So you need a social media policy….

The following post is by Jennifer Doak, who joined the CASE staff as online communications specialist in September after working in communications for the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. Jen holds a master’s degree in communication, culture and technology from Georgetown University and will contribute to CASE’s growing efforts to engage members online through the website, communities and more.

So your institution boasts an official Facebook page, a Twitter account and a YouTube channel, and people are taking notice. But then you find out that there are several other fan pages, a rogue alumni LinkedIn group, and some student-generated blogs. And now your colleague wants to set up a campus Flickr account. What do you do?

You need to get yourself a social media policy. The purpose for an institutional social media policy is to guide users toward establishing online presences responsibly while representing the school brand—without being overly draconian or negative. Ball State University, the University of Oregon and DePaul University all balance this tension well.

People will inevitably want to understand why you’re establishing these rules, especially in new media, where both transparency and intellectual freedom are high priorities. Answering “because” may work for your kids, but it won’t work for your colleagues, faculty or students. Duke University’s social media policy does a good job of providing rationale in a succinct, reasonable way.

The policy should then provide a series of questions to get the reader thinking about why and how he or she intends to use any given tool. No matter what shiny new toy becomes the next viral preoccupation, you and your colleagues always need to start by considering who their audience is and what they’re trying to accomplish.

Many policies offer students, faculty and staff guidelines rather than hard-and-fast-rules suggesting, for example, that to be successful in social media you should be transparent, respectful, and discreet. Others advise reviewing posts carefully to make sure it’s what you want to say.

After that, your policy can incorporate any number of issues. I’ve included a list of readily available social media policies below, but the best include:

  • A directory of the institution’s social media accounts and how groups can add to the list.
  • Best practices that include tips about monitoring, responding to comments and correcting mistakes. Some policies even provide information on social media strategy.
  • Differences between personal and institutional use of social media.
  • Privacy recommendations for both personal and institutional social networking.
  • Copyright and fair use resources for images, video, text and other content.

Amanda Vandervort, a former director of online marketing for Women’s Professional Soccer, has an excellent post outlining 15 university social media policies. She highlights three (the University of Oregon, DePaul University, and Vanderbilt) as having especially comprehensive guidelines. The excellent .eduGuru also has a nice list of resources for social media policies.

Here are some examples:

Ball State University
Central Community College(Nebraska)
Colorado State
DePaul University (also includes alumni guidelines)
Duke University
Grand Valley State
Hamilton College
University of Michigan
University of Oregon
Seattle University
St. Edward’s University
University of Essex (UK)
University of Texas
Vanderbilt University
Washington University in St. Louis

CASE includes a list of online social media policies that have been submitted by members on its website and welcomes additional submissions.

And lastly, here are some resources from outside higher education: Corporate social media guidelines, other miscellaneous organization social media guidelines, social media participation guidelines (via Social Media Today), and an online disclosure best practices toolkit.

5 responses to “So you need a social media policy….

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