Social Media Best Practices and Recommendations
Social media can enable organizations to connect with stakeholders and create a sense of community among visitors. These best practices and recommendations are intended as a guide to help UA departments and units effectively use social media.
- Best Practices for a UA Social Media Presence
- UA Policies and Social Media
- Using Facebook at UA
- Using Twitter at UA
- Using YouTube at UA
- User-Generated Content Statement
From bulletin boards to email to chat rooms, the web has always had a strong social element, enabling people to make and maintain connections with each other and share information quickly and easily. In recent years, the term “social media” has been applied as a label for various websites and web applications that manage and facilitate these social activities.
If your department or unit wishes to use social media to connect with stakeholders, we encourage you to do so responsibly and in accordance with all applicable University policies. The Office of Web Communications offers the following as best practices based on our own experience and research conducted over the last several years.
Use social media in the way that works for your situation. There are a number of ways to work with social media that can be effective – there is no one “right” way to use these tools. The approach you should take depends on the goals and needs of your unit, so having a clear plan that establishes objectives and desired outcomes is recommended, and that plan should reflect the unique personality of your organization.
Listen, evaluate, adjust, experiment. One strength of social media is that you will often receive feedback that provides insight on how to improve your approach. Listen to that feedback and make adjustments as necessary.
Publish content via social media channels on a regular basis. You don’t have to publish every day or even every week, but people should know that someone is engaged and attending to the information on the page/channel. It is important to provide accurate information for people who take the time to follow your page and/or ask questions about your offerings.
Be prepared to respond to questions that are asked through the social media channel. Remember that when you answer in a public setting, many people may read that answer. If the information you are providing is valid only for the one person you are addressing, you may need to make that clear in your response.
Ask for feedback from your readers. If you need opinions from your audience on a particular topic, sometimes the best thing to do is just ask. Writing a post in the form of a question is a simple and effective way to do this. Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that you don’t control the answers, so be prepared for negative or positive responses.
Recognize that social media is not about control. You can control what you say through social media, but you can’t control how people will interpret your message, how they will react, or what they will communicate to others through these channels about your organization. That’s the nature of social media; trying to change it is neither productive nor desirable. Focus on telling your organization’s story honestly and providing accurate, timely information that is relevant to your readers. This will give people an opportunity to share some of that information with their friends and contacts, just as they might through face-to-face communication.
Assume everything you publish is public. The privacy policies of third party websites are outside of UA’s control and subject to change. In addition, you are interacting with other people whose notions of privacy may differ from yours. This can result in something you thought was a private communication becoming public.
Anyone using social media at UA should be aware that material published on these outlets may be subject to policies outlined in the UA Staff Handbook, including but not limited to the Standards of Behavior section, as well as any other applicable UA policies or laws.
Other UA policies and documents that may govern the use of social media include, but are not limited to, the following:
Visit the UA Policies website for other policies that may be relevant to social media use.
A good rule of thumb is that anything that would be deemed a violation of policies in a face-to-face or telephone communication would likely be considered a violation of those same policies if it took place within the social media environment.
Additionally, UA has established a User-Generated Content Statement that may aid units in setting ground rules for interactions on official UA pages. This statement establishes standards by which UA units may encourage contributions by members of the community while reserving the right to remove content that violates the provider’s terms of service, applicable laws and UA policies.
There are three major types of accounts on Facebook: pages, groups, and profiles. Profiles are designed for individuals, so we recommend that UA organizations use either pages or groups to maintain a Facebook presence.
Most organizations on campus will likely find pages to be the better fit, but in some cases a group makes sense. See Facebook Tips: What’s the Difference between a Facebook Page and Group? for more information.
If you are unsure whether a page or a group is the better option for your organization, feel free to contact the Office of Web Communications and we’ll be glad to discuss this with you.
The UA Office of University Relations maintains an institutional Facebook page for The University of Alabama. The URL for this page is http://www.facebook.com/universityofalabama.
We are happy to link to other official UA Facebook pages from there or from our Social Media Index Page. If you administer a UA Facebook page for a department, division, or unit, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know about your page.
Twitter has only one account type, but you can choose to make your account public or private. While you may wish to have a private personal account, UA organizations using Twitter for communicating with stakeholders would almost always need to have their accounts public.
With a public account, anyone who comes to view your channel will be able to see anything you have posted. These posts are called “tweets” and are limited in length to 140 characters.
Relationships in Twitter are based on the concept of “following.” A Twitter user who is logged into his/her account will see a timeline of tweets posted by all the people (accounts) he/she is following.
The UA Office of University Relations maintains an institutional Twitter channel for The University of Alabama under the handle @UofAlabama at http://www.twitter.com/UofAlabama.
We will set the @UofAlabama account to follow any official UA Twitter feeds upon request. Just send us an email at email@example.com and let us know the @username of your account. We will also add a link to your Twitter feed on our Social Media Index Page.
The UA Office of University Relations maintains an institutional YouTube channel for The University of Alabama at http://www.youtube.com/universityofalabama.
If you would like to set up a YouTube account for your department, division, or unit, you are welcome to do so. If you can let us know about your channel by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will add any official UA YouTube channels to our Social Media Index Page. We also encourage you to contact us if you have any especially good video content on your channel that you’d like to publicize. We will explore possibilities to help with this in any way we can.
NOTE: The following statement is used in support of UA's official institutional social media pages, and is available for use by any official UA entity on its respective social media pages at the discretion of each individual unit.
The University of Alabama welcomes contributions from the community on its official social media pages. User-generated content on UA social media pages does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The University of Alabama, and such content is not screened or approved by UA before it is posted.
The University of Alabama abides by Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, Twitter’s Terms of Service and YouTube’s Terms of Service, and encourages all users to do the same. Further, all users are expected to abide by any and all applicable laws and University of Alabama policies.
The University of Alabama reserves the right – but assumes no obligation – to remove any user-generated content that is deemed inappropriate by the standards set by each third-party provider, as well as content that is unlawful, off-topic, repetitive or commercial in nature. User-generated content is not monitored or moderated on a continual basis, but may be removed for the reasons stated here at any time. UA encourages users to utilize tools provided by third-party providers to report inappropriate or offensive content.
The University of Alabama appreciates the contributions of all members of its online community, and encourages open discussion and the exchange of ideas in a way that adds value to all users.