Social Media Guidelines
Utah State University encourages the use of social media to strategically engage students, colleagues, alumni, and other internal and external audiences. The Public Relations & Marketing office created these guidelines to help you successfully represent USU on social media platforms (either official USU accounts or personal accounts) and effectively use social media tools to achieve your communication goals. We welcome your feedback on these guidelines and expect it to change over time in response to your needs, as well as changes in social media platforms. Note: social media here includes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+, blogs, and other similar platforms.
Follow Existing USU Guidelines and Policies
- Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
- Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
- Copyright and Fair Use
- Conflicts of Interest (Policy 307)
- Political Activity (Policy 333)
- Trademark Licensing Policy
- USU’s Visual Identity Guide
- Student Code of Conduct
Principles of Engagement
USU employees are expected to adhere to the same standards of conduct online as they would in the workplace. Laws and policies regarding workplace conduct, contracting, and conflicts of interest, as well as applicable policies and guidelines for interacting with students, parents, alumni, donors, media, and all other university constituents apply online and in the social media context just as they do in personal interactions. Employees are fully responsible for what they post to social media sites on behalf of USU.
Protect Privacy and Confidentiality
Avoid exposing the personal information of students, faculty, and staff, as well as the university’s proprietary information. Use good judgment about content and respect privacy laws, including the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). Do not include confidential information about the university, its staff, or its students in materials posted on social media sites. (Examples include information about a student’s grades or performance, admission status, GPA, Social Security number and any other information that would be covered by FERPA; personally identifiable health information such as medical conditions or injuries or healthcare sought or received; and other private personal information that the person has not consented to have published).
The university will not ask for, nor should an individual send, credit card or payment information, classified information, privileged information, private information, or information subject to non-disclosure agreements via any social network internet communication service.
Social media users must also be aware of NCAA rules governing interactions between the institution and its employees and prospective student-athletes. All employees should refrain from contacting (tweeting, messaging, friending on Facebook) prospective student-athletes prior to signing a National Letter of Intent. Always check with USU Athletics compliance officials before posting anything that may violate these rules.
Follow copyright and fair use laws to the letter. Sharing posts containing photo and video is generally OK, but downloading someone else’s photo or video and sharing it on your platform is generally not OK unless you have permission. Always get written permission to use someone else’s photo or design, even when the circumstance does not require a signed copyright release form. Permission can be granted in a direct message, in the comments on a post, or by using USU’s copyright and model release forms.
By posting content to any social media site, the poster represents that the university owns or otherwise has all of the rights necessary to lawfully use that content or that the use of the content is permitted by fair use. Posters also agree that they will not knowingly provide misleading or false information.
When using or posting online material that includes direct or paraphrased quotes, thoughts, ideas, photos, artwork, or videos, always cite the source and link to the original material.
While USU is committed to the protection of free speech, and it does not regularly review content posted to social media accounts created on behalf of USU, it shall have the right to do so. With respect to any account maintained in the name of the university, it may remove or cause the removal of any content for any lawful reason, including but not limited to, content that it deems a true threat, obscene, a violation of intellectual property rights or privacy laws, or otherwise injurious or illegal.
Follow Platform Rules
Know and follow the rules of social media platform(s) you are using.
Defer During a Crisis
During a crisis, the crisis communications team will use USU’s official social media accounts to communicate critical information in a timely and accurate manner. You can help protect the safety of our community and minimize misinformation. Please limit your social media activity to amplifying the messages posted to the main USU Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. Please do not modify our messages when you share them or provide commentary. If you see misinformation being spread, please email email@example.com. Please direct all media inquiries during a crisis to the Public Relations & Marketing office.
Save Personal Opinions for Personal Pages
When you post for a USU social media account, you are representing the university. Do not use a USU-affiliated account to promote a personal political interest. USU’s name or marks may not be used to endorse any personal opinion, product, private business, potential bill or law, or political candidate. The name of the university should not to be connected with such a political endorsement in any way, except for the limited purpose of identifying USU as your employer on your personal social media account. (USU Policy 333)
Those who also maintain personal social media accounts should avoid creating confusion over whether or not the account is associated with USU. Employees who identify themselves as a USU faculty or staff member on their personal social media accounts should make it clear that the views expressed on their accounts are not those of the university. USU employees should consider adding the following disclaimer to personal social media accounts: “Comments made on this account are my own.”
Social Media Best Practices
Getting Started in Social Media
- Let us help: Before launching a new social media presence, consult with the social media coordinator in the Public Relations & Marketing office. We can help ensure you are using your time and resources effectively, as well as ensure your accounts are included in an online social media directory.
- Ask permission: Make sure you have support from your department head or manager before you launch a USU-affiliated social media account. There should always be at least two or three staff members with access to the social media account, especially for Facebook, which is often linked only to the administrators Facebook page.
- Be committed: Make sure you actually have the resources and buy-in to sustain a social media account for the long-run. Often staff or student workers move on, and a social media account falls into disuse, reflecting poorly on you and the university.
- Be active: Social media accounts must be regularly maintained and monitored. If a social media account has not been updated for an extended period of time, it should be deactivated. Accounts not updated for three months or monitored for comments on a regular basis will be asked to shut down.
- Own it: Make sure there is a staff or faculty member, not just a student, ultimately responsible for your social media account so it won’t fall into disuse. Inactive accounts reflect poorly on USU.
- Name it right from the start: Identify your account as part of USU or Utah State so users can search for you. You can also add “official page of…” in your description to help identify you.
- Tie your social media to your brand: USU trademark or logos are only used to represent USU as a whole, and shouldn’t be used to represent individual departments, groups, or clubs. Using your own logo will enhance your distinct branding. Refer to USU’s visual identity guide to ensure that you meet the set requirements. Contact the social media coordinator for help in creating your social media avatar/profile picture.
- Have a strategy: What are your overall goals? Which social media platform can help you achieve those goals? Answer these questions before you jump in, and make sure you have the capacity to work your strategy. Contact the social media coordinator if you need guidance.
- Measure, evaluate, adjust: Pick a few social media analytics that will help you measure how well you’re accomplishing your overall goals. Make time to track progress and adjust your social media strategy. Contact the social media coordinator if you need help with measurement.
Tips for Effective Engagement
- Be yourself: You can help us give a human face to USU by using your own informal “voice” when posting. Social media content advertising USU services, units, and events must originally be posted by the USU unit’s officially recognized social media accounts. For example, a Facebook event for an official USU event should be linked to an officially recognized USU account, not a personal Facebook profile.
- Be social: Social media is a conversation and requires listening to online conversations, consistent engagement (at least a few minutes a day), and ensuring content is fresh and timely.
- Be respectful: Your audience is diverse and opinionated. Be careful not to alienate people.
- Be prepared to respond to comments: Monitor comments, respond as needed, and provide information to resolve issues as necessary. Encourage conversation and be careful about deleting negative comments. See “Be respectful” above. Leave negative comments and posts unless they are obscene, violate student privacy, are solicitations by outside vendors, or are a true threat. Where possible, you can post a disclaimer on your social media site stating that you will remove inappropriate comments and posts. Feel free to post these community standards to your social media account:
Utah State University welcomes and encourages your participation through our social media channels. Our goal is to provide a place to express and honor the diverse voices of our university. In order to achieve that end, we reserve the right to delete posts and comments containing profanity, obscenity, or privacy violations. Posts that solicit funds or promote commercial entities may also be deleted.
- Use hashtags appropriately: Avoid using more than two or three hashtags at most in a post or tweet. If you create a hashtag for a topic or event, make sure it has a clear tie to USU (i.e. #USUWOW for Weeks of Welcome). There are several universities that have an “Aggie” identity. We encourage you to use these established hashtags, though there are many others:
a. #USUAggies: Content about alumni or current students.
b. #USUAggieLife: Content about Aggie lifestyle.
c. #AggiesAllTheWay | #USUgameday: Relevant to Aggie athletics and games.
- Add your location: Remember to tag your USU location. This is especially important for Instagram where users often search an area by a specific location like “Utah State University.”
- Be strategic: Make sure your social media efforts are helping you achieve your communications goals. Your social media strategy should include listening, influencing, engaging, converting, and measuring the success of your effort.
- Be accurate: By providing timely and accurate information, you’ll enhance USU’s credibility. If you make a mistake, own it. Set the record straight and take responsibility quickly.
- Be thoughtful: Everything you post will live forever and is never really private. It can and will be shared widely and stored for future use.
- Be visual: Content that includes a good photo or short, simple video will increase your engagement dramatically. If you need content ideas or need help finding the right tools, email firstname.lastname@example.org.