Social Media User's Guide

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Purpose and definitions

Social media includes any tool or platform that allows individuals and institutions to publish content and engage in conversations and make connections with an audience. Currently popular social media platforms include Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, Tumblr and other blogging platforms, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, and Flickr. These guidelines are meant to:

  • Encourage Whitman departments and programs to establish and participate appropriately and effectively via social media.
  • Encourage social media best practices, including consistent, timely, and engaging postings and personal interactions, and responsive, thoughtful replies.

An "official" Whitman College social media account includes any account, site, page or group on any social media platform that is created by a Whitman employee or one of its agents to represent Whitman College or one of its departments or programs in an official capacity.

Exemptions

This guide applies only to "official" Whitman College social media accounts and not to personal accounts.

Social media tools and sites used by Whitman College faculty members to facilitate learning or further course discussion will also be considered personal with all the benefits of academic freedom, and are also exempt from these guidelines.

Related Laws, Guidelines, Policies and Plans

Anyone who initiates or manages an official Whitman College social media account is responsible for complying with all applicable policies and laws, including the following:

Employees who are managing an official Whitman social media site are also responsible for knowing and complying with any terms of service or policies set by the social media platforms they use (e.g. Facebook, Twitter policies) when interacting via the account. Be aware that these policies may change frequently, so make sure you stay up-to-date.

Best practices

Overview

If you are considering starting a social media site to represent Whitman College or one if its departments or programs, you should first get approval from a director or budget officer for your department. Next, you should consider your goals for social media, the audience you'd like to reach and what platforms would be most appropriate.

Every social media platform has a different personality, audience, and expectations. Before you create an account on a social media platform or start posting to it, you should spend some time becoming familiar with its eccentricities and how people interact with each other on the platform.

For example, on some platforms like Twitter, posting content multiple times per day is accepted and even expected. On other platforms, posting this frequently would turn off your audience.

The Communications department is available to consult with you about any of these topics, either before you establish an account or any time after. Please send an email to (webteam@whitman.edu) if you'd like to set up a consultation.

Managing an account

Understand your target audience

Each department, program, or office at Whitman has a target audience that it wants to reach. This may be an internal audience-such as current faculty, staff or students-or an external audience, such as prospective students and their family members or guidance counselors, alumni, other potential donors, or members of the local community.

Make sure that you know who your target audience is, what information they want to receive from you, and what social media platforms they are using before creating an official Whitman social media account or posting to an official Whitman social media page. You should also consider checking with the Communications Department to make sure that there is not already an existing Whitman social media account that could be used by your department, program or office to reach your target audience.

Develop the themes you want to convey

To get the most from social media, your department, office or program should have specific themes you want to convey, and be able present those themes effectively. For example, Admissions' themes are:

  • We are a place of learning and academic rigor.
  • We have a warm, friendly and collaborative environment.
  • There are many fun things to do on and around campus.
  • We have down-to-earth, high-achievers on our campus.  

Develop a theme statement for your program or department and review it periodically against your posts to make sure your social media messaging enforces those themes.

Engage with your audience regularly

If you want to retain or grow your audience, you must post regularly. 'Regularly' may differ depending upon your goals and the platform, but in general, you should expect to post at least once a week or more depending on the platform, and you should respond to replies and comments as quickly as possible. This lets your audience know you are listening and tends to create better engagement.

Think before you post or reply

Social media posts, including comments and responses, can be stored by and shared with millions around the world. Consequently, anyone managing one of Whitman's official social media accounts should treat all interactions on the account as a form of permanent correspondence that cannot be recalled or completely erased, even communications that are initially shared with only a few individuals.

If someone posts something negative on your page, think before you react. A response that is poorly thought out may exacerbate a problem. However, any comments that are defamatory, abusive or unlawful should be removed and reported immediately.

Evaluate and adjust your strategy as necessary

Your social media sites will probably be most effective if you create a mixture of post types. For example, on Twitter, a mixture of back-and-forth conversations, retweets, and original content generally works well. However, you should not rely only on general rules of thumb when managing your social media sites. To make sure your social media account is meeting its goals, you should consider tracking and measuring your results.

Some parameters you should consider are:

  • Your number of followers and trends over time
  • The engagement of your followers - do they see and respond to the content you post by 'liking', commenting on, or sharing it?
  • Do your posts get more engagement during a certain time of the week or time of day?
  • If you include links in your posts, are users clicking through and reading or watching?  

Reviewing your posts and their results frequently will allow you to gauge their effectiveness and adjust your social media strategy as necessary.

Supervisory duties

The supervisor of the employee(s) responsible for posting to an official Whitman social media site should monitor the page regularly, as they bear overall responsibility for the content and use of that page.

Copyright concerns

Employees posting on an official Whitman social media site will respect copyrighted material and agree to not reproduce and/or send any material unless all references, quotes, and sources are properly cited. Please refer to the College's copyright policy for details.

Privacy

Unless a photo was taken at a public event for which there would be no reasonable expectation of privacy, every person in the photo must have communicated his or her consent (verbally, by email, or by signing a consent form) to the public use of the photo.

Examples:

  • A photo that shows people in the stands at a basketball game is an example of a situation when no consent is required because it's a public event.
  • A photo that shows a student relaxing in his residence hall is an example of a situation where consent should be obtained.

For more information about privacy as it relates to photography, refer to the Photographer's Guide to Privacy.

Do not post

  • Personal and identifying information should not be posted on Whitman College social media sites, including but not limited to:
    • Student or employee identification numbers or social security numbers
    • Dates of birth
    • Personal addresses or phone numbers
    • Driver's license numbers or license plate numbers

    Please consult the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) if you have any questions about the privacy of student records.

  • If there is a emergency or crisis situation, do not post about it on social media unless you are directed to do so by the Emergency Operations Group.

Security

Some social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ require a page to be created and managed through one or more personal accounts rather than a legal entity like a company or college. For those types of platforms, we recommend that multiple individuals from your department or program be given full administrative authority over your account.

When anyone who has access to manage a Whitman social media site via a personal account is no longer employed at Whitman, his or her access to manage the site should be removed immediately.

For those accounts that are being administered with a shared account name and password, when anyone who has been given the login information for the account is no longer employed at Whitman, the password should be changed immediately. Usernames and/or passwords should not be shared with anyone not authorized to manage a site.

Regardless of whether there have been any changes to the administrators of a social media site, or whether the account is being managed through a personal account or a shared account, passwords used to access Whitman social media accounts should be changed frequently. Password changes for shared accounts should be communicated to everyone that uses the account using a secure method (for example, by using http://lockify.com to create an encrypted message).

Whether you are using a shared alias and password or a personal account to manage a social media site, please make sure you are following WCTS' guidelines for creating a strong password.

Questions?

This guide is expected to evolve and change with the changes in social media. If you have any questions about these guidelines, please contact: