Social Media Guidelines

The below guidelines were created based on a combination of sources that include: AP Principles & Values, NPR, my personal ethics guidelines, University of Michigan, Tufts University, Emerson College, and other social media guidelines from colleges/universities.

These are guidelines to abide by for the business school and can be generally applied for your personal and/or professional social media accounts. It serves as a guide for communications office both within the school and across the university in order to best engage with and grow our business school community. For getting started on social media and branding within the university, see university brand guidelines.

We believe that social media is more than a tool for recruiting, retention, alumni relations, and marketing. It is about engaging with the community, building relationships, and providing and sharing knowledge on a platform for higher learning in business.

Our audience includes current and prospective:

  • Undergraduate and graduate students

  • Alumni

  • Parents

  • Donors

  • Employers and partners

Truth

It is important to tirelessly seek the truth. The facts must be verified and its source easily identified. Attribution is required for all content that is not our own. If a mistake is made, admit it and be diligent with correcting. Research sources and trends before posting. Headlines and posts must accurately portray linked content.

Independence

Before sharing information, remain independent in how your approach applying it on social media. Consider the source, its message, if and how it is worth sharing on what platforms. Consider other sources to verify information and take the time to listen for related activity before sharing.

Intentionality

Every post must be accountable for its content. It must stand on the research, accuracy, and attribution necessary to build trust from followers. Understanding the brand, that it exists within a larger university brand, and representing it on social media is important to consider with every post. For original social media content, the story angle and subjects should always accurately reflect the individuals as well as represent the brand.

If information that is important, but does not positively reflect the brand, consider its value in sharing the truth and being transparent with your audience in order to maintain trust and community.

Community

We aim to build community based on the fusion of trust, honesty, comfort, and joy. Social media is a great resource for useful information, professional and academic learning, and fun. We aim to reflect our brand in line with these goals. We will be supportive of other individuals and brands that overlap with our own expertise and ideas.

Give respect

The task or the goal is not always first priority. It's important to maintain self-awareness for others and the situation. Minimizing harm is part of this. It’s important to respect individual’s desire for privacy and personal opinions. When a specific question is asked directly or through direct messaging, respond as soon as possible and no later than 48 hours after the original post.

Practical Information:

What to Post

  • Information that is useful, interesting and a value-add to our audiences.

  • Upcoming deadlines, events, programs, or information published across other platforms.

  • Links to articles or content related to our brand or area of focus.

  • Share links to articles or content that is thought provoking in our area of expertise.

What Not to Post

  • Anything false, obscene, disrespectful, threatening, vulgar, discriminatory, inflammatory, or offensive.

  • Personal information or opinion, when representing the school brand.

  • Information about major new initiatives without consulting marketing and communication.

When to Remove a Post

Posts or Comments may be removed for the following reasons:

  • Use of obscenities, profanities, vulgarities, threats, discriminatory or harassing language.

  • Disclosing confidential information.

  • Advocating illegal activity.

  • Violations of copyrights or trademarks.

  • Advertisements or promotion of services, products, or individuals. 

  • Duplications or accidental posts.

When & How to Respond

  • Always respond to direct questions that solicit a specific answer and direct messages within 24-48 hours.

  • Negative coverage of the brand does not always require a response, but important to monitor. Do respond, if tagged and there’s an opportunity to acknowledge and provide helpful information. If the negative coverage serves to notify a larger audience, seek a second opinion and approval from the Communications Director on language before responding. If it is a personal issue, suggest to the individual to communicate through email to handle in more depth and detail.

  • When responding, always acknowledge the specific complaint and address the individual by name.

  • Positive coverage should be celebrated and shared on the appropriate platforms when it promotes the brand and community.


Social Media Guidelines - Background

It was a purposeful decision to base the above social media guidelines on sources taken from journalism guidelines. News publications have more experience and history in handling ethical tensions in publishing and abiding by standards where their obligation rest with telling the truth to their readers. I used AP’s News Values & Principles as a guide which addressed many, if not more than the topics I wanted to address in social media. I also used my own personal ethics guidelines which pulled from research in other news organization’s guidelines. Lastly, I used several social media guidelines posted by colleges and universities. I noticed that some schools have consulted with and/or gave attribution to other schools that created their own social media guidelines. I liked how this promotes sharing and community among the communications teams throughout universities. If these guidelines end up being adopted in my work in a formal way, I intend to give attribution to those specific schools.

There were two specific tensions I felt in writing these guidelines that are worth noting:

1) My work represents a school within a larger university. Requests from the central communications at the university hold clout in my own work. If they request something, the hierarchy of the work environment forces me to abide whether or not I professionally agree with the request. I hope in creating these guidelines, I receive the approval of my communications team at the school, but also from the university, to work by a set framework. As an aside, I have purposefully left out specific school names to protect myself and shield these public thoughts from searches and Google Alerts that I don’t want representing my employer without going through the proper channels for approval. Though, I’m also aware that if anyone wanted to pay attention beyond our class, this information would not be difficult to find.

2) University social media channels, from what I’ve observed, face a tension in how to brand themselves. The leaders in social media, like Harvard do well in representing and promoting the depth of knowledge. University of Michigan does well to represent their school spirit. But I’m fascinated by the successful marketing campaigns, such as Mastercard’s “Priceless” advertisements, and Honey Maid’s “This is Wholesome” campaign, that have little to do with buying a credit card or eating graham crackers. Rather than highlighting faculty and campus life, I'd like to explore adopt the Mastercard and Honey Maid kind of campaign and apply it to higher education for the business school. I would like to push the boundaries and test more of this kind of content and I think I will have the backing to develop this. It’s why I chose to add in a paragraph in the introduction that our social media channels exists to not only promote, but to become a knowledge sharing platform “for higher learning in business” and that we aim to build community that encompasses joy. 

On the other side, I purposefully built the guidelines from journalism standards because it's a foundation from which I believe selling a product should be based upon. Acknowledging that both goals of telling the truth and selling a product is necessary, I’m curious about and believe in the importance of finding a way to do both. It is part of the reason why I’ve expressed interest in and written about news media organizations, like Buzzfeed and Gawker, which have recently dealt with these tensions based on controversial posts.

I chose to focus on truth, independence, intentionality, community, and respect as my guiding principles because it heavily overlaps with common journalistic principles. I had to alter some traditional meanings of those journalistic principles and apply them to social media. For example, independence does not mean independent from favors, influence, gifts, etc. I interpreted it as the need to remain separated from content or information before sharing and considering how it's shared.

I think there’s an opportunity for educational institutions to thrive between ethical practices in journalism and selling a product because they exist to teach and enhance people’s knowledge. This is where representing my employer’s authentic voice will shine and being authentic is a huge part of social media. It’s about eliciting a physical and measurable response.

I took the idea practical information section after reading through Manhattan College’s social media handbook. I left out certain repetitive facts that I found from this handbook and other guidelines that I found to be too obvious, such as “everything online lives forever.” Maybe that’s just me, but it’s implicit. I understand it's purpose is to encourage people to think before they post.

The practical information of what to post, what not to post, when to remove a comment or post, or when and how to respond is important and hugely helpful from my standpoint at work. When to remove a post is based on University of Michigan’s guidelines. As mentioned earlier, I hope this serves not only as a guide but as a shield for when colleagues may want to influence what and how information is shared on social media that I manage.

I found putting these guidelines together to be hugely helpful. Currently being in the position where it applies to my daily professional life helped immensely. I left out the specific channels I manage and the correct contact information, but intend to add that in once or when these guidelines are approved. It’s so easy to wave off ethics as common sense, much like companies and organizations once waved off the influence of social media, but they’re both important and integral to our lives today. Guidelines provide evidence and a framework for an entity, like a business school, which acknowledges its responsibility to its readers and demonstrates maturity in the industry. Hopefully these guidelines help further the conversation and consideration of communicating on social media.

Emily TurnerComment