I spend a lot of time volunteering with college students – most of which is spent with my fraternity, Sigma Phi Epsilon. I just received communication from the national organization about representation on social media. The message was intended more for undergraduates than alumni (I think!), but I found it interesting enough to share. We are familiar with more and more workplaces developing social media policies to help protect their brand value. Believe it or not, fraternities (and sororities) are in the same boat. They have a brand to maintain, and with thousands of representatives of that brand all over the nation, it can be difficult to maintain. Especially when there is an interest to reject the “frat boy” stereotype of boozing and womanizing.
What makes it an added challenge is that we’re working with people age 18-22 (generally) who are in the habit of documenting their lives on social media such as Facebook. Posting a photo of you and your buddies hoisting up beer cans or the ubiquitous red Solo cup are badges of honor in a Facebook profile. This isn’t just a Greek Life thing, it’s a college student, high school student, young person thing. We have all seen these types of photos on Facebook. But, the dynamic changes when you’re representing an organization and not just yourself. It will be interesting to see if any national organizations impose a social media conduct policy with consequences for violations.
After all, these are brands built over hundreds of years. Keeping “incriminating” photos off of Facebook isn’t going to protect the brand (it’s made up of so many other factors), but the types of photos that are celebrated on Facebook tend to be the type that entrench Greeks in the negative stereotypes. Don’t get me wrong – these students are doing this to themselves. But they’re affecting a brand that’s larger than them – just like employees who carelessly post can have an affect on the company they work for/represent. We’ll see what happens over time as we deal with a population that’s even more and more entrenched in technology and social media and a habit of documenting their lives – good and bad.
Here is the friendly reminder to the undergrads of SigEp:
“In today’s world, everybody must learn to be careful about how they are portrayed on the internet, particularly on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. We must all be careful about privacy settings, and about what gets posted on a profile, group or fan page—whether public or private. More and more employers are using these sites to look at potential employees every day. University administrators are also using these sites to learn more about their students and campus. As brothers in Sigma Phi Epsilon, we should think about how we are portrayed on these websites, and how our actions reflect upon the Fraternity as a whole.
Be conscious of how your chapter brothers are using social media sites, individually and on chapter accounts. Chapter members should not be identifying themselves as SigEps via usernames, titles, captions, clothing, etc. if they are participating in inappropriate or unlawful behavior, using illegal substances, or failing to live up to the Cardinal Principles of Virtue, Diligence and Brotherly Love.”