Already a social media guru? Or are you preparing to pursue social success for a university department, program or group?
Not a fan of reading long things on the web? Neither are we (and, usually, your readers aren’t either—we’ll get into that later). Download a PDF for offline reading.
Social media has become ubiquitous in our personal lives, but it also can be an invaluable tool in our professional lives, helping us spread the word about groundbreaking research, exciting university news and upcoming events.
But it’s also constantly changing. What’s effective one day may not work the next based on the latest algorithms; what was once your most-visited platform now gets far less traffic, even though your tactics haven’t changed.
We’re here to help—well, as much as we can. We can’t, for example, make Facebook stop changing its algorithms. But we can help you unlock the puzzle of what’s good to post, what’s ineffective and what may be downright illegal.
What follows is a roundup of social media strategies, policies and best practices for members of the Case Western Reserve community, for their personal accounts and the ones they manage for the university.
There’s a difference between your personal and professional use of social media, of course. We’ve laid out guidelines for both, but three rules exist no matter your role:
This policy isn’t short. We know that. But social media is an expansive topic, and there’s a lot to discuss.
We strongly encourage you to read the entire thing (you can download a PDF for offline reading) before opening a new social media account, or registering your current one.
However, we want to point out a few critical points from the document of which you should be aware. Note: This document references official social media accounts—or those that speak on behalf of a segment of the university on social media. It does not apply to student organizations.
Five Key Points:
Now let’s get started.
To be clear: Official social media accounts are those authorized to speak on behalf of a segment of the university through social media. This includes anyone managing or contributing to a social media channel on behalf of a school, department, office or other official entity at the university. This policy only applies to those individuals when they post on official accounts and/or when they otherwise speak as an authorized representative of the university. It does not apply to other interactions individuals may have on their personal social media accounts—as long as such communications do not indicate that the individual is speaking on behalf of the university. It does not apply to student organizations, although logo usage rules will be enforced. And, of course, best practices always apply, no matter where you’re posting.
Now that we're clear on that, let's get into the details.
Social media can be a powerful tool to disseminate news, connect with audiences and build a sense of community. At Case Western Reserve, we fully support the use of social media by schools and organizations—as long as there is a clear strategy behind it.
You see, social media alone isn’t a marketing plan; it’s just one of many effective outlets necessary for a successful integrated marketing and communications plan.
So before you get create a Facebook page for your department or launch a blog for your event, you need to think strategically. Ask yourself—and your supervisors—the following questions:
Perhaps the most important question, though, is simply: Do we need a social media account?
If you don’t have news and information to post regularly (we recommend at least two times per week on Facebook and a minimum of once per business day on Twitter, for example), then you likely do not need your own social media account.
Instead, please share your information with University Marketing and Communications to consider for its vehicles. We have built a large following on our official social media outlets and are always looking for more information to share to showcase our wide-ranging university community. But we can’t post what we don’t know, so share with us! Email Emily Mayock at firstname.lastname@example.org with your ideas.
Once you are confident social media is appropriate for your situation, you must register your account with University Marketing and Communications (UMC) to become an authorized social media representative. Accounts created prior to August 2015 must register with UMC by Dec. 31, 2015. After January 2016, social media managers must register new accounts with UMC prior to being created.
To register, you will complete a form that includes:
You also will be reminded to update (or maintain) the account administrator contact information twice per year, to ensure continuity. In addition, you must agree to abide by the crisis communication guidelines, outlined below.
You also may choose to add a representative from University Marketing and Communications as an account administrator on your page. Rest assured, UMC will not try to “control” your page; this is simply another outlet to ensure your social media presence is consistent. Contact Emily Mayock (email@example.com) for more information.
Why register, you ask? For starters, it’s helpful for us to have a complete inventory of what’s out there in the CWRU social media world. It will allow us to better showcase your accounts to the campus community and our followers, and we can keep track of any areas devoid of a critical presence. Plus, with students graduating or employees taking new opportunities, there often is turnover and failure to pass on the account administration information. These accounts then become stagnant and reflect poorly on the university. By registering, we can better keep track of who created the account and how your unit can maintain it.
In the event of an emergency, Case Western Reserve University must communicate a unified message across all channels. Social media pages increasingly are among the first places community members go for details on the emergency, what is being done, and what they should do to stay safe. They often will look for Case Western Reserve-related pages on Facebook and Twitter, searching terms such as “Case Western Reserve University,” “Case,” “CWRU,” etc.
Therefore, if you open or run a social media account that bears a named relationship to the university (i.e. contains the name “Case Western Reserve University,” “Case,” “CWRU” or the like), you agree to*:
Social media outlets, including Facebook and Twitter, require account administrators be “authorized representatives” for the pages they maintain. Only administrators who have agreed to this protocol will be “authorized representatives” for Case Western Reserve University pages. Failure to comply with this policy may result in closure of the social media page or account.
Again, this policy does not apply to student organizations; however, assistance delivering our messaging in an emergency always will be appreciated.
*Some units may determine this is inappropriate for their audiences. We respect and understand that. Exceptions may be granted; more details are available in the social media registration process.
Being on social media without being social is, to be blunt, pointless. Social media accounts must be regularly maintained and updated. We recommend Facebook pages be updated at least two times per week, and Twitter no less than once per business day. An abundance of inactive accounts reflects poorly on the communications strategy of the entire university. Therefore, accounts that have been inactive—meaning no tweets, posts, etc.—for more than three months may be subject to deactivation or deletion.
Representatives from University Marketing and Communications will periodically monitor accounts for activity and contact the appropriate administrator (or backup) to discuss inactivity. If you decide you no longer need the account, we can work with you to shut it down. If, however, you still want to keep your account, we can work with you to set goals and a strategy for moving forward and representing Case Western Reserve.
Please note: We won’t simply remove your account without your knowledge. We will take all measures possible to reach you before taking any action. But if we do not hear back from you promptly, we will take the issue to a leader in your department, unit or organization to discuss options before deactivation.
Have you determined your social media account isn’t worth the effort spent managing it? Or maybe you’ve merged with another organization to streamline your messaging? First, thank you for recognizing that social media accounts require time and effort—and may not be worth it for everyone.
That said, when you want to remove your account, we ask that you take the following steps to ensure no data is lost in the process:
Following these steps allows you to keep record of posts you’ve shared, lists of fans and general Facebook activity.
This allows you to have a record of your complete Twitter activity for future reference.
For some social media accounts, such as Facebook, your password is tied to your personal account; for others, such as Twitter, you have a separate login and password.
As members of the campus community are well aware, the university has a strict password-enforcement policy for their network ID, which is connected to web programs such as email. However, no guidelines existed for social media accounts. Until now.
All passwords for social media accounts—even if connected to your personal account—should be updated every 180 days (once per semester), per the university’s password policy. In addition, passwords should meet the same complexity standards as outlined by Information Technology Services:
Passwords should be changed immediately when an individual with access to your account leaves the department/organization/unit.
All passwords should be stored securely in a password management tool as recommended by Information Technology Services, with access granted to or removed from individuals as necessary.
And because Facebook allows you to log in through your personal account rather than requiring a separate login, please do not share your login information with anyone. By sharing this information with a trusted friend or even your spouse, you open the university up to risk. You may want to consider creating a separate Facebook profile solely to update and monitor your university-affiliated page.
In addition, University Marketing and Communications recommends the use of social media enterprise software, such as HootSuite or Sprinklr, to manage your accounts. These programs not only will help you manage all of your social media accounts from one platform, but they also will help you keep your personal and professional accounts separate and can even restrict access rights if necessary.
Why is all this important? For starters, changing your password regularly helps protect you from hacking or, worse, identity theft. It also helps ensure that unauthorized users cannot gain access to your personal account or to your university-affiliated social media pages.
Second, oftentimes a few people within a department have access to social media passwords for pages. If one of those individuals leaves the university but still has access to the account, he or she could cause damage to the university’s brand by posting to this page.
When you walk into a classroom, you’re there to learn. That means the fewer distractions you have, the better.
So, unless it is related to your class—meaning what you’re doing has the official approval of your instructor—please refrain from social media use in the classroom. By using the university’s technology resources (i.e. wireless Internet), you agree to the university’s Acceptable Use Policy. Any inappropriate use of these resources can lead to appropriate punishment.
That said, some faculty members might encourage the use of social media to facilitate discussion inside and outside of class. According to a 2013 report from Pearson Education, 41 percent of faculty use social media in their teaching. (Social media in this report included blogs, wikis and podcasts, in addition to more traditional social media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.)
Some ways in which you may want to incorporate social media in the classroom include:
Whether or not you choose to embrace social media in the classroom is entirely up to you. Do what you’re comfortable with. But remember: It’s up to you whether or not you allow students to use social media while they’re under your watch.
Mobile devices allow you to be connected nearly any time at any place. Which is great—except when it’s not.
Having your university-affiliated accounts linked to your mobile device can be a positive thing: You can respond to comments immediately and keep tabs on what’s happening. But it also can be dangerous: You think you’ve switched from the university’s Twitter page to your own account and go to make a personal post…only to have it show up on your CWRU-affiliated page. This can quickly damage the university’s brand—not to mention your own image within your department.
Mistakes happen, but we should mitigate the potential of them occurring wherever possible. University Marketing and Communications recommends you do not post from your mobile device unless absolutely necessary (in case of a crisis, for example) or unless it’s a mobile-based platform, such as Instagram.
Social media usage is governed by the same policies that govern all other electronic communications. Read the following policies before using any social media.
Advertising on behalf of external vendors is prohibited on Case Western Reserve University websites and social media presences, with the exception of Case Western Reserve University Athletics, through its media rights provider.
All social media sites have policies and terms of service that should be reviewed and agreed to before use.
Again, do not post confidential or proprietary information about Case Western Reserve University, its administrators, students, employees or alumni. Use your judgment, and follow all university policies, federal requirements—such as HIPAA and FERPA—and NCAA regulations.
Do not discuss a situation involving named or pictured individuals without their permission. A good rule of thumb: If you wouldn't present the information in a public forum, don’t post it online. Follow all university policies and guidelines on the appropriate handling of student, employee and patient information.
You are responsible for what you post, whether on your personal or university-affiliated account. You can be held liable for posts deemed to be copyright infringement, defamatory, proprietary, libelous or obscene. Verify all information as fact before you post, and cite and link to your sources if appropriate. As always, think twice (or thrice) before you post.
At Case Western Reserve, we are committed to ensuring that digital materials are available and accessible to all members of the campus community, including individuals with disabilities. Social media administrators should take steps to reduce barriers to access for individuals with disabilities by, for example, enabling screen-reader compatibility, captioning videos and adding descriptive tags on images. Most major social media platforms provide access solutions for individuals with disabilities, but you must do your part to alleviate any barriers.
It’s true that posts with images are far more likely to be interacted with and shared on social media. But that doesn't mean you must use a photo—especially if you don’t have the right to do so. When using photographs or graphics, repurposing content or sharing information, be mindful of copyright and fair use laws. Bottom line: Don’t steal images off the Internet! You must secure permission when including copyrighted or trademarked material and include a permission statement or disclaimer, as required by the owner. For more information, visit the U.S. Copyright Office at copyright.gov.
The university retains a trademark on its name (“Case Western Reserve University”) as well as other iterations, including “Case” and “CWRU,” and the phrase “think beyond the possible.” Use of these terms in your account names, Twitter handles or bios could be a trademark violation if used to misrepresent the university.
Once you complete registration with UMC, you will be an authorized representative of the university; as such, you will have the right to use the university’s name in your materials.
The university’s logos also are trademarked and can be used only by authorized social media accounts. For more information on how to present your organization on social media, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Though University Marketing and Communications attempts to track accounts affiliated with the university, this is a nearly impossible task. As such, we ask that all members of the campus community are good brand stewards and keep an eye out for accounts claiming a Case Western Reserve connection.
Some ways in which accounts may misrepresent a relationship with CWRU include use of:
If you come across an inappropriate social media account—or simply one you’re questioning—please notify University Marketing and Communications immediately at email@example.com. If necessary, we will then contact the Office of the General Counsel to discuss appropriate next steps.
People love to look through photos on social media. They’re a key way to engage with your users.
But can you snap a photo on the quad and post it to your Facebook page, without asking the person first?
Technically, yes—although we recommend being polite and asking first. And, to be safe, you should have the individual sign a media release form, available for download here.
However, per section 2741 of the Ohio Revised Code, higher education institutions are permitted to use an individual’s photo without explicit permission if both of the following apply:
In addition, you should include a statement somewhere on your social media page that explains who to contact if an individual wants his/her photo removed from your site.
You have your own social media accounts, and sometimes you look at them while you’re at work. We know that.
Employees may use social media in the workplace as long as it does not consume significant time or resources, interfere with operations and productivity, or violate official policies set by your department. The university reserves the right to monitor the use of its computer systems, and disciplinary or other action may be taken if an employee’s online activity violates law or policy.
Remember: It’s out there.
Anything you share on social media is public. It can be shared, stored and spread globally. Don’t post anything that you would not be comfortable having shared with your colleagues, parents or even strangers.
Some institutions don’t condone sharing university news via personal accounts. But we don’t agree with that approach. If there’s a story or program at the university you honestly believe in, share the news! Is there a debate in the comments section of a university-related story? Join the conversation! Just be a responsible brand steward.
When personally posting about or responding to university-related content, be upfront about your identity. Disclose your affiliation. Clearly state your role and your goals in posting the news. Your openness will lend authenticity to your posting and let other users know that you’re sharing out of pride, not obligation.
If you’re posting personal comments, please disclose your name and affiliation, and state that you’re voicing a personal opinion, not representing the opinion of Case Western Reserve University, its administration or any other community members. For example, if you want to tweet regularly about higher education news and affiliate yourself with Case Western Reserve, you could put in your bio that the views and thoughts expressed are your own and do not reflect the views of CWRU.
If you wish to use your personal social media account for professional, official Case Western Reserve University business, your profile, tone and content should be consistent with how you wish to present yourself to colleagues, administration and other members of the university community.
And remember: Use good taste, common sense and a professional tone whenever participating in an online discussion—especially those regarding the university. While constructive criticism adds to a healthy dialogue, we ask that you refrain from engaging in conversations that disparage colleagues, competing institutions or critics
This policy does not restrict your ability to engage in protected activity under the National Labor Relations Act, nor is it intended to govern or restrict your personal online presence or otherwise limit principles of academic freedom.
Do not use Case Western Reserve University logos or other related marks or images on your personal social media accounts. You also should not use the university’s name to promote or endorse products, causes or political parties/candidates.
Employee behavior on social media can violate the human resources policy; as such, some—but not all—online behavior could subject employees to discipline.
Social media provides a multitude of opportunities to share the Case Western Reserve message and improve our brand recognition. But with opportunity also comes potential failure. Without a unified social media strategy, Case Western Reserve will present a conflicting appearance, which could lead to issues such as loss of confidence in the information coming from the school, department or program.
This social media strategy, which guides the main Case Western Reserve accounts, is part of a much larger overall communications strategy from UMC and other units.
Of course, every account on every platform should have its own strategy, its own voice and its own message to share. We don’t have to share the same stories (how boring would that be?), but we do need to have overarching goals that allow us to individually, in our own unique way, tell our collective story.
Through our use of social media, we aim to:
More and more, social media is our first (and closest) contact with our audiences. But audiences’ attention is fleeting; you only have a few seconds to make a great impression. Use these tips to guide you through the social sphere—and make your followers listen to what you have to say.
Social media gives you a unique opportunity to interact with your fans and create connections—not just send out a message and never follow up.
But how can you do that if you’re not watching the conversation? To be a good social media member, you must monitor your accounts regularly.
A few tips to do so:
The university does not censor content. However, if there is a post that is inflammatory, defamatory or otherwise offensive, or if it is of concern to a member of the campus community’s safety, please take the following steps:
Immediately email a screenshot of the post to Emily Mayock, executive director of online and internal communications, at firstname.lastname@example.org. From there, University and Marketing Communications will decide if police, legal or other involvement is necessary.
Whew. Now that you’re through all of this, you’re probably itching to get rolling on creating (or updating) a stellar social media campaign.
Once you’ve outlined your social strategy and set goals for each account, it’s time to register your account(s).
Want more help? We’re here! Email Emily Mayock, executive director of online and internal communications, at email@example.com to find out how we can assist.