Social Media guidelines

Preamble

Over the years, more and more areas on campus have set up independent Facebook pages and other social media presences. We in Marketing Communications commend the enthusiasm. Social networks can be powerful tools when used well, and we’ve proudly watched the library and a few other departments and divisions use their pages effectively. Unfortunately, other pages have been set up and subsequently abandoned, or posts are so infrequent that Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm will no longer deliver content to page likers.

For those of us working toward cohesive, strategic communication on behalf of Union, the proliferation of Union-related Facebook pages and social media accounts is challenging, particularly if they aren’t done in a professional, consistent manner.

We don’t want to stifle your efforts to promote your area of campus, and there is no official policy to point to regarding social media. These guidelines will help you reach your goals more effectively and give those of us in Marketing Communications some peace of mind.

The original version of these guidelines were sent via email in 2010, they have been updated annually to reflect changes in this rapidly shifting field. This list is primarily tailored to Facebook, which so far has been the network most departments have expressed interest in. However, the principles also apply to Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and other social networks.

Guidelines

  1. Evaluate your audience segment. It’s possible that what you want to accomplish would be better done through an event or post on Union’s main Facebook page (administered by Scott Cushman, Ryan Teller, Becky Daniel and Kenna Lee Carlson).

    After you have defined the unique audience segment with whom you will need to communicate over the long term, consider how your interaction on social media adds value to them. What are you providing for your audience? Good content is timely, visual and provides a service to the audience. (The “service” provided by a post could be reminiscence, humor, education, pride, gossip, gratitude, etc. If you want to get serious about managing social media, we highly recommend you read up on Uses and Gratification Theory).
     
  2. Have a content plan in place. Don’t start a presence for your department/division/program/etc. on social media unless you know how it will be updated and engaging in the long term. Any goodwill you get from social media can be counteracted if you do not fully engage in it. If any piece of your social media presence has outlived its usefulness, delete the page or account rather than letting it become progressively more out dated.

    Because of EdgeRank, the algorithm Facebook uses to judge how interesting content is, people must interact with a page or group on a regular basis in order to continue seeing your updates. If you will only post things during part of the year and don’t have a full-year content plan, it’s likely no one will see your content when you begin posting again. You will have to pay Facebook to promote posts in order to get your content back in front of the eyes of your likers. This is why starting a page for an annual event is a particularly bad idea. It would be much better to create an event as part of Union’s main page in order to leverage the engagement we work hard to maintain all year.

    A content plan should answer the following questions:
    1. What content will we post? (e.g., Throwback Thursday, student interviews, research updates, etc.)
       
    2. Where will we post it? (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest)
       
    3. With what frequency will it be posted? (e.g., every Friday at noon)
       
    4. What key messages are we trying to communicate through this content? (e.g., students are empowered to lead, Union supports cutting-edge research, etc.)
       
    5. Who is the intended audience? (e.g., prospective students, parents, alumni, etc.)
       
    6. What equipment and human resources do we need? (e.g., a DSLR camera and two lenses, scanner, mobile phone, four hours of student worker time per week, etc.)
       
    7. What do we need to budget for the equipment and human resources?
       
    8. How will we measure success? (e.g., Number of likes, shares, retweets on posts, number of prospective student inquiries, increase in alumni giving, etc.)
       
  3. Have at least two employees as administrators. It’s OK if you have a student worker do the heavy lifting, but students come and go. You’re likely to lose access to your account if you rely solely on student administrators. For that matter, full-time employees come and go too, and frequently rely on their computers to remember passwords for them. We’ve lost access to accounts before because only one person had access, and once you lose access to an account, it’s almost impossible to regain it. Please ensure continuity by having at least two or more permanent employees able to administer the page (Facebook) or access the account (Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.). As director of digital communication, Scott Cushman can as a second or tertiary administrator.
     
  4. Choose the right format. There’s only one type of Twitter account, but Facebook has many faces. A profile is what people have. A page is for non-human entities such as companies, colleges, etc. Groups are just what they sound like, but offer administrators less flexibility than pages. Events are also pretty selfevident, and if you want to advertise an event, have us set one up through the college’s main page instead of creating a new page.

    For example, the library has a page which people can like. If they had created a profile and started adding friends like an individual, under the terms of use, Facebook would have deleted it. If the library wants to advertise their fair, they should create those events as part of their page rather than a new page.
     
  5. Stick with college branding. There are a few “Union Colleges” and many more “UCs” in this world, and branding is a vital part of avoiding confusion. The profile picture and cover photo should include Union’s official logo. Somewhere prominent, such as on the cover photo and/or in the page name, it should specify “Lincoln, Nebraska.” Never, ever use the acronym “UC.” To almost anyone who does not work here, “UC” means “University of California,” “University of Colorado,” or any one of a dozen other institutions larger than Union. You may use our URL, “ucollege,” as we have on Twitter and Instagram (@ucollegeNE) and in the URL for the Warriors fanpage (www.facebook.com/ucollege.warriors). Scott Cushman can help you create a cover photo or profile picture that will integrate branding elements.
     
  6. Discuss your plans with Marketing Communications (AKA Scott Cushma, Ryan Teller and Steve Nazario). All communication to external audiences should go through our office. Even if your audiences are students and employees, the nature of the Web makes it external. We aren’t looking to approve every post before it goes out, but we will help generate ideas and set things up with correct branding.

    Also, remember that Union has policies regarding the solicitation of gifts. If one of your goals is to raise money, you will need to also talk to LuAnn Davis and get approval for your project.

    Similarly, Nadine Nelson and her team will want to chat with you about recruitment strategies if you’re targeting prospective students.
     
  7. Have a clear comment policy. The comment policy we use can be found here: https://www.ucollege.edu/comments. We recommend linking to it in the “About” section of your Facebook page or Twitter profile.

    If you don’t have a clear comment policy, deleting comments may seem arbitrary and can quickly turn likers into haters. The goal of a comment policy is not censorship but rather civility and ethical treatment.
     
  8. Keep your professional posts separate from your personal ones. The majority of the embarrassing tweets and posts made by organizations, politicians and celebrities are the result of an employee forgetting which account they were posting as. Even an innocuous post about what you’re having for dinner can make Union look inept and disorganized if it’s coming from an official college page or account. We recommend using separate apps or browsers to help differentiate accounts, and always double check which account you’re posting as. (Practical tip: if you're managing an Instagram account, use an Android phone or tablet and install the Instwogram app.)

    Likewise, misspellings, txt speak and other linguistic variations are normal on personal profiles, but are embarrassing coming from an institution of higher learning. Always proofread.

Once the page is up and running, send the link to Scott Cushman to connect it to Union’s main Facebook page. If you have any questions, or want to meet to talk about your vision for using social media on behalf of Union, email Scott at sccushma.

Social media links

This is a work in progress. If you know of official or semi-official social media presences not listed here, please send the link to Scott Cushman.

 

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