Best Practices for Social Media at the University of St. Thomas

The University of St. Thomas recognizes that social media and other forms of electronic communication can be effective tools for doing your job and supporting the university’s interests. These best practices have been developed to help you use the tools successfully and manage the risks. When you communicate about the university or matters that affect the university and our students, faculty, staff and alumni, you’re expected to follow the university's code of conduct and all university policies, including electronic communication policy.

If you want to launch something new on behalf of the university, a university department, or a university organization, discuss it with your supervisor or advisor and the New Media Initiatives Group (via socialmedia@stthomas.edu) first. Even if you’re an experienced web or social-media user in your personal life, you’ll need to keep in mind the strategic, logistical and legal factors that are different in a university setting.

If you want to contribute to existing digital communities, here are a few ways you can support the university.

Learn: Be aware of policies that apply to electronic communications. Sign up for a social media class through the Leadership Academy. Visit the university’s social media site (www.stthomas.edu/socialmedia). Read blogs and helpful resources on the subject. Social media constantly evolves, so do your part to stay informed.

Join: Sign up for an internal or external network as a UST employee. For example, you can join LinkedIn or Twitter and identify yourself as an employee of the University of St. Thomas.

Participate: Participate in a university-sponsored venue, such as posting on an existing university Facebook page. Collaborate with colleagues, students, prospective students, alumni and peers in non-university-sponsored venues such as industry blogs or forums.

Show your pride: Internally and externally you can express pride in the university; in what you do; in the university values. For example, you can post something on your Facebook page or “like” someone else’s post about the university.

Be an ambassador: You can actively share good news about the university and its work in the community. For example, you can “retweet” or “share” news about a university achievement, innovation or contribution to the community. You can pass along job opportunities. You can invite people to join our groups, comment on our blogs, etc. The university may occasionally invite you to engage in comments, or ask you to help counteract inaccurate information or misinformed opinions published online; that is your choice, and you will be given accurate information first.

Help: If you have expertise to offer, you can answer questions in external groups or comment on blogs and sites where that expertise is welcome. If you encounter someone expressing a need, you can share a link to information about university resources that may fill that need. Remember to note your connection to the university.

After you you've considered these guidelines, you'll want to plan on the following to set up and maintain your social media presence:

  1. Your department will be responsible for its own social media activity.
  2. Research what other types of social media pages may already be established for the audience you are reaching out to. While you are not responsible for social media content offered by other groups, be mindful of how your message, naming conventions, etc. may overlap with content administered outside the university.
  3. Use consistent naming conventions across all of your department's social networks (for example, all of the primary institutional social media accounts use /uofstthomasmn). Keep in mind that your audience is more likely to find you if you use "UST" or "University of St. Thomas" in your name.
  4. Check the terms of use for each social network to comply with rules about administrative rights.
  5. Register your networks on the UST Social Media Registry. This not only helps your audience find the site and recognize it as an official UST presence – it also entitles you to link from a UST website. When you register your networks, remember to identify the individual who will maintain administrative rights.
  6. Social media should be a vital part of your traditional marketing plan – not replace it. These plans need to interact. If they exist in a vacuum, your department doesn’t derive the full benefit of being in the social media space.
  7. Don't saturate your social media space with promotional or sales material. Be authentic about who you are and why you are posting. You're using social media to have a conversation with your audience. A persistent sales pitch promotes a one-way dialog, and will cause your audience to tune out.
  8. Each department or program should appoint a single person responsible for social media. These duties should be included in the employee’s PD.
  9. Use a general St. Thomas e-mail address so access to the site will continue regardless of employee status. (i.e., engineering@stthomas.edu for School of Engineering). More than one person should have access to the mailbox.
  10. Limit the number of authors/administrators your department designates for social networks, but have at least two.
  11. Authors/administrators should be prepared to contribute consistent, high-quality content. The content may consist of photos, text, audio, video, polls, etc.
  12. Be sure you have rights to the content you publish. Copying a photo off the Internet and publishing it to your department Facebook page is not the same as having rights to that photo.
  13. Don't copy content from another social media profile and post it as your own. It is poor etiquette. Most social media channels have a sharing tool that makes it easy to post the content to your profile while still giving credit to the original source (for example "retweet" on Twitter or "share" on Facebook).
  14. Frequency of posts will vary by social media tool.
  15. Don't abandon good writing skills just because you're online.
  16. Engage with your audience, encourage comments and respond when questions are asked. Social media is designed to foster conversation and doing so will help boost your page's social profile.
  17. Commit to moderating the comments on a regular basis (pull inappropriate comments/posts).
  18. Set goals for your social media efforts. If possible, the goals should be measurable.
  19. Remember, you are representing the university brand. Civility and respect are critical in all interactions.
  20. You may want to consider posting a “terms of use” document for your audience. For example:

Welcome to the <<name of department>> Facebook page. Keeping with the nature of Facebook being an open interactive environment, we invite you to share, comment, and interact. We will not tolerate any solicitation or profane, vulgar, obscene, libelous or defamatory comments and remarks. We reserve the right to remove any content that we feel is not appropriate.

Any content that you find on this page is the property of UST and is subject to all applicable copyright and trademark laws.

Finally, just as social media and its parameters for privacy or design change frequently, these guidelines will evolve. Keep in touch.