Social Media Guidelines
Social media sites, such as Facebook, blogs, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr, are important tools we can use to connect with students, alumni and other members of our community. To help our users most effectively use these tools, John Tyler Community College has assembled “best practice" guidelines from respected online and industry sources.
Effective use of social media requires time, energy and thought. Before you jump into social media, establish a strategy.
Think about what you want to accomplish. Why are you establishing a social media presence? What do you want it to do for you and for the larger College community? What is the best tool for you to use?
Talk to the right people. Before you establish a social media presence that officially represents John Tyler Community College, you’ll need to complete the appropriate request form – either a Social Media Request Form for Faculty/Staff or a Social Media Request Form for Student Clubs/Groups – and submit it to the appropriate department: College Relations (for faculty and staff) or Student Activities (for official student clubs and organizations). Staff members in these departments can help you figure out the best tools to use, as well as give you some guidance about the time/energy you’ll need to devote to the project.
Be realistic. Having a meaningful presence in social media requires a significant commitment, so you need to be prepared to invest time, energy and thought into the process. It does no good to just create a social media presence: you have to foster the relationships you are trying to create with your users. Be realistic about whether or not you can commit the time and resources needed, and how long you will be willing to make that commitment.
Assign responsibility. It’s a good idea to have one person who “owns” the social media presence and takes responsibility for day-to-day operations, but it’s also smart to have multiple folks involved as regular contributors. Assemble a team who knows what is happening with the site and can help keep it fresh.
Best Practices for Social Media
Social media is best when it is authentic, thoughtful and relevant. Once you have your site up and running, use it well.
Represent John Tyler. As faculty, staff and students of John Tyler Community College, we all have a stake in upholding the College’s image as a valuable member of our community. Remember that our image in the community is one of our best assets, and when you post to a John Tyler social media site, you are representing the College community.
Do not include links to spam. Do not use the site to promote services, products or organizations unrelated to John Tyler. Stick to topics that relate to the College and our community. Remember, behavior online that officially represents John Tyler is covered in the codes of conduct established in the Acceptable Use Policy (9.71) for faculty and staff and the Student Handbook.
Be honest. Be upfront and honest about your identity and your role at the College. Never hide your identity for the purpose of promoting John Tyler through social media.
Be accurate. Social media is conversational and informal, so it is possible to make mistakes or potentially cause a misunderstanding. If this happens, correct your mistake quickly, openly and honestly. Apologize if necessary.
To avoid mistakes, make sure you have all the facts before you post. Cite and link to your sources when possible.
Be respectful. Since social media is an open invitation to comment, you are likely to have negative, or even offensive, comments on your site from time to time. Respond to negative posts about John Tyler, and provide accurate information. Stick to the facts, and always try to be fair in your response.
Unless the comment is a direct threat or uses inappropriate language, the comment should not be removed. The goal of social media is dialogue, and dialogue is sometimes messy. Give good information or resources in response to negative posts. Allow for others to respond, and when appropriate, ask for help with a response. It’s also a good idea to redirect very specific complaints, so that they can be handled offline. Give the user/person with the complaint the option of contacting the appropriate office or person via phone or e-mail directly in order to best handle the situation.
Remember, you are more likely to sway opinion if you are constructive and respectful with those who disagree with you.
Be timely. Users of social media have come to expect quick responses. It’s a good idea to do your best to respond to questions as quickly as possible – doing so can often diffuse anger and frustration. This may require you to contact another department or link to the College’s web site. Even if the information is out there, people are turning to you – and the interactive nature of social media – for help.
Add value with your posts. Ask questions. Add photos. Think about what kind of content will engage your audience. Social media is all about interaction, so craft your posts with that in mind.
Timing of your posts is also important. You want to be in touch regularly – with valuable or interesting information – but you don’t want to inundate your fans or group members.
If your social media site has not been updated in at least 90 days, College Relations or Student Activities staff will contact you about the status of the site. Sites that are not being updated will be removed at the end of the applicable semester.
Know it’s out there. There's no such thing as a "private" social media site. Search engines can turn up posts years after the publication date. Comments can be forwarded or copied. Archival systems save information even if you delete a post. If you feel angry or passionate about a subject, it's wise to delay posting until you are calm and clear-headed.
Maintain confidentiality. Do not post confidential, personal or proprietary information about John Tyler, its students, its alumni or your fellow employees. Use good ethical judgment and follow College policies and federal requirements, such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
Respect College time and property. As stated in the College's Acceptable Use Policy (9.71) for faculty and staff, College computers and work time must be used in a manner that is consistent with the College's educational purposes and environment. You should maintain your personal sites on your own time.
Honor copyright laws. Be aware that intellectual property may be protected by copyright laws. Guidelines are tricky, so educate yourself before use. Some new copyright statements have been written to allow for creative, but non-commercial, uses. Learn more – and find music and images that can be used in this way – at www.creativecommons.org.
Finally, don’t forget to have fun. Sites like Facebook are all about personal interaction and creating community, so it’s good to let your personality show through and have a little fun. We want users to get a better sense of John Tyler through social media, and our people are a huge part of our success as a college. Think of something smart, unusual or funny, and give it a try.
Photo and Video Usage
Photos and videos are a valuable part of our social media presence, but we do need to comply with the following guidelines:
- Care should be taken not to use photos or video of individuals who would object to the use of their image. College Relations has a Photo Release Form you can use in order to obtain subjects’ permission to use their images. Minors must have their parent’s permission to be photographed.
- Photos and videos posted on social media sites that represent John Tyler must be appropriate. As a general guideline, they should be photos/videos that would be appropriate for use in a College publication or on the College web site. Examples of photos/videos that should be avoided include, but are not limited to, photos involving alcohol, nudity and graphic scenes.
- Photo credits should be given when appropriate or necessary.
If you have questions, please contact Heather Busch, web content and electronic communications manager, at email@example.com.
Logo and Style Guidelines
To strengthen our College’s brand, College Relations asks that social media users use the College’s Grammar, Punctuation and Style Manual and Graphic Identity Manual as general handbooks. It’s a good idea to have “John Tyler Community College” prominently featured in the name or main content of your social media page. Proper logo use is also encouraged for pages officially connected with the College.
Ownership and Responsible Parties
The College Relations office is the primary administrator for the College’s main pages on any social media site. If you would like to contribute or make a suggestion about these sites, please contact Heather Busch, web content and electronic communications manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Student organizations and clubs are encouraged to develop a social media presence under the direction of their club advisor and the Student Activities office. Club advisors must have administrator privileges on the club page. Developing “friendships” and links between student clubs and the official College pages is encouraged.
If you would like to set up an official online presence for your club, talk to your club advisor.
Ready to get started?
These guidelines were adapted from social media guidelines in place at SUNY New Paltz University, Morehouse College and Adrian College.
Revised April 2010.