Best Practices and Guidelines
The rapid growth of social media technologies, combined with their ease of use and pervasiveness, makes them attractive channels of communication. Social media can be a very effective way to communicate, promote, and brand NC State to multiple audiences across and outside the university, but also let us hear directly and immediately from students, faculty, staff, parents, fans and friends about what is important to them. This conversation is what makes social media so different from traditional forms of institutional communication. To help you identify and avoid potential problems, this document is intended to help guide university colleges, departments, units, programs, centers, and entities (collectively “department and/or unit” herein) in the use of social media for official university communications. This guidance document also aims to provide relevant department and unit staff with basic guidance on how to best use social media toward communications goals, both as owners of an account and as users/contributors. These guidelines are examples of best practices from various institutions and are intended to help you use social media effectively, protect your personal and professional reputation, and follow university policies.
Plan for having at least two administrators
Having multiple Account Administrators for every social media account will ensure that the account can continue to thrive and be updated regularly, even if one of the existing administrators is not available, changes jobs, or leaves the university.
Make sure that you have all the facts before you post. It’s better to verify information with a source first than to have to post a correction or retraction later. Cite and link to your sources whenever possible — that’s how you build trust.
Realize your posts are public
There is no such thing as a “private” social media site. Search engines can turn up posts for years after the publication date. Comments can be forwarded or copied. Archival systems save information even if you delete the post. In addition, as an employee of a public institution, your social media accounts are subject to the North Carolina Public Records Act. Be sure that what you post today, or someone posting on behalf of the account, will not come back to haunt you or the university.
If you participate in or maintain a social media account on behalf of the department or unit, clearly state your role and goals. Keep in mind that if you are posting with a university username, other users view what you post as coming from the university. Your posts directly reflect on NC State. The line between professional and personal business is sometimes blurred. If you create social media accounts to conduct university business as an individual, be sure to identify yourself as a university employee.
Account Administrators should regularly monitor postings and content. Aim for standard times for postings and updates. The recommended minimum frequency is at least daily. But be sure not to overload your updates. Followers will stop paying attention if you overload them with information.
What you write is ultimately your responsibility – but remember that it reflects on NC State. Participation in social media on behalf of NC State is not a right but an opportunity. As a representative of NC State, you have more responsibility than average users about what you post on social media. Realize that there can be consequences for things that you communicate online.
NC State encourages freedom of expression and recognizes the value of diverse opinions. Users are free to discuss topics and disagree with one another, but please be respectful of others’ opinions. You are more likely to achieve your goals if you are constructive and respectful while discussing a bad experience or disagreeing with a concept or person. Don’t post material that is profane, libelous, obscene, threatening, abusive, harassing, hateful, defamatory or embarrassing to anyone.
Be a valued community member
If you use your social media account to comment on someone’s blog or other social media site, make sure it is appropriate for you to comment in your capacity as a representative of NC State and that you are contributing valuable insights. Post information about topics like NC State events or news only when you are sure it will be of interest to readers.
Keep your personal views separate
Uphold the university’s mission and values in your activities. Don’t include political comments or comments on social issues, and do not conduct any political activities on behalf of any party or candidate. Do not represent your personal opinions as being endorsed by the university or any of its organizations.
If you have any questions about whether it is appropriate to write about certain kinds of material in your role as a NC State employee, ask your supervisor before you post.
Know the rules
Become familiar with the terms of service and policies of the social media sites and networks in which you participate. Pay attention to updates.
Adhere to the NC State brand
If you are creating a social media account on behalf of your department or unit, please use official logos and graphics that represent and adhere to the university brand guidelines. Whenever possible, North Carolina State University or NC State should be listed prior to the department or unit. University Communications can provide guidance with graphics and design.
These guidelines were compiled from numerous university perspectives, as well as published sources from both within NC State and externally.
The following published sources are used throughout the proposed social media guidelines:
- Best Practices for Social Media Usage in North Carolina: http://www.records.ncdcr.gov/guides/best_practices_socialmedia_usage_20091217.pdf
- University Branding Guidelines: http://www.ncsu.edu/brand/
- DePaul University: http://brandresources.depaul.edu/vendor_guidelines/g_socialmedia.aspx
- University of Michigan: http://voices.umich.edu/docs/Social-Media-Guidelines.pdf
- Clemson University: http://www.clemson.edu/administration/public-affairs/toolbox/standards/social-media-guidelines.html
- Colorado State: http://socialmedia.colostate.edu/page/Social-Media-Policy.asp