Introduction – content development. FB, Twitter, etc. Manage a team of 4 e-ambassadors (writing, photo, video) and one staff member responsible, for among other things, our social media presence and conversations. Back in 2007/2008 when it was just three staff members in the office that looked over Facebook, it was easy to manage the questions, the flow and the friends we had. If a controversial question or comment came in, we could huddle around a computer and come up with answer that was accurate and yet witty but not the least bit bitter. It was when we began to hire for the sole reason of maintaining our social media, that there was way too many people and questions floating around for one person to monitor, that social media protocols were in order. Also, it is a mode of communication for us with the internal university community who might be wondering why we use Facebook or how and when we put up messages. This document becomes a great mode of backing up your social media program or initiatives with reasonings and guidelines that are easy to understand. It shows that you are not randomly starting a new LinkedIn group because it might be a good idea, but that you are starting it because the demographics are there, you have a plan for maintaining it and a plan for closing it if necessary.
So for us, social media protocols govern how we as a team interact with students online. This is not a computer use policy for staff – that’s an hr department. This will not tell you what you can and cannot say on your personal blog. This pile of papers give me no authority to fire anyone over their personal views vented on Twitter. But it will tell you what is appropriate for the institutions’ blogs. And it will tell you not to get personal on the institution’s Twitter. It fills two needs: Explains how to interact with students Provides guidelines on producing content
So how to start this process. We need to answer this question: what is Social Media for the purposes of these protocols? Exercise 1 – list all the media you are responsible for. Websites, online chats, Facebook everything. What is social media. Now try to group them into tactics or types. So for us, our communication methods divided into two types: the invited and the semi-uninvited is a simple way to say it. Social media had a mode of interaction (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) however if was not necessarily by invitation only interaction (ie Webinars, instant messaging, online chats). These for us are focused events that already had guidelines around them and are directed conversations. Why do we need to do this? Two reasons: It is impossible to write social media protocols that are specific to any one media. So let’s say Facebook. You want to write 10 pages on how to use Facebook correctly and appropriately? Go ahead and you’ll need to change it all the next day when Facebook changes everything on you. So it needs to be general. At the same time, the interactions you may have over instant messaging are not necessarily the same as the public discussions that can take place on Facebook. So one rule can’t rule them all in this case. No – focus on tactics alone. Take that list of social media you want to address and boil it down to similar tactics. Answering questions. Responding to comments. Posting photos. Doing it this way saves you time year over year. So this year we only had to update the protocols to include a bit more about geolocating posts. So this list will be the first thing to guide your protocols.
Finally, last exercise to get you started: think of some themes that you want to be recurring in the document. What would a new person, having just been handed the protocols understand about social media at your institution? You don’t want them to think, Oh dear, it’s all rules. What do you/or your institution want to get out of social media? What would your major themes be? Community Fairness Customer Service Success measurement These are things we kept top of mind when reviewing and revamping the document. Does this protocol really allow for community. Do we have enough ways to ensure we are measuring our ROI on social media? So have this list handy when you start writing.
So by now you definitely have a starting point from which to work on. You have what you will focus on in terms of tactics, your majors themes for success and of course some additional documents to help guide you along the way. What I’m going to do now is run through some of the sections we have in our social media protocols and talk about some of the items we included in them and our thought process. Hopefully, this gives you some places to start and things to include, or not include as well. So to start off, we outlined some Terms of Reference, why we are involved in social media, some stats and of course an overview of our social media strategic plan, mainly our goals, our target audience and our main messages. This is just a general one page overview to orient why these protocols exist. If you haven’t done this before, this is a great exercise and can take the longest time for writing. You really need to sit down and define your job in social media and have the proof to back up why you are spending time on Facebook and Twitter for your university. It will make the rest of the writing easier, and give you something to point to as to why these communications work and why you may need, for example, more staff to help you out. In doing this, already though, you will have referenced our university plan (in the main messages and goals) and any external surveys or reports that you would have already collected.
Administration and Staff We wanted to make sure we address who is responsible for what and when. So this includes: Who updates When it is updated Who is responsible for design When we would open and account, when we would close an account So some examples: When creating a new account, when possible, select a user name or account containing “Any University” It is the responsibility of social media staff for be aware of all policies relating to blogs and social media sites. This includes privacy policies set out of the University, ACCS and FIPPA. (more on privacy later) Social media sites are to be updated daily, Monday to Friday, between 8:30am and 4:30pm. In terms of when we would close an account – we include stats that we think are indicative of a site no longer being an effective mode of communication. So let’s say we are losing more followers than gaining, or the site is no longer being maintained, etc. We try to think long term to make these protocols effective for some time.
Content So for content, I started with our computer-use policy and our privacy policies as a place to start. For example: Posts that are obscene, defamatory, profane, libelous, threatening, harassing, abusive or hateful are prohibited. Material that violates the Criminal Code of Canada or is discriminatory under the Ontario Human Rights Code is prohibited. But this section can also include: information on copyright and Creative Commons Licenses Reposting from other external sites Content via geo-location services
Comments & Questions This is by far the most helpful section of our protocols. It outlines again, how often we are to answer, when comments should be deleted, warning posters and linking out to answers. Also, we include information on where to go for answer, our subject matter experts. It’s best to keep this section as positive as possible and to be honest, most of our interactions online have been nothing but positive. So we include in the protocols that we welcome questions, comments and reactions to all posts. We do not delete randomly or because we as staff may feel offended. So for example here’s some wording we have used: “ Social media staff must respond to comments and questions within one business day. Comments that are negative, but not inflammatory, must be responded to in a courteous manner with factual information. Use this opportunity to engage in conversation to a) correct misconceptions and b) invite the poster to discover more about the university.” Also: Spam, flaming, personal attacks and off-topic comments are not permitted and may be deleted. Again we would refer to items that may be illegal by the Criminal Code or the Ontario Human Rights Code. The point is here that we are not treating these social interactions based on how we feel on any given day. I’ve had posters that really annoy me and yes, I want to just ban them, it would make my life easier, but that is not about fairness (one of our main themes) or about building community.
Blog So we added a section particularly for the blog because we direct much of the content here. So this section defines who the bloggers are as staff or volunteers and their responsibilities to the blog specifically – how often to post, written in the first person, how to adjust or change postings after they are published so that everything is open to the readers. You’ll want to put information in here that is particular to the blog you run. So some things to thing about: For example, is it the official voice of the university or of the admissions office? Are comments open or prescreened and why? Are photos and videos appropriate and when? One thing we like to be very clear about with our bloggers, particularly to our internal university community, is that our bloggers are online student ambassadors. I think a lot of the time people within the university community can get very sensitive or wary of what goes up on blogs written by students. But we have to remember that current students are already sharing their opinions with each other and in the case of recruitment & admissions, we hire current students to be tour guides and ambassadors at events. Our blogger program is no different than that, other than the bloggers and social media staff work online. So we are very clear in this section that our social media team is our online student ambassadors.
3 rd -party social media sites So this is really where we get into some more of the tactics. A lot of this is duplicated from the bloggers section, but I find that our students feel that places like Twitter and Facebook are different from the blog, so we just divided this section to be clear. Things to think about here: That we do not provide official messaging on social media sites – but we do link to it How often we update Our permission settings for users and staff Searching sites that we might not be set up on for questions and answering those How staff should identify themselves and so on.
Privacy, The privacy section takes heavily from a lot of documents that you’ll find your university already has, as I mentioned before. We address three main items in this section that you might what to think about: Communicating with prospective students – for our area this is our main business. So what we can or cannot say about admission decisions online, whether particular to a student or not, for example. How to direct students and parents, for that matter, to information about their file. Communicating with current students – what can you tell them about their file? How their major is progressing? Whether that average they posted is going to make them fail out? Where can you direct them to? As an extension to that, the second thing you want to address is user privacy. Here you want to think about things like what if a user posts their student number or reference number online. Is that a security risk for them that you want to warn them about? Do you want to delete it for them and then send them a private message? Is it policy for your university to monitor user accounts of students that may be bothersome online or of applicants? When do we send out bulk messages to “fans”? Should we delve into the personal life of a poster? For the most part this is something that comes up a lot. We work very hard to answer all questions, particularly on discussion boards, and we have students who want to tell us their whole life online. At what point do we take that conversation into more private channels and warn the students, particularly if they are underage, of their security risks. Our team believes that if we have all this privacy protection for students while they are applying and studying at the school, we can also extend this, as best we can, to our online interactions with them. 3. The third thing we address in this section in the privacy of our social media staff. Students we hire range in their desire to be contacted by other students on their personal accounts. So when do they respond on behalf of the university or when do they respond as themselves? Do they need to use their personal e-mail address? Are they expected to “friend” students from personal accounts? What can our staff do to maintain their own privacy?
The next three sections are items we think are integral in the protocols but that will be very specific to your university. Integration – For us, we touch on very briefly how we prefer to integrate social media into our more traditional media forms, so for example our website or our printed handbook. As we move more and more to content management systems and posting is easy for our staff, we want to make sure that certain things, like say our admissions requirements pages, are not inundated with videos or twitter updates. The questions you might want to ask as you write this section is how do you want to integrate social media? Where is it appropriate? Measurement – how will you measure the success of your social media? What baseline will you use? How often will you check in? How will you archive your statistics? Monitoring – what sites, other than your own, will you monitor? Why are you monitoring them? One thing we have included is that our social media staff and managers are to regularly monitor Terms of Service agreements posted by the sites we use. We review what has changed and what that means to us.
I think I’ve covered everything that we have found useful and pertinent in our protocols but I do have some other thoughts: Avoid unnecessary rules, don’t make students or staff feel like they are handcuffed. The protocols are more about permission to be creative and interact then to be fearful of it. Most of it is common sense. What we will be adding: training: timing and frequency. How often do we need to come together to review changes to policy and changes to the social media sites themselves? Content curation: this can probably become its own section. It is covered a bit, for us, under content, but curation these days is an expanded discussion.
Building Social Media Protocols for the PSE Sector
Social Media Protocols for your UniversityLaura D’Amelioldamelio@yorku.ca@yorkuniversity
This is not a computer-use policyfor staff.Protocols explain how to interact with studentsProtocols provide guidelines on producing content
What is Social Media for the purpose of your protocols? Make a list of the media you use Divide media by tactics and select what is social media Focus your protocols on tacticsImage source: hal9k.dk
Privacy PoliciesComputer-use PolicyAccessibility PoliciesUniversity Plan Image source: centerforplainlanguage.org
Your Main Themes Community Fairness Customer Service Success measurement
Terms of Reference Consider: Goals Target Audience Main Messages Statistics & Surveys
Administration & Staff Consider: Who updates When sites are updated Design responsibility Opening and closing accounts
Content Consider: Focus of content Offensive content Editing Links to information Links to external sites Copyright
Comments & QuestionsConsider:Timing of answersResearching answersNegative commentsDeleting/banning
BlogConsider:Is it the official voice of the university or office?Are comments open or prescreened and why?Are photos and videos appropriate and when?
3rd-Party Social Media Sites Consider: Is messaging official? Updating “Friending” Permission settings Searching sites for questions
Privacy Communicating with students User privacy Staff privacy
Integration What is appropriate? Is there too much?Measurement How? When? What is your baseline?Monitoring What? Why? Terms of Service Agreements
Final Thoughts Avoid unnecessary rules Give permission to be creative Be ready for change One page cheat sheets