The following items are best practices to consider as you represent Puget Sound via social media.
Anything you post via social media reflects on the university. As ambassadors of University of Puget Sound, it’s important for all administrators of social media to remain courteous and professional at all times.
Make it clear that your social media account is part of University of Puget Sound. Include “University of Puget Sound” or “Puget Sound” in title of the account, if possible, and explain in the profile or information tab for the account that it is affiliated with the college.
It may be beneficial to specify who is posting to your social media account. You can do this either by including the name(s) and role(s) of the poster(s) in the bio/profile information for the account, or by tagging posts with a poster’s initials (if multiple people are contributing to the same account). If you have multiple contributors but prefer to present a “united front” and one voice for your office, department, or program, that’s OK. The important thing is to be clear that the account is managed by University of Puget Sound.
Listen and respond.
“Listening” to the communications on your social media accounts (and others’) is a key part of being successful in such a venture. Of course it is imperative to pay attention to and respond to posts from your fans and followers, but it is also important to follow other accounts (related to Puget Sound, higher education, your specific niche, etc.) that may post content of use and interest to your followers so you can share that information. This additional content adds value for your followers.
Even more than on regular websites, social media requires regular attention and posting. If people find your site inactive or boring, they’ll drop it. Social media doesn’t have to take an extensive amount of time every day, but those responsible for social media accounts should plan to spend at least a few minutes each day devoted to checking in on their sites: posting fresh content, reposting appropriate content from sources other than the college, responding to queries from followers, searching to see what others are saying about you, etc. If you can’t devote time to this important task, don’t start a social media account.
Note: It’s important to note how easy it is to get caught up in the always-changing world of social media. There is so much research and commentary out there that it can be distracting. While it’s good to schedule time to keep up on social media research occasionally, you may have to be diligent to stay on top of your social media channels without letting them take over the rest of your workload.
Related to being active on social media is the concept of being relevant. Think quality over quantity. Don’t assume you need to post every day to gain or keep subscribers. Fans and followers want useful information. If you have an event coming up, exciting news about your department, an interesting article about your discipline, etc., share it. You don’t need to fabricate information to post. If your audience knows they can rely on you (your social media account) to provide the information they need to stay connected to your office, department, or program, plus interesting and useful bonus material, you’ve done your job.
Social media is an immediate medium. People expect information posted quickly, which is sometimes difficult in a large organization prone to checking and re-checking or deciding things by committee. A small amount of accurate information provided in a timely manner via social media channels can be much more valuable than a more extensive report delivered too late to be of any use. However, keep in mind that…
Everything online lives forever.
Think before you post. Nothing on the Web is truly private, even if you think it’s on a closed network. It can easily be shared and could spread globally. Not to mention long-term storage of information—Twitter recently gave its archived posts to the Library of Congress for posterity. A good rule of thumb is not to post anything you wouldn’t be comfortable seeing on the front page of The News Tribune. In addition you must consider confidentiality when determining what information is appropriate to post, including laws such as FERPA, by which we are required to abide. For more information on FERPA, please see www.pugetsound.edu/academics/academic-offices/academic-advising-registrar/know-educational-rights.
Accept and monitor comments.
Social media is, by definition, social. Therefore in most cases, you should be prepared to accept, moderate, and respond to comments relatively promptly. Understand at the outset that not all comments will be positive. Consider your response (or whether you choose to make one in certain circumstances) carefully, perhaps discussing it with colleagues in your department, the Social Media Users Group, or your department head before responding. It is often not the best policy to just delete comments that say things you don’t want to hear, as the backlash from that kind of censorship can be more harmful than the original comment itself. Sometimes your staunch supporters will come to your defense instead, which is often even more effective than if the university itself had made an attempt to rebut a comment. It is recommended to delete comments or posts that contain profanity, obvious spam, and any messages that are discriminatory or otherwise offensive. You may consider posting a disclaimer on your social media site that you reserve the right to remove such comments.
Separate personal and professional social media.
While your family and friends may love to see your vacation photos, your Puget Sound fans and followers couldn’t care less about them. Nor should they. Keep content appropriate to your personal accounts off your professional sites, and vice versa. That said, even when you’re commenting on a post on a different site as a representative of Puget Sound, include who you are and your affiliation with the university. If you see something you think merits an official university response, please contact the Office of Communications.
Make sure you follow high-security protocols with your social media passwords. If someone hacks your personal account, that’s an inconvenience. If someone hacks your university account, there’s a much larger problem. You could lose access to that whole account, and worse, someone unknown could potentially post inappropriate things that look like they’re coming from the university.
Use passwords that follow Technology Services’ guidelines for data security, such as using uppercase and lowercase letters, not using easy-to-guess words and phrases, using numbers and special characters in your password, etc. For instance instead of “password,” a better option would be “P@ssw0rd#.” And always be wary of clicking on links from users/accounts/e-mail addresses you don’t recognize or providing your account information to unsecure sources.
Also related to security, pay attention to the privacy and security settings on your accounts, especially on Facebook. Consider carefully where you post certain media, as some sites may have policies about being able to use your images indiscriminately without your permission.
Mention on Facebook when your website is updated or post a link to a new Flickr photoset you’ve uploaded. Tweet about a new video you just posted on your website or YouTube. This can be interesting to your audiences, may interest them in a new outlet to learn more about the university, and may potentially drive traffic to your website.
Consider other ways to promote your efforts outside social media, as well, such as including your social media information in promotional materials, posting an invitation to follow you on Facebook on your website, or even including a link to your Facebook and other social media sites in your university e-mail signature (check the Graphic Standards Manual for details). See Step 4 in the Getting Started section for more ideas.
While cross-promoting can be beneficial, be cautious about posting the same information to multiple media, such as regularly posting the same information on your blog, Facebook page, and Twitter feed—especially at the same time. When people make identical posts on multiple media, followers can easily see that these are not uniquely tended outlets. It can turn people off. Pick your messaging carefully for the appropriate media and target audience for each piece of information. This isn’t to say you’ll never post about something on more than one type of media, just be cautious about doing it regularly. Or at least take the time to craft different messages about the same topic for each outlet rather than spamming an identical message across multiple media.
Know the rules.
Be sure you’re familiar with the terms and policies of social media sites in which you engage, but also be sure you’re familiar with all university policies related to social media (by reviewing this handbook and the policies referenced).
Some resources to help you stay abreast of the policies and inner workings of some of the more popular media sites include:
Facebook Help Center: www.facebook.com/privacy/explanation.php#!/help/?ref=drop
Facebook Privacy Guide: www.facebook.com/privacy/explanation.php
Inside Facebook Blog: www.insidefacebook.com
Flickr Community Guidelines: www.flickr.com/guidelines.gne