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 the University of Puget Sound, all administrators of social media need to remain courteous and professional at all times.
Make it clear that your social media account is part of the University of Puget Sound. Include “University of Puget Sound” or “Puget Sound” in the 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 University of Puget Sound manages the account.
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. Still, 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 to 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. Still, 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 promptly 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 News Tribune's front page. It would be best if you also considered 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 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 Office of Communications, or your department head before responding. It is often not the best policy to 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 attempted to rebut a comment.
It is recommended to delete comments or posts containing profanity, obvious spam, and any discriminatory or otherwise offensive messages. You may consider posting a disclaimer on your social media site to reserve the right to remove such comments.
Separate personal and professional social media.
Keep content appropriate to your personal accounts off your professional sites and vice versa. If your social media presence represents your Puget Sound department, group, organization, or activity, you are also representing your own professional reputation and the college. Even on your personal site or when posting on university accounts and pages, if you indicate that you are affiliated with Puget Sound, visitors to the site may perceive that you are speaking on behalf of the college. 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/email addresses you don’t recognize or providing your account information to sources that aren't secure.
Also related to security, pay attention to your accounts' privacy and security settings, especially on Facebook. Consider carefully where you post certain media, as some sites may have policies about using 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, interest them in a new outlet to learn more about the university, and 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 email signature (check our email signature guidelines 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. Try to carefully pick your messaging for the appropriate media and target audience for each channel and tweak your post/content accordingly.
Know the rules.
Be sure you’re familiar with the terms and policies of social media sites in which you engage and 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:
Flickr Community Guidelines: flickr.com/guidelines