Introduction and Definitions
Social media offers a new set of tools for communication with the potential for significant impact on institutional and professional reputations. Because social media can blur the lines between the personal and the professional, Ursinus College has crafted this set of guidelines to help members of the college community protect and promote institutional and professional reputations when using social media.
Social media is defined as any set of accessible technologies and channels targeted at forming and enabling a community of participants to interact and collaborate. Social media sites include the following:
- Social networking sites (e.g. LinkedIn, Facebook, Plaxo, Hi5, etc.)
- Social sharing sites (e.g. YouTube, SlideShare, Flickr, etc.)
- Forums and discussion boards
- Microblogging sites (e.g. Twitter, identi.ca, Jaiku, etc.)
- Social bookmarking sites (e.g. Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit, etc.)
- Review sites (Epinions, Yelp, ChoiceVendor, etc.)
Define “Affiliate College Social Media Site”….
When fulfilling institutional or professional roles, employees should follow the same standards of behavior online as they would in face-to-face, phone, and other types of interactions. The same laws, expectations, and guidelines for interacting with students, parents, alumni, donors, and other constituents apply.
Employees are responsible for their interactions on social media sites.
If you plan to use social media in your official capacity as an employee of Ursinus College, please respect the the following steps, guidelines for use & best practices listed below:
Notify the college: Departments / offices / organizations that currently have a social media page or would like to start one should contact firstname.lastname@example.org. We will add your department/ organization to a campus directory of social media opportunities.
We suggest that all institutional pages have 2 full-time appointed employees who are identified as being responsible for content.
Formulate a plan: Departments should consider their messages, audiences, and goals, as well as a strategy for keeping information on social media sites up-to-date.
Link back to the college’s website: When possible, link back to the Ursinus College website. Ideally, posts should be brief, and end with a link to content on the college’s website.
Be professional: Posts on social media sites that are affiliated with the College should follow the College’s voice by remaining professional in tone and in good taste.
Guidelines for Effective Use of Social Media
The keys to success in social media are being honest about who you are, being thoughtful before you post, and respecting the purpose of the community where you are posting. If you post on behalf of an official College unit, the following guidelines apply:
- Include your name, title, and department, where appropriate.
- Include the goal or purpose of the site.
Be accurate. Make sure that you have all the facts before you post. It’s better to verify information with a source first than to have to post a correction or retraction later. Cite and link to your sources whenever possible; after all, that’s how you build community. If you make an error, correct it quickly and visibly. This will earn you respect in the online community.
Thoroughly and consistently monitor the site:
- Do not host or share confidential or propriety College information.
- Provide only information that can be verified. Do not present false or misleading information. Include links and references to other websites where appropriate.
- Provide constructive comments with the aim of adding value to the conversation.
- Maintain content to keep it directly related to the topic of your site. Do not include any inappropriate personal information.
Be aware of your audience. Post news, events and items that are relevant to your target audience. With the influx of information in the web era, your readers will be quick to ignore or delete you if your information is not helpful to them.
Keep it updated. Online news is instant, so readers are looking for the most up-to-date information they can find.
These practices apply to individuals posting on behalf of the College or an official College unit, though they also are helpful for anyone posting on social media in any capacity.
A. Think twice before posting. Privacy does not exist in the world of social media. Consider what could happen if a post becomes widely known and how that may reflect both on the poster and the College. Search engines can turn up posts years after they are created, and comments can be forwarded or copied. If you would not say it at a conference or to a member of the media, consider whether you should post it online. If you are unsure about posting something or responding to a comment, ask your supervisor for input or contact the College Communications Office.
B. Be respectful. Understand that content contributed to a social media site could encourage comments or discussion of opposing ideas. Responses should be considered carefully in light of how they would reflect on the poster and/or the College and its institutional voice. You are more likely to achieve your goals or sway others to your beliefs if you are constructive and respectful while discussing a bad experience or disagreeing with a concept or person.
C. Be active. Social media presences require diligent care and attention. An effective social media site requires regular updates and fresh or engaging content.
D. On personal sites, identify your views as your own, where appropriate. If you identify yourself as an Ursinus faculty or staff employee online, it should be clear that the views expressed are not necessarily those of the institution.
E. Should I create a Facebook Page or a Facebook Group?
If your primary audience is external (meaning you want to share your program’s activities and info with the public and invite people to get involved), please create a “Fan” Page. If your primary audience is internal (meaning you’re not trying to market or communicate your program or division to the public in any way and would prefer a more private, moderated discussion), please create a “Group” Page. Check out this helpful article by Howard Greenstein on Mashable.com, “Facebook Pages vs. Facebook Groups: What’s the Difference?” for more ideas on which one would work best.
- Contact your supervisor when discussions involve sensitive subjects.
- Obtain appropriate written permission before publishing, transmitting, or storing copyrighted or intellectual property content on a College Affiliated Site.
- Quickly recall a post or respond quickly when asked for correction when you make a mistake.
- Apply common sense and exercise good judgment, discretion, and thoughtfulness when posting content on social media channels. Strive for high quality in content.
- Be respectful of comments received. Listen and read them carefully before posting your responses.
- Use social media channels responsibly; you are representing Ursinus College on an affiliated College site.
- Moderate your site to make sure nothing is posted by others that violates confidentiality, policies, or laws.
- Be aware that information conveyed on an Affiliated College Site are statements of the College, and be cognizant of how that information will be perceived by all readers.
- Effective social media commentary should be informational rather than overtly promotional.
- Blog comments should be responded to within a reasonable period of time.
- Twitter is a conversational platform, not a broadcasting medium.
- While the tone of blog posts and other social media content is informal (not “corporate speak”) it should nonetheless be professional.
- All posted content is subject to review.
- Everything online has the potential to become public.
- Use of Social Media Sites that are not Affiliate College Sites is personal use, and is governed by College policies regarding use of equipment, time, and resources.
- Privacy policies change often. It is your responsibility to be informed about and regularly review the privacy policies of the social media you are using.