Social networking, whether in-person or on Facebook, is the same thing we’ve been doing for more than a century at Western: engaging with our communities. That’s something you’re undoubtedly good at, or you wouldn’t be here.
Whether you’re in charge of the social media presence for a Western entity or using social media to enhance the classroom experience, these guidelines will be helpful in navigating today’s rapidly shifting social media world.
Social Media Training
If you’re responsible for posting content on behalf of Western or a Western department, it’s highly recommended that you take Western’s official social media training course. There is no cost to Western employees for taking the course.
Guidelines on Posting for Faculty and Staff
Make it Accessible
As with everything we do on campus, accessibility on social media is a top priority. See the Accessible Social Media guide for best practice and platform specific accessibility information.
Clearly State (and Then Act on) Your Purpose
Be clear and transparent about what you’re doing. Is your goal to disseminate information? To interact with parents, students or prospective students? To seek feedback or advice? State your purpose from the outset, and live that purpose daily. Don’t change goals or tactics in the middle of the game; you’ll throw off and potentially alienate those who’ve been interacting with you.
Be Respectful and Professional
Remember, you’re representing Western. Put thought into what you say and do on behalf of the university. Keep your personal views separate, and don’t post political comments or statements on social issues. Don’t publish content containing slurs, personal insults or attacks, profanity or obscenity, and don’t engage in any conduct on a social media site that would not be acceptable in Western workplaces or classrooms.
Know that whenever you identify yourself as a member of the Western community, you may be seen as representing Western, whether you like it or not. Never conceal your identity for the purpose of promoting Western through social media. Be transparent about who you are and whom you represent. Do not use the Western name to promote or endorse any product, cause or political party or candidate. Avoid conflicts of interest and maintain a distinction between your personal identity and the identity you represent on behalf of the university.
Don’t disclose private information about the university or its students; FERPA rules for protecting students’ personally identifiable information in educational records apply.
Follow copyright and fair use laws to the letter.
Know the Rules
In addition to understanding the broad spectrum of your responsibilities as a state employee, read up on Western’s policies and the terms of service for the social media tools you’re using. Be sure to adhere to the Western's brand standards and naming conventions.
You are personally responsible for the content you post on university-managed social media accounts, from blogs and social networks to forums and other social media platforms.
Manage Content and Monitor Comments
Postings by the community on university-run social media accounts (e.g. Facebook wall postings, YouTube video comments) do not imply endorsement of that content by Western. If a business posts an irrelevant advertisement or solicitation on your Facebook wall, for example, you should delete it. If you have any doubt about what is appropriate to say or leave online, ask your supervisor or contact the Office of Communications.
Developing a Social Media Strategy
Before beginning a social media initiative or creating a new account on behalf of Western, develop a social media strategy that will guide your efforts. Your strategy should involve an assessment of your communication goals and objectives as well as of the needs and interests of your audience. It should also identify resources for creating content and maintaining your social media channel. It is essential to do this before you begin–creating a social media presence is a promise to your community that you’ll maintain your presence and provide consistent content.
It’s also important to determine what social media technologies will best help you meet your goals. Don’t forget about internal tools such as Western Today, myWestern, and the various college e-newsletters–these are great resources for communicating with the Western community, and using these tools helps support Western’s investment in technology.
Consider the following:
- Whom are you trying to reach?
- What would you like them to do?
- What kind of social interactions will help you accomplish your goals?
- How will you know when you’ve succeeded?
- How often will you post content, and who will do it? (Social media interactions don't stop when you’re away from the office. Put a plan in place for others to take over.)
- Where will your content come from?
Engaging With Others
Be a Human
You’ll need to interact, engage, be honest, be funny, be spontaneous, be real. People don’t want to interact with an institution or brand or product. They want to interact with a human. That doesn’t mean you can’t have an institutional account, it just means that your institutional account must act human. Remember that part of being a human is being humane. Be kind and courteous in all your interactions, being careful not to let your love of a good joke or witty comeback override your sensitivity to others.
Interact with others. Ask questions, thank people, comment on their posts, retweet their good content. In social media, your participation makes you valuable, and it also helps to build solid relationships.
When posting, you cede control of your brand to those who are digesting and responding to your content. That’s okay. When people respond negatively to something you’ve done, that’s okay, too. You can’t control everything, and you shouldn’t try.
Be in Tune with Your Brand
Familiarize yourself with Western's Brand Guide, which outlines our organizational identity. What are your group’s policies, and how do your administrators represent Western to the community?
Before you post, gather all the facts. Take time to verify information. Link to your sources whenever possible and give credit to your sources for the information you’re sharing. Mention sources in tweets or Facebook posts. In so doing, you build community and gain the trust of the online community. If you make an error, correct it quickly and visibly.
If you feel angry or passionate about a subject, don’t post until you calm down. Take time to think about what you’re saying and how it might be perceived. Never post in anger or self- defense.
Be Quick to Listen
Keep your ears and eyes open. What do the people you want to reach care about? How do they feel about you? How do they engage with others? The better you understand your audience, the more likely you are to post content that they appreciate and want to share, comment on or re-post. And when you listen to others, they will listen to you.
Check out other Western accounts on WWUSocial who are successfully engaging with their communities, and ask them for tips on how to operate. Pay attention to similar entities outside Western, or anyone whose engagement tactics you admire, and use those actions as inspiration in your own work.
Be Aware of Your Impact
Social media often span traditional boundaries between professional and personal relationships. If you’ve ever identified yourself as part of the Western community online, readers will associate you with the university, even if you are posting from your personal account. Be thoughtful of the things you say, the photos you post and the content to which you link.
Day-To-Day Best Practices
Managing Negative Content
If a community member posts critical comments, do not delete or suppress their postings if they have valid points to consider. Let the comments stand. Correct misinformation, but don’t engage in arguments. Often, the community will correct itself and step in to correct inaccuracies or defend Western or your specific entity. If this happens and is sufficient to resolve the issue, there may be no need for an additional official response.
Feel free to hide/delete irrelevant or vulgar posts. If you feel a post is threatening in nature or otherwise meriting greater concern, contact the Office of Communications for advice.
Presence and Maintenance
Few things will help you build credibility with your community more than being present and responsive. Of course, the opposite also is true. When people engage with you, they expect a response, and on social media they expect a fast response. Accounts that obviously are not being maintained reflect poorly on Western.
Monitor replies and comments daily. Check at least once a day, and respond promptly.
How often should you post? It really depends on the medium. An editorial calendar can help you schedule the creation and publication of content. Resist the urge to post all your good content at once; spread it out over time. Use your best judgment and tailor your actions to the reactions of your community.
Consider spreading posting responsibilities among several people in your department if you feel that will help you keep your account up-to-date. Facebook allows for multiple administrators on a page. Each administrator, however, must have a personal Facebook account.
1x/day or more
Post as often as you feel the need as long as your content adds value to your community. But if you want to post just once a day that’s perfectly fine.
An average of one post per day is reasonable.
1x/day to 1x/month
You’ll probably be posting here less often, as creation of quality video takes time. Post whenever you have good content, whether that’s once per day or once per month. You may be posting successive content, like episodes–consider posting the same date each month or day of the week to create consistency for your viewers.
1x to 3x/week
Vary your posts depending on content. Post once per week if that’s all you have time for, but two or three times a week is fine, too.
Analytics are key to assessing your success in social media. Determine relevant statistics and track them over time. Match analytics information against content and engagement to determine what caused certain results. Use this information to better understand your audience and to inform content decisions. Study the data provided by the respective analytics functions in Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr, Flickr and any other medium that provides such data.
When sharing links via social media, use a service such as bit.ly to create shortened, trackable URLs.
Naming and Branding Your Social Media Presence
Create an account in the name of a recognized Western entity only if you are authorized to represent that entity. Discuss with your supervisor when you are empowered to respond directly to users and when you may need approval, or if you have questions about the appropriateness of certain content for posting.
When naming your social media presence, be clear in identifying your unit as a part of Western Washington University. All names should begin with “Western,” ideally, “Western Washington University” or “WWU,” as in “Western Libraries” or “WWU Admissions.” It would be incorrect to title your account, for example, “Accounts Payable at WWU,” “Accounts Payable - Western Washington University” or simply “Accounts Payable.”
Keep in mind that most social media services limit name length. Choose a name that best identifies your unit while still adhering to these guidelines.
Examples of correct usage for Facebook pages:
- Western Foundation
- WWU Athletics
- Western Washington University - Department of History
Examples of correct usage for Twitter accounts:
Clearly identify your unit, avoiding names that might be confused as representing all of Western or a unit other than your own.
Social media sites at the university should be marked as official in some way (for example, in a Twitter bio or in the Facebook “about” section).
The image associated with your page or account may be the official logo of your unit or an image closely associated with your unit, such as the building in which your unit is located. You may not solely use the Western logo unless your account represents the entire university. Contact University Marketing to get a web-appropriate version of your unit’s logo or have a sub-branded Western logo made for your specific unit.
These name and image conventions apply to all social media services.
Terms and Conditions of Social Media Services
Before signing up for any account:
- Clear such activity with your supervisor.
- Contact University Communications to discuss your plans for the account.
Applicable Western Policies
Before you get in too deep, make sure you’ve read and are adhering to the following Western policies: