While the tools of social media are easily accessible, the rules of the road are not necessarily intuitive. It’s a new communications landscape out there, with tremendous opportunity but also a lot to learn.
We developed these guidelines to provide everyone at the university—from communications professionals to department administrators—with basic guidance on how to best use social media toward communications goals, both as the owner of an account and as a user/contributor. The suggestions and best practices outlined here can help you use these channels effectively, protect your personal and professional reputation, and follow university guidelines. We also hope that these guidelines spark conversations among social media practitioners on campus to learn from each other as we explore these emerging platforms.
Please consult your school communications or web content manager for additional guidance or school-specific guidelines. For information about style, branding and visual identity, please consult our social media style and branding guide.
Responsibility | Respect and Civility | Transparency, Representation and Endorsements | Presence and Maintenance | Community Building | Confidentiality and Security
- In short: think twice, publish once.
- 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 responsible 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.
- If you manage a social media channel, discuss with your supervisor when you are empowered to respond directly to users and when you may need approval.
- As a member of the Tufts community, it is imperative that you engage in thoughtful and respectful dialogue. Your reputation, and Tufts’, 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. Let the comments stand. Correct misinformation, but don’t engage in heated arguments. Often, the community will correct itself and step in to correct inaccuracies or defend the institution. If this happens and is sufficient to resolve the issue, there may be no need for an additional official response.
- Feel free to delete irrelevant or vulgar posts.
- If you feel a post is threatening in nature or otherwise meriting greater concern, contact Digital Communications for advice. Likewise, steer clear of posting about controversial topics. You can always monitor conversations via social media about controversial topics via search tools.
- Tip: The Air Force provides a good workflow [JPG] to model for assessing posts/comments.
- Tip: Here is another great guide from DePaul on handling negative comments .
- When creating your channel, note in the description that it is the official presence of your department.
- You should only make an account in the name of a recognized Tufts entity if you are authorized to represent that entity. Discuss with your supervisor when you are empowered to respond directly to users and when you may need approval, or if you have questions about the appropriateness of certain content for posting.
- If you identify yourself as a member of the Tufts community via your personal social media presence(s), please clarify that you are sharing your views as an individual, not as a formal representative of Tufts. In addition, never conceal your identity for the purpose of promoting Tufts through social media.
- 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.
- Tufts is a non-profit institution. We discourage commercial promotion via university social media channels, e.g. a discount at a local pizza chain for Tufts students. 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 Tufts. If a business posts an irrelevant advertisement or solicitation on your Facebook wall, for instance, feel free to delete it.
- Do not use the Tufts 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.
- 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.
Be sure to monitor replies and comments. Check at least once a day and respond promptly.
- When it comes to frequency of updates, it depends on the channel and how much content you have. Use a editorial calendar to schedule content creation (and subsequent publication) more efficiently. Don’t hoard content and post it all at once. However, here are some general guidelines:
- Generally speaking, on Twitter, users are used to frequent updates. 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 account.
- Measurement and analytics are key to assessing your success in social media.
- When sharing links via social media, use a service such as bit.ly to create shortened, trackable URLs.
- Study the data provided by the respective analytics functions in Facebook (Insights), YouTube (Insights) and Flickr (Stats).
- Determine relevant statistics and track them over time.
- Match analytics information against content and engagement to determine what caused certain results.
- Use this information to better understand your audience and to inform content decisions.
- 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.
- Tip: View three examples of voice as applied by other Tufts entities on Twitter [PDF]. While they all differ, they all also work.
- Once you have established your social media presence, cross-promote in your various channels, both online and offline. 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 Tufts. 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.
- Success with building community via social media is not an end result; it is a process. You have to be present and engaged consistently over time, and you have to measure the effectiveness of that engagement over time.
- 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.
Last updated: Nov. 16, 2011
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