Social media guidelines

RELATED: See the social media accounts across campus

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.

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 platforms, including, but not limited to, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram. 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. These guidelines also do not apply to private/personal social media accounts.


Account creation & administration

Creating a new account

Offices and departments that wish to author a UA-sanctioned social media account should first fill out the Social Media Account Request Form contact University Communications and Marketing for training, branding and communication guidance.

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

Social Media Account Request Form

Administering Your Accounts

Identify which staff members will be dedicating their time to managing your social media accounts. Even if only one staff member will be updating your social media accounts, it is important to assign multiple administrators (at least two) who have access to any passwords. 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 but 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. They should be supervised and trained appropriately and/or require content approval by another administrator.

If an employee who is administrator leaves UA or no longer wishes to be an account administrator, it is the department or college's responsibility to remove that person as administrator and designate another employee to that role.


Social media basics

Social media is a great way to share information and engage your community. Depending on your platform, your audience may include students, staff, faculty, alumni, donors, retirees, friends and community members.

Consider the following:

Goals and Objectives

  • What do you hope to achieve through a social media presence?
  • What content can you create that supports your goal?
  • What do you want your followers to do?

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 commenting, 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 reputable third parties (with credit) if it will be useful to your audience.
  • Have fun with it!

Creating content

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

Additionally, whenever you mention another organization or brand in your post or comment, best practice is to tag them (@_____) in it.

Brand standards

The profile pictures, cover photos, and account descriptions should reflect the UA brand as well as 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.

Posting frequency and timing

Once you have determined the content that you will post, establish a regular posting pattern. You will need to decide how often you will post and when. 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 and no fewer than three times per week. You can post many times throughout each day on Twitter. Industry standard is 3-6 posts per week on Facebook, 2-4 posts per day on Twitter, and 3+ posts per week on Instagram. Many find it helpful to schedule social media posts in advance.

Even if you are not posting new content every day, staff should be checking the accounts daily to answer any questions in a timely fashion or monitor spam. Please note that this also extends to weekends, holidays, and after business hours.


Social media guidelines

UA employees and administrators of social media accounts are expected to adhere to the same standards of conduct online as they would in the workplace.

Content:

  • Do not post content that is threatening, obscene, or otherwise injurious or illegal.
  • Use good judgment and consider possible reactions to or different interpretations of your content.

Promotion-oriented posts and comments:

  • On UA-sanctioned social media accounts, office and departments are only permitted to promote outside interests when UA is directly involved in the activity through participation, sponsorship or partnership with one of its recognized organizations, colleges or departments.
  • UA’s name and accounts may not be used to endorse any product, personal opinion, private business, cause, or political candidate.
  • UA departments and offices will discourage users from posting comments that have the primary purpose of promoting commercial interests outside of UA.

Copyright:

  • Posting of copyrighted materials – including but not limited to photos, video, and music – is the sole responsibility of the author(s), which includes the obligation to acquire all permissions from copyright owners.

Privacy:

  • UA must adhere to laws and regulations regarding privacy, including the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPPA), and NCAA regulations.
  • Do not post confidential information about the University or its students, staff, faculty or alumni.

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 by the UA-sanctioned social media account must comply with federal and state laws and the policies and rules of the Board of Trustees. All content 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 screenshot, ideally) and University Communications and Marketing (ext. 6867) should be consulted.


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

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 account(s) at all times.
  • Such passwords should be held securely, and they should be changed periodically.

Need help?

For assistance, contact:

Brianne Bucks
Social Media Specialist
Ext. 6867
bea22@uakron.edu