platform – as a standalone platform or a set of platforms – please consult Tsehay Gashaw and/or Peter Ballantyne and/or Susan MacMillan.

To safeguard ILRI’s branding, authenticity and integrity, ILRI official social media channels should:

  • Adhere to the guidelines and good practices listed above
  • Be set up in a standard way as agreed with the Communication team management
  • Use ILRI and CGIAR research program logos and corporate identity according to the ?what guidelines??
  • Preferably be set up by Tsehay Gashaw to keep track of all existing social media channels in use at ILRI. Alternatively, she should be informed by the person setting up these platforms to ensure consistent branding and set up.

Mind that different branding guidelines exist for ILRI projects and for ILRI corporate social media channels. [e1]

Managing ILRI social media accounts

Managing ILRI social media involves a number of activities as manager, and specific attention to the (quality of) content generated, shared or stored on these social media channels.

The functions of social media managers

Staff members representing ILRI on social media channels are responsible for:

  • Generating regular content on these channels, including broadcasting ILRI messages across social media and linking content across platforms
  • Branding ILRI across social media platforms (using appropriate look and feel)
  • Listening to and engaging with stakeholders and partners through social media by keeping track of and responding to social chatter (comments, likes etc.) – particularly for blogs, wikis and Yammer or other social networks (less so for repositories such as FlickR, Blip TV etc.)
  • Promoting ILRI’s social media profile
  • Monitoring activities and results on these social media channels, as agreed with Peter Ballantyne and/or Susan MacMillan, with the involvement or awareness of Liya Dejene.

The principles behind useful and good quality ILRI content

Content on ILRI’s official social media channels should and will:

  • Be of highest possible quality and reflect ILRI’s corporate image and mission
  • Refer to, link to, embed other ILRI content and outputs for maximum (relevant) information re-use
  • Report real-time news or activities emanating from ILRI projects and initiatives
  • Cover relevant ‘bigger picture’ issues that relate to ILRI’s research and development agenda
  • Welcome and encourage feedback, questioning, participation and conversation
  • Promote programmes and announce new initiatives in a conversational manner
  • Provide a human face to ILRI’s activities through stories, interviews etc.
  • Report – live and ex-post – from major events involving ILRI staff

ILRI holds the copyright to content created for the organization and posted on social media channels (tweets, videos, audio, photos and blog posts).

Closing social media accounts

When certain social media channels and/or when a project ends and its social media presence no longer has a raison d’être, they should be closed and archived properly. Under all circumstances, Peter Ballantyne and/or Susan MacMillan, as well a Tsehay Gashaw, should be informed about this.

The contents of a closing social media channel should be archived as deemed appropriate and be made available on the ILRI comms wiki for potential future use.

Annex I

ILRI’s official social media channels

ILRI uses a series of social media channels. For most projects, the typical array of social media includes a blog and a wiki. For large projects, a dedicated FlickR, Slideshare and/or Yammer network need to be set up. Most other social media channels are in the remit of ILRI’s corporate communication.


ILRI uses several official blogs for its corporate use and for individual projects. ILRI News and ILRI Clippings are the official news sites of ILRI. [| ILRI news] covers all major developments across ILRI offices. [| ILRI Clippings] features news about livestock issues and the wider development research agenda and arena in which ILRI evolves. [| Maarifa//] is specifically about information and communication work. Other ILRI blogs are individual project blogs, but these three blogs should reflect the view of the organization as a whole. Project blogs should reflect the view of the project team, not necessarily those of ILRI as a whole (unless the project is led and implemented exclusively by ILRI).

Contributors to these blogs are invited to observe the guidelines listed above and, when creating blog posts they are expected to:

  • adhere to the guidelines above
  • write accurately
  • respect ILRI and its partners
  • refrain from disclosing confidential information and internal matters
  • refrain from sharing proprietary information

ILRI encourages staff to blog more actively, particularly on project blogs. To get some headstart on blogging contact the Communication team (your communication specialist, Susan MacMillan or Peter Ballantyne).


Wikis are collaborative websites that help teams develop content collectively and in real time. ILRI encourages uses of wikis for projects, specific initiatives and sometimes events. The person or team in charge of the wikis should ensure that the wikis:

  • have a home page that gives contextual information about the wiki in use
  • follow a consistent look and feel
  • remain up-to-date throughout the event or project
  • can be edited by all team members that might use it
  • (if using a pay-for version) are properly paid and accounted for in annual comms budget

When used for events, wikis should systematically contain a set of standard pages: Agenda, list of participants and sometimes logistical information (if the event involves mostly external participants who need direction).

FlickR photo albums

FlickR is an online photo storing and sharing social media channel.

ILRI corporate communications and some larger projects use a FlickR account to manage the production and storage of pictures. These picture collections are used to document events, activities in the field, portraits of key stakeholders and partners, graphs in use etc. These pictures are then reused on the ILRI website, in blog posts, wikis, reports and publications, presentations etc. Every picture uploaded should have a proper title, description (indicating the context of the picture), ILRI and photographer’s name, general tags and ideally geo-tagging references.

Specific guidelines for using FlickR are available on the ILRI comms wiki:

Contact the Communication team to upload photos on any ILRI FlickR album.


SlideShare is a social media channel used for sharing PowerPoint presentations and documents in PDF format, particularly posters.

ILRI corporate communications and some larger projects use a Slideshare account to manage the production and storage of presentations and posters prepared for events and discussions. These presentations and posters can then be embedded and reused on the ILRI website, in blog posts, wikis etc. Every Slideshare upload should have a proper title, description (indicating the context), author’s name and general tags to describe the filed that is being uploaded.

Specific guidelines for using Slideshare are available on the ILRI comms wiki:

Contact the Communication team to upload presentations on Slideshare.

YouTube and

YouTube and Blip.TV are video channels allowing members to upload, comment, rate videos and subscribe to video channels. ILRI has a main [| YouTube] and a main [| account]. At ILRI, the former is used for any general video, while is used to store approved videos, including short interviews, event-specific videos and videos produced by ILRI-funded projects. ILRI uses videos for interviews, films covering project activities, broadcasting group reports from events and sometimes summaries, slidecasts and photofilms depicting a particular story or process.

Contact the Communication team for queries on or to upload videos to either YouTube or


Podomatic is an audio channel allowing members to upload, comment and rate podcasts (audio broadcasts). ILRI uses its Podomatic channel to store, share and disseminate interviews and soundbites from video recordings whose video quality is too low for being highlighted on YouTube or Podomatic is exclusively managed by the ILRI Communication team.

Specific guidelines for using Podomatic and generally developing podcasts are available on the ILRI comms wiki:

Contact the Communication team to upload podcasts on Podomatic.


Yammer is a social networking site for internal knowledge sharing and communication (i.e. in an organization or a project). The [| ILRINet group] (and other related ILRI subgroups) on the wider CGIAR Yammer social network is internal and reserved to ILRI and ILRI projects so it is probably a safer environment to share information, but at the same time it requires members to follow a certain etiquette. This etiquette and other specific guidelines (including a set of visual guidelines and simple advices) for using Yammer are available on the ILRI comms wiki:

Contact the Communication team for additional advice on how to use Yammer.


Twitter is a social networking micro-blogging site where members can post short updates (micro-blog posts) such as sharing news, updates, media releases, testimonies, statements, public service announcements, accomplishments, job announcements, documents of all types and reporting live from events. ILRI uses a Twitter account to share syndicated news from its various blogs and website to expand the coverage and visibility of that information. Occasionally, for large events, the Communication team uses the ILRI Twitter account to report some updates and developments using the event hashtag (which allows finding all Twitter messages related to the event, e.g. #rio20, #livestockX).

ILRI encourages individual ILRI staff members to use their personal Twitter account to re-tweet (share as a sign of appreciation) news coming from the ILRI Twitter account.


Facebook is an online social networking site where members share news and personal updates, create photo albums, post photos and videos, exchange instant messages with other members, send private messages to other members, find friends, add friends and become fans of groups and organizations. Much like Twitter ILRI does not actively maintain its physical Facebook presence, but uses the page as another channel to disseminate news from the ILRI website and other information outlets (particularly blogs).

ILRI’s Facebook page allows fans to post links, status updates and to comment on ILRI’s post.

The Communication team monitors content posted by fans. Inappropriate content and spam items are reported and removed.

ILRI occasionally uses other social media (e.g. Pinterest, SurveyMonkey etc.) but these uses are not frequent and institutionalized enough to be mentioned here.

[1] Blogs, Wikispace wikis, Twitter, Yammer, Slideshare, FlickR, BlipTV, Facebook, Pinterest and others…

[e1]Add link and correct highlight above