Social Media Guidelines
Note: These guidelines are under consideration and not yet fully adopted by the College.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Social Media Guidelines When Posting as an Individual
- Social Media Guidelines When Posting on Behalf of Emerson College
- Safety and Privacy Tips for Social Media Networking
The following social media guidelines were originally developed by the University of Michigan and have been edited and revised for the Emerson College community. We thank our colleagues at the University of Michigan for sharing them with us and giving us permission to adopt and modify them for Emerson.
We are now engaged in a process of discussing these proposed guidelines with Emerson faculty, students, and staff and hope to formally adopt them in Fall 2012. Please direct your suggestions and revisions to Andy Tiedemann.
The rapid growth of social media technologies combined with their ease of use and pervasiveness make them attractive channels of communication. However, these tools also hold the possibility of a host of unintended consequences. To help you identify and avoid potential issues, we have compiled these guidelines. They are examples of best practices from various institutions and are intended to help you understand, from a wide range of perspectives, the implications of participating in social media.
Things to Consider When Beginning to Use Social Media
Applications that allow you to interact with others online (e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) require you to carefully consider the implications of friending, linking, following, or accepting such a request from another person. For example, there is the potential for misinterpretation of the relationship or the potential of sharing protected information. Relationships such as faculty-student, supervisor-subordinate, and staff-student merit close consideration of the implications and the nature of the social interaction. The following are some guidelines to follow in these cases.
Emerson uses social media to supplement traditional press and marketing efforts. Employees are encouraged to share College news and events that are a matter of public record with their family and friends. Linking straight to the information source is an effective way to help promote the mission of Emerson College and build community.
When you are using social media for personal purposes and might be perceived as an agent/expert of Emerson, you need to make sure it is clear to the audience that you are not representing the position of the College or Emerson College policy. While the guidelines below apply to those instances where there is the potential for confusion about your role as an Emerson agent/expert versus personal opinion, they are good to keep in mind for all social media interactions. When posting to a social media site, you should:
Do No Harm
Let your Internet social networking do no harm to Emerson College or to yourself, whether you’re navigating those networks on the job or off.
Does It Pass the Publicity Test?
If the content of your message would not be acceptable for face-to-face conversation, over the telephone, or in another medium, it will not be acceptable for a social networking site. Ask yourself, would I want to see this published in the newspaper or posted on a billboard tomorrow or 10 years from now?
Be Aware of Liability
You are personally responsible for the content you publish on blogs, wikis, or any other form of user-generated content. Individual bloggers have been held liable for commentary deemed to be copyright infringement, defamatory, proprietary, libelous, or obscene (as defined by the courts). Increasingly, employers are conducting web searches on job candidates before extending offers. Be mindful that what you publish will be public for a long time—be sure that what you post today will not come back to haunt you.
The line between professional and personal business is sometimes blurred: Be thoughtful about your posting’s content and potential audiences. Be honest about your identity. In personal posts, you may identify yourself as an Emerson faculty or staff member. However, please be clear that you are sharing your views as an individual, not as a representative of Emerson College. If you identify yourself as a member of the Emerson community, ensure your profile and related content are consistent with how you wish to present yourself to colleagues.
Be a Valued Member
If you join a social network, make sure you are contributing valuable insights. Don’t hijack the discussion and redirect by posting self-/organizational-promoting information. Self-promoting behavior is viewed negatively and can lead to you being banned from websites or groups.
Think Before You Post
There’s no such thing as a “private” social media site. Search engines can turn up posts and pictures years after the publication date. Comments can be forwarded or copied. Archival systems save information even if you delete a post. If you feel angry or passionate about a subject, it’s wise to delay posting until you are calm and clear-headed. Only post pictures that you would be comfortable sharing with the general public (current and future peers, employers, etc.).
Take the High Ground
If you identify your affiliation with Emerson in your comments, readers may associate you with the College, even with the disclaimer that your views are your own. Remember that you’re most likely to build a high-quality following if you discuss ideas and situations civilly. Don’t pick fights online.
Respect Your Audience
Don’t use ethnic slurs, personal insults, obscenity, or engage in any conduct that would not be acceptable in Emerson’s community. You should also show proper consideration for others’ privacy and for topics that may be considered sensitive, such as politics and religion. You are more likely to achieve your goals if you are constructive and respectful while discussing a bad experience or disagreeing with a concept or person.
If you make a mistake, admit it. Be upfront and be quick with your correction. If you’re posting to a blog, you may choose to modify an earlier post—just make it clear that you have done so.
Most people who maintain social media sites welcome comments—it builds credibility and community. However, you may be able to set your site so that you can review and approve comments before they appear. This allows you to respond in a timely way to comments. It also allows you to delete spam comments and to block any individuals who repeatedly post offensive or frivolous comments.
Protect Your Identity
While you should be honest about yourself, don’t provide personal information that scam artists or identity thieves could use. Don’t list your home address or telephone number. It is a good idea to create a separate email address that is used only with social media sites.
Don’t Use Pseudonyms
Never pretend to be someone else. Tracking tools enable supposedly anonymous posts to be traced back to their authors.
Use a Disclaimer
If you publish content to any website outside of Emerson and it has something to do with the work you do or subjects associated with Emerson, use a disclaimer such as this: “The postings on this site are my own and do not represent Emerson’s positions, strategies, or opinions.”
A common practice among individuals who write about the industry in which they work is to include a disclaimer on their site, usually on their “About Me” page. If you discuss higher education on your own social media site, we suggest you include a sentence similar to this: “The views expressed on this [blog, website] are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Emerson College.” This is particularly important if you could be perceived to be in a leadership role at Emerson.
Don’t Use the Emerson Logo or Make Endorsements
Do not use the Emerson shield, wordmark, or any other Emerson marks or images on your personal online sites. Do not use Emerson’s name to promote or endorse any product, cause, or political party or candidate. Emerson logo and trademark guidelines can be found here.
Online collaboration tools provide low-cost communication methods that foster open exchanges and learning. While social media tools are changing the way we work and how we connect with the public and other higher education institutions, Emerson policies and practices for sharing information remain the same. In addition to the individual guidelines discussed above, please follow these official guidelines when you create or post to a social media site on behalf of Emerson:
Process for Creating an Emerson Social Media Presence
To ensure that your social media efforts adhere to the design and policy standards of Emerson College and that your efforts are not tied specifically to an Emerson community member’s personal account, all official Emerson social media accounts must be created by Web Services within the Office of Communications and Marketing.
Web Services will then grant the appropriate person(s) administrative access to those accounts. To request an account, fill out the following form.
Maintain Emerson College Confidentiality
Do not post confidential or proprietary information about Emerson College, its students, its alumni, or your fellow employees. Use good ethical judgment and follow the College’s policies and federal requirements, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Review Emerson policies for more information on your responsibility as an Emerson employee.
Do not discuss a situation involving named or pictured Emerson community members on a social media site without their permission. As a guideline, do not post anything that you would not present in any public forum. Additional information on the appropriate handling of student and employee information can be found here.
Before composing a message that might act as the “voice” or position of the College or a school/department, please discuss the content with your supervisor or the dean/chair of the school/department or his or her delegate. If you ever have any question about whether a message you are crafting is appropriate to post in your role as an Emerson employee, talk with your supervisor before you post.
Respect College Time and Property
It’s appropriate to post at work if your comments are directly related to accomplishing work goals, such as seeking sources for information or working with others to resolve a problem. You should participate in personal social media conversations on your own time.
What you write is ultimately your responsibility. Participation in social computing on behalf of Emerson is not a right but an opportunity, so please treat it seriously and with respect. Keep in mind that if you are posting with a College username, other users do not know you personally. They view what you post as coming from the College. What you say directly reflects on the College. Discuss with your supervisor the circumstances in which you are empowered to respond directly to users and when you may need approval.
Make sure that you have all the facts before you post. It’s better to verify information with a source first than to have to post a correction or retraction later. Cite and link to your sources whenever possible––that’s how you build community.
Assign an administrator who can regularly monitor postings and content. Aim for standard times for postings and updates. The recommended minimum frequency is once to twice a week. But be sure not to overload your updates. Followers will stop paying attention if you overload them with information.
The Internet is open to a worldwide audience. When using social media channels, ask yourself:
- Did I set my privacy setting to help control who can look at my profile, personal information, and photos? You can limit access somewhat but not completely, and you have no control over what someone else may share.
- How much information do I want strangers to know about me? If I give them my cell phone number, address, email, class schedule, a list of possessions (such as my CD collection), how might they use it? With whom will they share it? Not everyone will respect your personal or physical space.
- What if I change my mind about what I post? For instance, what if I want to remove something I posted as a joke or to make a point? Have I read the social networking site’s privacy and caching statements? Removing material from network caches can be difficult. Posted material can remain accessible on the Internet until you’ve completed the prescribed process for removing information from the caching technology of one or multiple (potentially unknown) search engines.
- Have I asked permission to post someone else’s image or information? Am I infringing on their privacy? Could I be hurting someone? Could I be subject to libel suits? Am I violating network use policy or HIPAA privacy rules?
- Does my equipment have spyware and virus protections installed? Some sites collect profile information to SPAM you. Others contain links that can infect your equipment with viruses that potentially can destroy data and infect others with whom you communicate. Remember to back up your work on an external source in case of destructive attacks.