Social Media Policy and Guidelines

Last updated: 1/4/2012

Social media websites are effective communication tools that Lynchburg College organizations are encouraged to use. Social media are disseminated through social interaction and are differentiated from most traditional media in that they offer user-generated content and immediate, interactive conversation. Examples include, but are not limited to, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Flickr.

This document combines the social media strategy, policy, and guidelines for the College community. It is maintained by the Office of College Communications and Marketing (CCM).

The social media policy applies to employees of Lynchburg College and to students who maintain official social media accounts on behalf of College offices or groups.

Contents

 

1 Strategy

Social media are used by Lynchburg College to communicate with and promote the College brand to the public and key constituencies.

Social media will be used to:

  • foster conversation
  • provide customer support
  • promote College events and accomplishments
  • participate in a particular activity (e.g. on photo- or video-sharing)
  • facilitate integration of college communications/information

Different social media will be appropriate for different organizations and goals. However, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, and YouTube are the social media sites used most by the College and therefore, more effort and support will be dedicated to maintaining accounts on these websites.

Social networking (Facebook, LinkedIn)

  • Make connections based on common interests, experiences, and affiliations.
  • Share ideas, resources, photos, videos, links, etc.
  • Converse and promote events or programs.

Media sharing (Flickr, YouTube)

  • Upload videos, photos, or other media.
  • Search, tag, and comment on media.

Blogging

  • Post entries on topics of interest, update with regular entries; all are archived.

Micro-blogging (Twitter)

  • Share ideas and links.
  • Provide feeds of other content (news, blog entries).

2 Policy

The policy applies to employees of Lynchburg College and to students who maintain official social media accounts on behalf of College offices or groups.

2.1 Official social media accounts

Official accounts are those:

  • Created by a College employee for the purposes of representing and promoting the College.
  • Created for College offices, schools, departments, or school-sponsored/approved student groups.
  • Which use Lynchburg College or LC in their account names. (Only official accounts may use the College name.)
  • Which have at least one faculty or staff person as an account administrator at all times. Only current staff, faculty, and currently-enrolled students may serve as account administrators.

2.1.1 Account creation/setup

  • When naming the account, include Lynchburg College or LC at the beginning. (e.g. LC-StudentLife)
  • Notify CCM of your account by emailing ccm@lynchburg.edu.
  • Provide account access to CCM. The CCM office will only access your group's account in an "emergency" situation: if it is necessary to remove a post or comment that is time-sensitive, inaccurate, or that violates the social media policy. CCM will then notify you of the change. CCM will not manage your account.

2.1.2 Account maintenance

  • Official accounts must conform to the social media policy and guidelines.
  • Plan to keep your account active. Participation may slow during summer or winter breaks but should not stop altogether. Both posts and responses to users are expected.
  • Official accounts may be deleted if they are not regularly updated or if they do not follow the social media policy.

2.1.3 Respect: LC, the public, and the law

When you represent Lynchburg College on social media, you are an ambassador. You communicate, both by what you say and by your tone and demeanor, what an LC employee or student is like.

You are expected to be respectful of others. Your posts and your language should be appropriate for everyone. Don't enter into arguments or be uncivil.

You must not post anything illegal, defamatory, or obscene.

Likewise, you must respect the law. Be mindful of copyrights held by others. Remember education-related regulations such as FERPA. Never post any confidential information to social media.

2.1.4 Endorsements and advertisements

On official accounts, do not post a personal opinion that is at odds with the mission and goals of Lynchburg College.

Do not endorse or advertise a political candidate or party, a product, or a business.

2.1.5 Comments

Comments are important to social media because conversation and user participation is what makes them social. Official accounts will accept user comments.

Part of your responsibility as an account administrator is monitoring the comments on your account.

If the comment is in the form of a question or is seeking information, you should answer as soon as possible, preferably the same day. Don't worry about telling a user that you need to research the issue and get back to them - better to make sure you're accurate than to misinform.

Sometimes, comments are negative. Users expect to be able to voice their opinions on social media; therefore, it is usually good to leave negative comments on a page, and best if you can politely address the concerns brought up in those comments. You'll also find that sometimes "fans" may come to your defense and address the person who posted the original negative comment.

Comments that should be deleted immediately are those that contain profanity, illegal content, or personal attacks.

Comments containing spam or advertisements should also be deleted.

2.1.6 Graphics

Most social media sites give you the option of uploading a photo or graphic to be used as a profile picture, or graphic identifier.

As a service to College entities, CCM can provide graphics for official accounts.

To get graphics for your social media initiatives:

  1. Email ccm@lynchburg.edu to begin the process. If you have a graphic you would like to use, attach it to the email.
  2. CCM web staff will work with you to produce or adjust the graphic so that it will display effectively in all media. To shorten the processing time, remember when choosing your graphic that it must be legible at 32×32 pixels.
  3. Within two business days of step 2, CCM will email you a folder containing image files for use on various social media sites. They will be labeled with their appropriate usage; e.g. "facebook-icon.jpg" or "twitter-icon.png."

The graphics provided for electronic and social media are not suitable for print. If you need a higher-resolution image, suitable for print, contact ccm@lynchburg.edu.

2.1.7 Interacting with sports recruits

The rules of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) do not allow comments about possible recruits to appear on an official social media account or on the account of employees.

Messages to recruits may not be sent using social media. Other forms of electronically transmitted messages to recruits, such as texts, instant messenger, or message boards are also impermissible.

2.2 Personal social media accounts (employees of the College)

If you talk about LC from a personal account, make sure you disclose that you are an LC employee. Transparency is very important in social media.

If you disclose your relationship to LC, please also be aware of the way your content and that of your friends/followers/contacts might reflect on the College.

Making posts that contradict the mission and goals of the College may result in disciplinary consequences.

2.3 Using social media at work

Social media can be a useful tool for both conducting College business and for other professional activities, such as research and communication with other professionals in your field.

However, it is important that employees keep their social media activity limited to professional interactions while at work. Discuss social media use with your supervisor so you understand his/her expectations.

2.4 Blogs

While not strictly social media, blogs become interactive when they accept user comments. Lynchburg College blogs, with the exception of student blogs for study abroad and admission, fall under the Red Chair blogs or the Red Swarm blogs (athletics).

A blog is an archived collection of entries. Although they are usually text, a blog could feature photos or videos as well. Since people visit blogs for the purpose of reading (as opposed to finding specific information or accomplishing a task), blog entries may have more text than a typical web page. However, web conventions like short paragraphs, use of headings to label sections, and properly constructed links still apply.

If your office would like to start a blog, contact CCM at ccm@lynchburg.edu.

Are you ready to blog? Consider the following blogger expectations:

  • Regular posts. To build readership, make sure you make regular posts. Once every 1-2 weeks is sufficient. It's better to be interesting every time than to be posting all the time.
  • Interesting posts. Blogging is a big commitment. Make sure you have a list of topics that you know you want to blog about.
  • Comment management. LC blogs accept user comments. You will need to regularly review and approve comments before they are posted. This allows you to filter out spam comments. You may find comments you may want to respond to. This is encouraged, as it fosters conversation.
  • Unique voice. Although everyone should use correct spelling and grammar, blogs are individual. You should sound like yourself, writing in a style that suits you and the topic of your blog.

3 Social media guidelines

Should your office or group be on social media? The answer depends on your goals and your ability to maintain the account appropriately. Even if you already use social media personally, this guide will help you to use social media for your office, department, or group in the most effective way.

3.1 The common sense rules of engagement

Know why you're there
You won't be as successful as you could be if you don't have a purpose and plan for using social media. Make some goals, and write out a brief plan. CCM's social media assessment (below, section 3.2) can help.

Respect others
Behave on social media as you would in a face-to-face relationship. Respect others' views and opinions, use appropriate language, and be polite.

Think first, post second
It's really hard to take something back once it's been posted. Especially when conversing on a controversial topic or responding to a negative comment, write out what you'd like to say, then step away for a minute or ask someone else to review it before you post it.

Build community
It's all about community. Ask questions, answer questions, and respond to comments. Be conversational.

3.2 Where to be - the social media assessment

CCM uses the following questionnaire to help offices determine what their social media presence should be. Contact CCM at ccm@lynchburg.edu to schedule an appointment to discuss the social media assessment before you begin your social media initiative.

  1. Why are you talking? Why are you listening?
    These questions are paraphrased from Kristina Halvorson's book, Content Strategy for the Web. Since being on social media means participation in a conversation, these are really important questions to answer!
  2. Who is your audience?
  3. What would you like to achieve by being on social media?
    Identify all that apply:
      Participate in two-way communication.
      Promote events and accomplishments.
      Share photos, videos, or podcasts.
      Establish a presence. (Everyone else is there, so we should be, too.)
      Distribute news items or blog entries to a wider audience.
      Create a forum for connecting people with common interests.
      Attract new students.
      Communicate with current students.
      Communicate with the community.
      Other: _________
  4. Can you give up control of the conversation?
    Traditional media is one-way; social media is two-way conversation. People may say things you don't like. However, you will gain valuable insight into your target audience and can attract and build brand advocates.
  5. Who will be responsible for providing updates and responding to questions?
    You should identify more than one person.
  6. What is the long-term plan for the account?
    If the account is for a student group or is being managed by students, what will happen when they graduate?
  7. How many hours do you have or can you give to maintain social media accounts?
    Depending on which and how many social media your office participates in and the level of engagement you have with your followers, you may need to spend 1-8 hours a week on social media.
  8. How are your web pages?
    This question doesn't tie directly into social media, but if someone ends up on your website as a result of interacting with you on social media, will you be providing content that's current, relevant, accurate, and purposeful?
  9. How do you plan to make sure social media coordinates with the rest of your activities?
    Social media is just another avenue for communication. Your core messages and activities should work out in flyers and other printed communications, emails, on your web pages, and in social media.

3.3 Facebook

Facebook is a social networking site. It is good for connecting with people you know, or with whom you share common interests. Facebook is universal (more people have a profile on Facebook than live in the United States) so it's a great place to start.

Use Facebook to update your fans about upcoming events, to post photos and videos of interest to them, to conduct discussions, and to make connections with others.

3.3.1 Pages, groups, and profiles

There are three kinds of entities on Facebook: personal profiles, groups, and pages.

Personal profiles represent individuals. To connect with a personal profile on Facebook, a user sends a friend request, which the profile owner can accept or decline.

Groups are relatively small, community spaces. Groups can be public or private. A good use of a group might be to facilitate discussion among students in a single class. Groups are not good for wider marketing. To connect with a group on Facebook, users have to join the group. Group members do not automatically get updates from the group; they have to remember to check the group page.

Pages are the entity to use for general communication. To connect with a page, Facebook users just have to click "Like." After they like your page, they will get your updates in their news feed.

3.3.2 Creating a page

Only someone with a Facebook profile can establish a Facebook page. Once logged in to Facebook, visit https://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php, which will walk you through the setup process.

3.3.3 Personal information and privacy

If you are considering a Facebook presence for your LC area, you will need to have (and use) a Facebook profile. It is wise, even if you already use Facebook, to make sure you understand the available privacy settings. 10 Privacy Settings Every Facebook User Should Know is a good place to start.

3.3.4 LC Guidelines

Upon establishing a Facebook page (or group) for a Lynchburg College entity, please:

3.3.5 Community expectations

Updating the community
Facebook users expect interesting, occasional updates from pages they like. Irrelevant or overly frequent updates will feel like spam and may cause a fan to click "unlike." On the other hand, updating too infrequently may make your page look untended and outdated. Keep updates relevant and brief. Don't send messages; just publish to your wall.

Responding to the community
Facebook users expect responses to questions/comments posted on your page wall. Plan to sign in daily.

Occasionally you may see posts on your page wall that you would prefer not be there. If they are a legitimate criticism, it is usually best to reply quickly, factually, and respectfully and try to address the issue. Deleting criticism will usually increase negative feeling and may backfire.

However, it is LC's policy to delete postings that contain spam, profanity, or personal attacks immediately.

3.4 Twitter

Twitter is a micro-blogging service, where posts made to an account are limited to 140 characters in length. Users who wish to receive your updates will choose to follow your account. You can also follow them or other users who you think are relevant to your account.

NOTE: Your followers will be able to see the posts of those you follow if they view your account. Make sure that you are not following Twitter users who tweet messages that are not appropriate for LC audiences.

3.4.1 When do I use it?

Use Twitter for disseminating information quickly: promote an upcoming event, spread a piece of breaking news faster than you can write an article about it, answer user questions, cross-promote news or blog feeds, and re-tweet messages from others. (Retweeting means that you are posting - sort of like forwarding - another Twitter user's message for your followers to see. The message will show which Twitter user posted it by showing the Twitter user's or group's profile name with the @ sign.)

Accounts may be for a person or group. As with Facebook, you may want to consider making a professional account separate from your personal account.

Twitter updates are typically frequent, but take care not to post too frequently or too infrequently.

3.4.2 LC Guidelines

Upon establishing a Twitter account for a Lynchburg College entity, please:

  • Contact CCM (ccm@lynchburg.edu) before publishing; if your account is already in place, inform CCM as soon as possible. Provide the login name and password for the account.
  • Include the words "Lynchburg College" in the name (or "LC" if necessary for space).
  • Use an appropriate graphic. (CCM can supply you with one.)
  • Follow LC's main Twitter account, www.twitter.com/lynchburg

3.5 Flickr

Flickr is a photo-sharing website that Lynchburg College uses to share photos with the College community and the public. Photos on Flickr can include descriptions, notes, and tags (with location, people, landmarks, events, etc.). Photos can be categorized into groups called sets, and sets can be grouped into collections.

Flickr users (a free Flickr account is required; users can also sign in with their Facebook or Google account) can comment on photos, allowing for feedback and conversation. They can also mark photos as personal "favorites."

3.5.1 Using Flickr for Lynchburg College

In order to maximize the exposure of Lynchburg College photos, LC uses one Flickr account. Your office is invited to have collections and/or sets as part of the main LC account. Please contact CCM at ccm@lynchburg.edu if your office has photos it would like to post to Flickr.

In special cases where there is a need for frequent posting of large numbers of photos, CCM will work with groups to set up their own flickr accounts.

3.5.2 Flickr slideshows

LC uses Flickr sets as slideshows that are posted to the LC website. If your office has a collection of photos you'd like to turn into a slideshow on the website, email ccm@lynchburg.edu. CCM staff will post the photos to Flickr and create the slideshow on the page you designate.

CCM staff can help you determine whether a Flickr slideshow will be effective on your web page - photos should be high-quality, show variety, and add to the message of the page.

3.6 LinkedIn, YouTube, and others

If you would like to use LinkedIn, YouTube, or other social media, please consult CCM at ccm@lynchburg.edu to discuss goals and best practices.