Social media guidelines

Background

Social media has changed the way we communicate and continues to evolve every day. The University of Akron is embracing the use of social media, as it can be a powerful tool:

  • to strengthen relationships with students, alumni and other important audiences; and
  • to build college or department brands in support of the UA brand of energy and innovation.

However, it’s important to also be aware of the challenges. These guidelines are meant to provide a framework for the effective and acceptable use of social media when representing the UA brand.


Scope of guidelines

These guidelines apply to the full range of social media tools, including, but not limited, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and blogs. The guidelines apply to any UA office or department that is using the tools in a UA-sanctioned, UA-branded capacity to promote their programs and services or to communicate with their publics.

The use of these tools for instructional purposes is out of the scope of these guidelines; for assistance in this realm, contact Instructional Services.

Offices and departments that wish to author a UA-sanctioned social media tool should first contact University Communications and Marketing for training, branding and communication guidance. Technical questions and problems may be directed to Instructional Services.

To help drive traffic to your social media, University Communications and Marketing will add your site to the list of UA-sanctioned and UA-branded social media sites that is being updated routinely by colleges and departments. The page will also contain a link to these guidelines.

Guideline basics

Definitions

For the purpose of these guidelines, a “post” is considered information uploaded by a UA faculty or staff member on a UA-sanctioned social media site. A “comment” is defined as information uploaded by readers, often in response to posts.

UA social media sites are a great way to share information and engage your community. Depending on your site, your audience may include students, staff, faculty, alumni, donors, retirees, friends and community members.

Consider the following:

Goals and Objectives

Why do you want to create a social media presence? What are the messages you will be communicating? Does a similar social media channel already exist?

Audience

Who is the audience for your social media content? Is it students? Alumni? Multiple audiences? Keep in mind that social media is public and can be seen by anyone, even if they are not a part of your intended audience.

Content

By definition, social media is meant to be…social! The best content is that which encourages your audiences to take action and engage. This could include clicking on a link, liking a status update, sharing a photo, or answering a question. You want to post content that will be helpful, informative, interesting, or entertaining. It’s fine to share content from third parties (with credit) if it will be useful to your audience. Have fun with it!

  • What content would your audience like to share with their friends?
  • What content already exists in other forms (Web, print, newsletters, e-mail) that you could utilize on social media?
  • What original content could you post on social media?
  • What problem can you solve for your audience?

Additionally, the profile photos, background images, and account descriptions should reflect both the UA brand and convey information about the department or unit running the account. Images should be high quality and sized appropriately. Contact University Communications and Marketing for assistance.

Administering Your Accounts

Identify which staff members will be dedicating their time to managing your social media accounts. You may have someone dedicated to social media, but this is not always the case. Someone who manages your marketing, communication, or has an interest in social media could fulfill this role. Additionally, you may assign this responsibility to a student. Keep in mind that while students may be using social media in their own lives, they may not have the knowledge or experience when it comes to speaking for UA and should be supervised and trained appropriately. Even if only one staff member will be updating your social media accounts, it is important to assign multiple administrators who have access to any passwords.

Posting Frequency and Timing

Once you have determined the content that you will post, establish a regular posting pattern. Will you post something new every day? Will you post in the evening or only during business hours? How about weekends? You want to post content at times convenient to your audience, so this may take some experimenting in the beginning.

For Facebook, try to post once a day if possible (three to five times a week if that seems too daunting in the beginning!). You can post many times throughout the day to Twitter. Many find it helpful to schedule social media posts in advance to space content out throughout the day.

Even if you are not posting new content every day, staff should be checking the accounts daily to answer any questions or monitor spam.


Managing comments

By creating and making use of social media tools, UA does not intend to create and is not creating public forums.

The views and opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of UA, its leadership, its Board of Trustees or any of its employees. All information posted must comply with federal and state laws and the policies and rules of the UA Board of Trustees. All information must comply with applicable copyright law.

UA reserves the right to remove any posts or comments that UA determines is in violation of any law, regulation, policy, rule, or is obscene, lewd, lascivious, excessively violent, harassing or otherwise objectionable. Such posts or comments should be captured (with a screen shot, ideally) and University Communications and Marketing (ext. 5899) should be notified.

Response to critical comments

UA values openness and the free exchange of ideas. We recognize that the two-way exchange of information is intrinsic to social media tools, and that the public airing of constructive criticism will be part of this exchange. Generally, UA will not approve or endorse any comments posted. However, there are times when user comments on UA-sanctioned social media sites will be brought to the University’s attention. These guidelines are intended, in part, to help inform the decision-making concerning such comments.

  • When the comments are a rant or rage (when the commenter’s objective is to ridicule or satirize): UA personnel are generally encouraged to ignore rants and rages. Such rants violate the norms of the social networking world, and oftentimes, other members, on their own, will react constructively to rectify the situation.
  • When the comments are (1) clearly and demonstrably inaccurate and (2) the accuracy of the comment could create confusion or pose a reputational or business risk to UA: In that scenario, UA encourages the posting of a courteous response with correct information, along with some identification that the post is coming from an authorized representative of UA (e.g., “This is Stan and I work in University Communications and Marketing at UA. I noticed Steve’s earlier post today, and I want to offer some context and correct a point he made…”).  If you have questions, University Communications and Marketing can provide guidance.
  • When the comments describe an experience that did not meet the expectations of a student or parent, UA personnel should consider posting a comment that explains who they are and either describes the situation, rectifies it or offers to continue the conversation offline, whichever is appropriate. Call University Communications and Marketing at ext. 5899 for guidance, if needed.

Other considerations

  • Promotion-oriented posts and comments: On UA-sanctioned social media sites, office and departments are permitted to promote outside interests only when UA is directly involved in the activity through participation, sponsorship or partnership with one of its recognized organizations, colleges or departments. Further, UA departments and offices will discourage readers from posting comments that have the primary purpose of promoting commercial interests outside of UA.
  • Copyright: Posting of copyrighted materials is the sole responsibility of the author(s), which includes the obligation to acquire all permissions from copyright owners.
  • Ownership and backups: Departments and offices are encouraged to ensure that more than one person is capable of managing both the technical and content-generation aspects of the tools used. This includes ensuring that more than one person has the current password to access the site(s) at all times. Such passwords should be held securely, and they should be changed periodically.

Need help?

For assistance, contact:

Jessica Bixby
University Communications and Marketing
Ext. 5899
jbixby@uakron.edu