Social Media Information
Administering Social Media Sites
Winthrop University encourages the leveraging of social media tools to help deliver our messages effectively to a variety of users. To achieve this, each department or university unit must have a plan for administering the social media sites it uses. All institutional pages must have a full-time person designated as being responsible for the maintenance of the site (this should be the head of the department or her/his designee, not a transient participant such as a student). Departments and units should consider their messages, audiences, and goals when designing social media sites, as well as a strategy for keeping information on these sites up-to-date.
Guidelines for Administering Social Media Sites
This document outlines the responsibilities of those posting to social media sites on behalf of the university and the responsibilities of managers who supervise such sites.
Posting on Winthrop's Behalf
- Understand your responsibilities. If you participate in or maintain a social media site on behalf of the university, clearly recognize your role and goals. Discuss with your supervisor when you are empowered to respond directly to users and when you may need approval. Employees posting on behalf of Winthrop athletics should be especially careful to comply with guidelines set by the NCAA and the Big South Conference; consult the Athletic Department's Director of New Media for specific questions in this area.
- Maintain a consistent presence. If you have been authorized by your supervisor to create an official Winthrop social media site or a video for posting in locations such as YouTube, please contact the Office of University Relations for an approved logo and other images and to ensure coordination with other Winthrop sites and content.
- Protect the institutional voice. Posts on social media sites should protect the university's institutional voice by remaining professional in tone and in good taste. No individual Winthrop unit's social media site represents the university as a whole. Consider this when naming pages or accounts, selecting a profile picture or icon, and selecting content to post.
- Follow state laws and policies, including those governing Appropriate Civic Engagement as a State Employee. If questions arise that may fall under this category, refer the matter to your supervisor or to an appropriate University official.
- Protect confidential and proprietary information. Do not post confidential or proprietary information about Winthrop University students, employees, or alumni. Employees must follow applicable federal requirements such as FERPA and HIPA as well as appropriate conference and NCAA guidelines. Adhere to all applicable university privacy and confidentiality policies.
- Be respectful. As a Winthrop representative, you should model the university's commitment to respect for the dignity of others and to the civil and thoughtful discussion of opposing ideas. Content contributed to a social media site sometimes encourages comments or discussion of opposing ideas. Responses should be considered carefully in light of how they will reflect on the poster and/or the university and its institutional voice.
- Be thoughtful. A presence in the social media world is or easily can be made available to the public at large. This includes prospective students, current students, current employers and colleagues, donors, community members, and peers. Consider this before posting to be sure your message will not alienate, harm, or provoke any of these groups. If you have any questions about whether a subject or particular language is appropriate to post, ask your department head, supervisor, or advisor before you post.
- Make accommodations for users who cannot employ particular forms of social media. Some users may have been prohibited from using certain social media sites because of parental objection, violations of site policies, or other reasons. Be sensitive to such situations and, where appropriate, offer alternate ways for such users to communicate with your department or program.
- Respect the ownership of intellectual property. Many students, faculty, and staff share their work through social media. So that individual users' intellectual property rights are respected and the Winthrop Intellectual Property Policy is followed, obtain and document appropriate consent for posted content, including (but not limited to) words, graphics, photos, video, audio, images, PowerPoint presentations, artwork, and any other included elements.
- Know the rules. Become familiar with the terms of service and policies of sites and networks in which you participate. Pay attention to updates, especially those that change a site's privacy settings. Discuss any concerns with your supervisor.
Site Supervision on Winthrop's Behalf
If your department or unit decides to use social media to reach your audiences, be aware that you are committing resources and time, the amount depending on the popularity of your content and the community size. Users will expect prompt (though not necessarily immediate) responses to their postings, so you must plan for how your personnel will meet those needs and recognize the time and effort it will take to do so. Winthrop University employees who supervise official Winthrop social media sites should:
- Identify a small team to maintain the site so there is no potential single point of failure for being able to manage information in a timely manner. Choose a team of people you trust to monitor your department or unit's social media presences, provide content and responses, and respond to site management issues. The team can check the site periodically during the day, so no one employee needs to be online constantly.
- Establish standard operating procedures to monitor, post content for, and engage with your visitors. Review with your team what you expect of them in common situations (for instance, maintaining a consistent voice, removing posts, referring posts to other offices, etc.).
- Use appropriate tools for managing sites. Software is available that will broadcast a post simultaneously to several sites (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Flickr), as well as tools that will allow several users to post for the same account through password-protected software.
- Register your site with the Winthrop Social Media Directory so potential users can find it quickly. Register an official Winthrop site. This information also helps the university disseminate important information to the administrators of sites, as well as ensuring that sites do not become "orphaned" when a site administrator leaves Winthrop.
- Establish coverage policies for periods when staff is not in the office (for instance sick leave, nights, weekends, holiday breaks) or when team members are not in the office (for instance, on recruiting trips or at professional meetings). Many social media tools can be accessed through personal mobile devices; therefore, a staff member may be able to be "on call" for the site without being physically present on the Winthrop campus, if such coverage is warranted.
- Assess your social media presence periodically to ensure that it continues to meet your department or unit's goals and objectives and that it serves the needs of your specific audiences. Periodically, you may wish to commission surveys of your audience(s) to see if your social media site is meeting their needs or to use many of the analytic tools provided by social media sites to make sure your effort is paying off.
- Don't remove content or take a page offline unless there is a specific violation of Winthrop policies or your published rules warranting removal. Organizations who remove content simply because that content is unflattering lose the trust of their audience and risk public backlash. Always explain the rationale for altering or removing content on a site to maintain transparency and retain the trust of your site users.
The following sample language might be posted on your site to inform users of your policies:
By posting any comments, links, or other material on this Winthrop University social media site, you agree that you will not:
If you have any questions about this site, please send a message to the site administrators.
- Post material that infringes on the rights of any third party, including intellectual property, privacy, or publicity right.
- Post material that is unlawful, obscene, defamatory, threatening, harassing, abusive, slanderous, hateful, or embarrassing to any other person or entity as determined by Winthrop in its sole discretion, or which violates posted Winthrop University policies. The site administrators will remove such material promptly.
- Post the same note more than once ("spam").
- Post chain letters or pyramid schemes.
- Impersonate another person.
- Allow any other person or entity to use your identification, Winthrop UserID, or Winthrop password for posting or viewing comments.
Portions of this document have been adopted from the following sources:
Baird, Derek E. "Social Identity, Knowledge Management, and Member Roles in Online Communities." Barking Robot. 6 October 2010. http://goo.gl/8MDVW.
Ball State University. "Ball State University Social Media Policy." 17 November 2009. http://goo.gl/QUbkz.
DePaul University. "Social Media Guidelines." 2006. http://brandresources.depaul.edu/vendor_guidelines/g_recommendation.aspx.
Lawrence, Keith. "Duke University Social Media Policy. E-mail to the CNAC-L Discussion List. 19 October 2010.
Navy Command Social Media Handbook. November 2010. No longer publicly available.
Site last updated by Kimberly Byrd 10/17/11.