Social Media Best Practices

Social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, blogs, etc. are useful tools for connecting with prospective and current students, professional colleagues and alumni, promoting organizations and events, and encouraging discussion of issues. Weber State University supports faculty, staff and student participation in online communities.

The information on this page can apply to how you use social media individually and/or how you use it as an administrator, on behalf of a campus group, organization or other entity.

The “best practices” listed below were created to help you use social media tools effectively, protect your personal and professional reputation, and protect the image of the university. A set of guidelines for those who manage social media sites on behalf of Weber State University follows.

General Recommendations Based on Best Practices

One of the major differences between social media sites and traditional websites is the ability to create dialogue among users. Before setting up a social network, think carefully about the kinds of dialogue you want to encourage from users and about how you want to set up the site. (For example, can users initiate topics of discussion or simply respond to topics initiated by the manager of the site?) Seek help from staff in Marketing & Communications or Web Development if you have questions.

The keys to success in social media are being honest about your identity, being thoughtful about your posts and understanding the long-term implications of your behavior online.

Be respectful

You are more likely to achieve your goals or influence others if you are constructive and respectful while discussing ideas or disagreeing with a concept or person.

Think before you post

Social media sites, as with all web content, are public and easily searchable. Sites may be searched by future employers or graduate programs, as well as personal acquaintances. Comments can be forwarded or copied. Don’t post in anger or in haste. Also, proof read your posts for grammar and punctuation. Remember that you represent an institution for higher learning, so having typos and misspelled words can damage WSU's brand identity.

Own your words

Personally, never post anonymously on external social media sites (although, note that your anonymity as an administrator when posting on a page that you run can actually be important). Create an identity that you use consistently on the internet. Mention university affiliation only in circumstances when it is appropriate.

Be accurate

Make sure you have all the facts before you post. Cite and link to your sources whenever possible. If you make an error, correct it quickly and visibly. In that vein, the original source for many of these ideas comes from the social networking policy at DePaul University, and the University of Missouri

Protect your identity

While you want to be honest about yourself, don’t provide personal information that scam artists or identity thieves could use against you. Don’t list your home address or telephone number.

Be aware of liability and copyright issues

You are responsible for insuring that posted information is not proprietary or copyrighted.

Maintain personal sites on your own time

Your work time should be used for university-related business. It’s appropriate to post at work if you are managing a social media site for a university group or seeking information directly related to your job.

Guidelines For Managing a Social Networking Site on Behalf of WSU

So, you want to create a Facebook page?

Before creating a Facebook page or other social media account, ask yourself why you really want it. What do you hope to accomplish, and what are possible measurable outcomes to gauge success? But most importantly, what does your social media account have to offer those who choose to follow you? It may be unrealistic to cultivate a large audience for a very specific club, group, department or organization, as content variety will be narrow. If that's the case, consider creating a Facebook "group" rather than a page. You can also send us your content, and we will see if it fits into the university editorial/posting calendar, where you can reach that larger audience. This guide can help you determine if you should create a Facebook profile, page or group.

In addition to the general recommendations listed above, you should:

Understand who and what you are representing

as an administrator of a page, you are representing your page's entity in a very real and public way, visible to just about anyone. Be mindful of the things you post. Review the mission statement of WSU and the organization you are representing. Lay aside any personal agendas or biases. Also, use appropriate pronouns in your posts. For example: Saying "We think that ..." is preferred over "I think that ..."

Keep your site active

a vibrant, engaged social networking site enhances the image of WSU. A stagnant page can do the opposite. Post new content at least once or twice a week. If your group decides not to maintain the site, take it down. Don't post so little that people forget you're there. Don't post so much that you get annoying to your users. Find a posting schedule that works well for you. Plan it out. Be consistent.

It's also a good idea to have more than one administrator, so the page doesn't remain stagnant once an admin is no longer affiliated with the university. We need the ability to maintain the university's brand and take down old pages if necessary.

Mix up the content

don't just pump out the same kind of information over and over. Post press releases, photos, videos and understand that the internet is already home to loads of things that can be relevant to your page. Link to those things. Don't feel like you have to reinvent the wheel.

Encourage and monitor interaction

ask questions or introduce topics for discussion. Build a community. Understand that users' comments may not always be positive. Your social media site will build more credibility with users if you allow negative comments to coexist with positive. However, you should delete comments that contain harassing, threatening, obscene, libelous or hate speech. Also monitor interaction so that you can see what is working. What are users responding to? Why did they respond to that? How can you build off of that?

Link back

please point your online communities to the official, main WSU social media sites — Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and LinkedIn. Let the staff in Marketing & Communications know about your site and we’ll do our best to help you effectively and smartly execute your social media goals. We may not be able to post your content directly, but always feel free to share your content on the WSU Facebook wall. A lot of people see that.

Use university logo and identity marks appropriately

the use of these marks identifies your site as part of Weber State University and helps strengthen the university brand. Follow the university branding guide. Contact Marketing & Communications if you need help. Do not use the WSU logo to promote a political candidate or cause, or a product or service.

Maintain confidentiality

do not post confidential or proprietary information about Weber State University, its students, its alumni or fellow employees. Use good ethical judgment and follow university policies and federal requirements, such as FERPA.

Identify yourself and your role on external sites

if you are posting on behalf of the university on an external social networking site, clearly identify who you are and what role you play at WSU. It is not advisable to post anonymously or try to disguise your identity when posting content related to the university on those sites. Speak within the boundaries of your role at WSU. When posting on your own entity's page, your individual identity is hidden.

Helpful Resources

Starter Kit: "11 Best-in-Class Strategies for Social Media in Higher Education"

“Social Media and Higher Education - Tips for Success and Who's Doing it Right"

Author:  Marketing & Communications