The purpose of this resource is two-fold:
To assist faculty, staff, and students with adherence to established university communications policies. Consistent and appropriate application of brand standards serves not only to strengthen the Suffolk University identity within the local community, but fosters promotion of Suffolk University to an ever-widening global market.
- To compile social media best practices. Rapid expansion of social media outlets makes these networks attractive vehicles for wider audience engagement, but inappropriate usage can have unintended consequences.
The guidelines set forth here should be viewed as general rules for appropriate social media participation and are intended to help users identify and avoid potential issues of usage while making the most of their social media efforts.
Social media outlets are excellent tools for quickly sharing news and events or promoting faculty, staff, and student efforts in highly visible, easily accessible ways. Furthermore, they are low-cost, rapid-result resources that can be used to promote branding and engage the community, both within the university and beyond. The following guidelines should be utilized to ensure proper sharing of university-related information.
Maintain Confidentiality and Privacy
- Do not post confidential or proprietary information about Suffolk University, its students, alumni, or employees.
- Adhere to institutional policies as well as federal regulations, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
- Respect privacy of others: do not discuss a situation involving named individuals without their permission.
- Do not post anything you would not normally in any public forum.
Respect University Time and Property
- Participation in personal social media conversations should be restricted to one’s personal time. Usage of social media websites in the workplace should only be conducted if the purpose is directly related to accomplishing job-related goals.
Understand Personal Responsibility and Liability
- University faculty and staff are personally responsible for content they publish online, regardless of format, including blogs, wikis, or any other form of user-generated content.
- Users are responsible for content they post on their own sites as well as the sites of others.
- Individuals may be held liable for content that violates copyright infringement, or found to be defamatory, libelous, obscene, or proprietary. Do not publish any content to which you do not own the rights, and attribute content sources whenever possible.
- Be mindful that any content published may be searchable well into the future. Posts may be subject to screening by current and future employers and colleagues.
Be honest and transparent.
- Distinguish personal from professional identity, and clarify personal views as non-representative of any university affiliation.
Think Before You Post
- When considering content to be published, remember the phrase “Think twice, publish once.” There is no such thing as a “private” social media network. Search engines can archive posts and pictures years after publication.
- Be mindful of publishing angry or passionate content in the heat of the moment.
- As a rule of thumb, only post pictures that you would be comfortable sharing with the general public, including peers and current or future employers.
Social Media Guidelines When Posting as an Individual
Social media networks can be a useful complement to traditional PR and marketing efforts. When Suffolk employees use their personal networks to share university news and events, they help promote the mission of the institution and build community. The following guidelines are intended to help in situations where an employee’s professional role might be confused with personal opinion.
- Be honest about your identity. An employee may identify his or her affiliation with Suffolk University in personal posts, but should clarify that opinions expressed are personal views only and not representative of the institution.
- A general best practice in social media is to post only such content that is consistent with how you wish to present yourself to colleagues.
Use a Disclaimer; Do Not Post University Logos on Personal Accounts
- A simple profile statement such as “Opinions posted on this site are my own and do not represent the views or positions of Suffolk University” is an effective means to clarify and distinguish an individual’s personal account from an official university site.
- Suffolk University logos, images, and other institutional branding collateral should never be used for personal social network accounts.
Protect Your Identity
- Scam artists and identity thieves can use personal information for fraudulent purposes. Never divulge personal information such as bank account information or social security numbers online.
- Do not list personal home addresses or telephone numbers on social media accounts. A good measure of identity protection is to create a separate email address used only for social media websites.
Respect Your Audience
- Do not engage in conduct that would be unacceptable in the Suffolk University community. This includes ethnic or racial slurs, personal insults, and obscenity.
- Demonstrate proper consideration for other users’ privacy; show respect for sensitive topics such as politics or religion.
- If content would not be acceptable in face-to-face conversation, over telephone, or through another medium, it is not appropriate for social media.
- Monitor comments posted by others to your social media site, reviewing content for appropriateness in a timely manner.
- If you choose to identify your institutional affiliation in your profile, remember that users may still associate you with the university in spite of any disclaimers.
- Social media networks effectively build community through exchange of commentary, and it is appropriate to delete spam and block individuals who repeatedly post offensive content.
Social Media Guidelines When Posting on Behalf of Suffolk University
Online collaboration tools serve as low-cost communication methods that foster open dialogues and interactive learning. Social media is changing the way we work and connect with the general public as well as other institutions of higher education. When creating or posting to a social media network on behalf of Suffolk University, please bear in mind these additional guidelines.
Make it easy for people to find you.
- Increase exposure for your social media account by using Suffolk University in the title and avoiding acronyms.
- In the “About” section describing your unit, include a statement that acknowledges your affiliation with Suffolk University.
- Whenever possible, use a general email address and phone number as contact information instead of an individual's direct line.
- Protect the university brand by using the official visual marks and graphics. The Office of Marketing and Communications has created social media icons for official use in university social media accounts. Contact OMC for more information.
Seek Approval and Be Transparent
- Any individual maintaining a social media site representing or on behalf of Suffolk University must clearly identify their role and/or goals.
- Be mindful when posting under a university username so as to not mislead viewers. Posts made from university accounts are assumed to come from the university.
- Always be respectful; posted content is a direct reflection of Suffolk and its community.
- Individuals should have a clear understanding of when they are empowered to respond to users directly versus circumstances requiring supervisor approval.
- Any messages that act as the voice or assume a position on behalf of Suffolk University should be approved by the Director of Online Content and/or the Director of Digital and Social Media, or by the director of the college or sub-unit.
- When in doubt about the relevance or appropriateness of content, do not post.
- Make sure you have all the facts before you post. Double-check everything for accuracy. It is preferable to verify information upfront than to have to post a correction or retraction after.
- Be accountable for mistakes; correct errors quickly and visibly. Posts often include timestamps and users will be able to see how quickly you respond.
- Avoid plagiarism and copyright infringement by citing and linking to sources whenever possible.
- Give credit to other university units when re-posting their content.
Mind Your Manners: Focus on Suffolk University
- Do not comment critically on other institutions or legal matters.
- It is likely that people will post negative comments on your social media outlet, but you should respond to them professionally. Be respectful of others' opinions and do not suppress disagreement. Use it as an opportunity to correct misinformation and turn a negative into a positive.
- Delete profanity and other offensive content. See the University’s “rules of the road” for managing online communities and feel free to link or include on your own channels.
- Remember: Everything you post is public. The content that you post reflects on the university. Post respectfully and responsibly. If you are ever unsure about the appropriateness of material to share on social media, check with your supervisor or contact the Office of Marketing and Communications.
Adhere to style guidelines
- Use correct grammar and write in complete sentences when possible.
- Never write with all the letters capitalized.
- Avoid jargon and institutional language.
- Abbreviations are sometimes necessary to meet word limits, but don't overdo it. Do not use unprofessional abbreviations, such as "u" or "r."
- Use "we," "our" and other inclusive words.
- Do not explicitly ask for likes, retweets, or shares. The value of your content should prompt those actions.
- When possible and appropriate, include visual content — such as photos and videos — to increase engagement. However, when uploading photos and videos, be sure to only post content to which you own the rights. If appropriate, provide proper credit/citation to the source.
- Be friendly, helpful and informative.
Create a Management Method
- Assign a coordinator to regularly monitor postings and content.
- It is easier to keep the social media account active and up-to-date if two or more content managers are designated, thereby ensuring greater audience reach and engagement.
- Develop your flow of content by determining when and what you will post. Aim for a consistent schedule of postings and updates, keeping content timely and relevant. A standard recommendation for frequency of posts is 1-2 times per week; be mindful of overloading followers, causing loss of interest.
- Keep content fresh. Provide regular and timely updates, but don't overdo it.
Post Content that is Meaningful and Relevant to Your Unit
- Think about how the content might advance your unit's initiatives and goals.
- Be relevant. Do not post about trending Internet memes, photos or videos, or news that is not germane to your unit's interests.
- Interact with users – after all, they are your community and have a vested interest in you and your events. Post content that encourages feedback and positive interaction. Respond in a timely fashion to inquiries.
- When sharing news about your unit, provide a link to the University's news release or official announcement whenever possible rather than providing a link to a media outlet.
- Connect users with resources. Link back to content throughout the Suffolk.edu website to drive traffic back to the university.
Customize Posts for the Social Media Outlet Being Used
- It is OK to post about the same topic on multiple outlets, but tailor the text for the audience. Mix it up. Make the posts different to avoid repetition.
- Keep in mind what subject matter is appropriate for the specific social media outlet that you are using, given your audience and the nature of the medium.
- Do not link status updates to post automatically from one social media account to another.
Track Your Success
Analyze and organize your content to improve your social media account. Use analytic tools to assess your progress and keep track of posts that users respond to positively.
In the event of a campus emergency or crisis (e.g. weather-related closing, public safety emergency), please defer to the Office of Public Affairs and the Office of Marketing Communications and the channels operated by these entities (e.g. @Suffolk_U Twitter account, Suffolk University main Facebook page) for official statements on University operations and other relevant information. Do not independently speculate on university status or response, as this may cause confusion among the campus community and potentially endanger individuals’ safety.
Whenever the University issues a statement via Twitter, Facebook, the Suffolk.edu homepage, news release or other electronic means, we encourage social media account managers across campus to spread those messages in whole (e.g. retweeting without editing, sharing posts via Facebook, sharing the direct link to a statement without editing down the text). This is to ensure the integrity of the message is preserved and our community receives all of the essential information.’’
If you have additional relevant information to share pertaining to the operations of your unit (e.g. event cancellations, changes to hours or service), please use social media to share that information, but please do so in conjunction with disseminating top-level University messages.