Social Media @ UNI

Best practices for social media

Many of the same best practices for using social media apply to both the administrator of an account and as a user/contributor of other sites. The suggestions and best practices outlined here can help you use these channels effectively, protect your personal and professional reputation, and follow university guidelines. Social media and how to best use it is a moving target, changing as social media and how it's is used evolves. These guidelines should spark conversations among social media practitioners on campus to learn from each other as we explore these emerging platforms.

Transparency

  • If you participate in or maintain a social media site on behalf of the university, or if you choose to post about UNI on your personal time, clearly state your affiliation, role and goals. Never hide your identity for the purpose of promoting UNI through social media.
  • When creating your channel, note in the description that it is the official presence of your department in that channel.
  • If you identify yourself as a member of the UNI community via a non-UNI social media site, where you are not the administrator, please clarify that you are sharing your views as an individual, not as a formal representative of UNI.
  • A common practice among individuals who write about the industry in which they work is to include a disclaimer on their site, usually on their "About Me" page, such as: "The views expressed on this [blog, website] are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Northern Iowa." This is particularly important if you are a department head, faculty member or administrator.

Responsibility

  • There's no such thing as a truly "private" social media site: search engines can turn up posts years after the publication date, comments can be forwarded or copied and archival systems save information even if you delete a post.
  • Once you publish something through social media, you lose a degree of control of your message. Be certain before you post something that you are prepared to share it with a potential audience of millions.
  • You are legally liable for what you post on your own site and on the sites of others. Individual bloggers have been held liable for commentary deemed to be proprietary, copyrighted, defamatory, libelous or obscene (as defined by the courts). Be sure that what you post today will not come back to haunt you.
  • Make sure that you have all the facts before you post. Cite and link to your sources whenever possible. If you make an error, correct it quickly and visibly; doing so will earn you respect in the online community.

Respect and Civility

  • As a member of the UNI community, it is imperative that you engage in thoughtful and respectful dialogue. Your reputation, and UNI's, is best served when you remain above the fray.
  • If users post criticisms of your interest or organization, do not outright delete or suppress such postings if they are valid points to consider. Feel free to correct misinformation, but don't engage in heated arguments.
  • Feel free to delete irrelevant or vulgar posts.
  • If you feel a post is threatening in nature or otherwise meriting greater concern, contact University Relations for advice. Likewise, steer clear of posting about controversial topics. You can always monitor conversations via social media about controversial topics via search tools.
  • Be aware of the terms of service for each social media service, as they may provide guidance in addressing certain posts or comments: 

Representation and Endorsements

  • You should only make an account in the name of a UNI department  if you are authorized to represent that department.
  • Don't speak outside of your expertise. If someone asks you a question outside of your expertise, try to direct the person to the proper resource.
  • UNI is a non-profit institution. Commercial promotion via university social media channels, e.g. a discount at a local pizza chain for students, is not allowed. If a business posts an irrelevant advertisement or solicitation on your Facebook wall, for instance, feel free to delete it.
  • Postings by the community on university-run social media accounts (e.g. Facebook wall postings, YouTube video comments) do not imply endorsement of that content by UNI.
  • Do not use  the University of Northern Iowa name to promote or endorse any product, cause or political party or candidate. Avoid conflicts of interest and maintain a distinction between your personal identity and the identity you represent on behalf of the university.
  • If you have any questions about whether it is appropriate to post certain material in your role as a employee, ask your supervisor before you post.

Presence and Maintenance

  • All social media platforms are fairly intuitive and easy to set up. While there are added layers of functionality or strategies of use you may employ, that will depend on how much time you have committed to developing your social media presence.
  • Be present and responsive, and you will gain credibility and value. If you have a social media outpost and someone finds you, they may engage with you and expect a response. It could be a prospective student asking about an application deadline or a parent asking for the schedule of an event. Establishing and then deserting a social media outpost could reflect poorly on the university.
    • Tip: Software applications such as Tweetdeck and Seesmic can help you organize your use and monitoring of Twitter. You can set up Google Blog Alerts by keyword. Also, services like Social Mention allow you to monitor multiple social media services at once.
  • When it comes to frequency of updates, how frequently you update your social media account depends on the channel and how much content you have. On Twitter, users are used to frequent updates—if you have enough news or information to tweet (or retweet) six times a day, then go for it. That said, if you only find reason to tweet once a day, that's fine, too. For a Facebook fan page, an average of once a day is reasonable. For a video or photo service like Flickr or YouTube, where content is less likely to be fed en masse into a user's stream, update according to how much content you have available. If you have a video a day or a video a month, either is fine. If you have no photos for three weeks before receiving 50 from a recent event, feel free to add them all at once.
  • You may consider giving multiple people in your department access to post if you feel that will help the page remain more up-to-date.
    • Tip: Facebook allows for multiple administrators on a page. Each administrator, however, must have a personal Facebook accounta and be a "Friend" of the main administrator.

Community Building

  • Be personable and accessible, while keeping in mind all of the guidelines offered here. Having a personality and a voice will help you build your audience.
  • If you've been communicating via social media for a while, stop and assess. Has it been helpful? Have you built an audience? Have you advanced your goals? If not, you may reconsider your engagement in social media. However, keep in mind that it takes time to integrate social media into your workflow, so be sure to evaluate that process, as well.
  • Once you have established your social media presence, cross-promote in your various channels. If you have a brochure or a website, drive people to your social media channels, and vice versa. Just because people are very active with your Twitter account doesn't mean they don't need a pamphlet or an updated website.
  • Connect with other social media managers and users at UNI. Visit our Social Media main page to see who else is out there and build relationships with groups that align with your audience or interests. Share content and links to each other's channels.
  • Don't judge your success solely on numbers. While it is tempting to use views, fans or followers as a metric by which to assess your engagement in social media, it is not the ideal measurement. In social media, quality trumps quantity. Every community is different. You may have just 33 followers on Twitter, but if you are cultivating a highly engaged community, the number means little.

Confidentiality and Security

  • Do not post confidential or proprietary information about Tufts, its students, its alumni or your fellow employees. Use ethical judgment and follow university policies and federal requirements, such as FERPA.
  • Do not collect sensitive information—such as phone numbers, student ID numbers, Social Security numbers, payment information, etc.—via social media, as those are not secure channels.
  • If you discuss a situation involving individuals on a social media site, be sure that they cannot be identified.
  • As a guideline, don't post anything that you would not present at a conference.

Visual Identity

  • If you have been authorized by your supervisor to create an official social media site or a video for posting in locations such as YouTube, please contact University Relations:
    • For visual identity and branding guidelines.
    • For information on approved logos, wordmarks and other images.
    • To ensure coordination with other UNI websites and to learn about ways to promote your social media channel.
  • Do not use the UNI logo, or any other UNI marks or images on your personal online sites.