Social Media Guidelines
Whether you’re a faculty member using social media as a part of the classroom experience or a staff member who’s been charged with the exciting task of growing a social media presence for an administrative unit, you’ll find these guidelines helpful in navigating the quickly evolving world of social technologies.
We also invite you to browse the university’s Social Media Directory here on the Know website and engage with our faculty, students, staff and alumni.
- The people of The University of Texas at Austin make meaningful connections all over the world. Social technologies on the Web make the excellent research, teaching and public service taking place at the university even more accessible.
We believe it is important for all university units, faculty, staff and students to be aware of social media and how social technologies can help you create and nurture relationships, share information, advance knowledge, raise awareness, build support, participate in important conversations and collaborate on new ideas.
If we incorporate engaging with social media as a part of our overall communications about the university, we can even more effectively tell the wonderful stories about our people, places and programs, and support the university’s mission to improve the quality of life for the people of Texas, the nation and the world.
We think social media simply provide fun and creative ways to interact with people you might not otherwise hear from with more traditional tools.
- Each college, school and unit –- and individual faculty and staff members –- at the university should evaluate what, if any, social media technologies are appropriate for their communication needs.
- These guidelines are to ensure appropriate and effective use of social media. The guidelines will evolve as social media evolve.
For Faculty and Staff
- These social media guidelines pertain to your professional interests as a faculty or staff member of The University of Texas at Austin and how you represent the university and your college, school or unit. This document doesn’t address publishing or regulating personal content on privately maintained social media platforms.
Talk with your supervisor if you have questions about how these social media guidelines fit with your unit’s communications plan, or if you have questions about the university-wide policies referenced here.
- You are personally responsible for the content you post on university-managed social media properties – from blogs and microblogs to social networks, forums and other social media platforms.
- It’s important to be transparent to your audience when posting on behalf of the university about work-related matters or other issues related to the university.
Be sure to identify yourself with your name and affiliation to the university when contributing your personal comments and statements on a university-managed social media property.
Examples of disclosure methods could include @usernames that contain UT Austin and/or your unit name, a link to a bio or “about me” page or a statement in the post itself, such as “I work for The University of Texas at Austin, and this is my personal opinion.”
Posts that don’t mention work-related topics won’t need to reference your university relationship.
- Follow copyright and fair use laws to the letter.
- Be aware of and follow FERPA and students’ privacy, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 protecting students’ personally identifiable information in educational records.
- Protect confidential or personal information from The University of Texas at Austin and of students, faculty or staff members. If you have any questions about what constitutes classified data, consult the Extended List of Category-I Data provided on the Information Technology Services website.
- Assume conversations about The University of Texas at Austin are internal and private. Ask permission prior to sharing these conversations via social media properties.
- Always show respect. 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 University of Texas at Austin workplaces or classrooms.
When maintaining or contributing to university-managed social media properties, we should follow the same standards of nondiscrimination and social conduct as outlined by Equal Opportunity Services at the university. We should also expect the same of our visitors to the university’s social media outlets.
For more best practices about engaging with social media, consult the Guiding Principles for Engaging with Social Media on the university’s Know Social Media Directory.
- Be aware of your association with The University of Texas at Austin in online social networks. Your profile and content should be consistent in the manner you wish to present yourself to colleagues, students, parents, alumni and others.
For Social Media Property/Community Managers
- Follow the guidelines for Faculty and Staff found in Section II, Part 1 of this document.
- Before debuting a social media initiative, you are encouraged to develop a social media strategy that should be a part of your unit’s overall communications plan. This strategy should be approved by your unit leader before releasing the social media property to the public.
A social media strategy first involves an assessment of your 1) communication goals and objectives, 2) audience needs and interests, and 3) maintenance and content creation resources, and whether a given social media technology is even an appropriate channel to meet those three essential needs.
Based on that evaluation, if your unit decides to pursue using a social media platform, the strategy you create should reflect five key areas:
- Listening: Find and monitor the conversations already taking place in the social media sphere about the university, your unit and your subject of interest.
- Influencing: Identify and follow key influencers in your target subject of interest and learn what they find valuable in the social media realm.
- Engaging: Develop creative ways to provide value to your audiences through exclusive content, offers, advice, multimedia and more on your social media sites.
- Converting: Persuade your audiences to act on behalf of the university and your unit, whether it’s for information sharing or relationship building or through their influence, time or money.
- Measuring: Ensure your social media effort is on the road to success by returning regularly to your pre-defined measurable goals and objectives.
If your unit does not have an overall communications plan with which you can align your social media strategy, or if you need help conducting an assessment or developing your social media strategy, contact and work with your unit’s media representative.
- Provide your official University of Texas at Austin social media site URLs to the University Communications Digital Content Group to be included in the university’s Know Social Media Directory. Doing so encourages cross-site collaboration with all university-managed social media properties and creates a one-stop directory for the university community and the university’s Web audiences to connect with our social media platforms.
- Social media sites at the university should be marked “official” in some way, where appropriate (for example, in a Twitter bio or in the Facebook “about” section) and follow the university’s What Starts Here Changes the World brand and visual guidelines.
- Official University of Texas at Austin social media properties should provide contact names and email addresses, or correct website URLs that point back to the university’s Web properties.
- Where appropriate, guidelines should be posted on University of Texas at Austin social media sites that make clear expectations of community members – as well as of its site managers. (Visit the About section of The Ideas of Texas website for an example of guidelines that help Ideas of Texas site contributors be responsible members of that Web community.)
- All University of Texas at Austin social media sites should be monitored (and moderated, where appropriate) to ensure the community is following the unit-developed site and comments guidelines.
- If a team of managers and content contributors is posting content on a University of Texas at Austin social media site, each post should be “signed” by the person who posted it (for example, “Posted by J. Smith, University Communications,” or “^JS” on Twitter).
- It’s encouraged to link to University of Texas at Austin websites, online giving pages, etc., from university-managed social media sites. However, don’t link to password-protected UT Direct services from third-party social media properties.
If you wish to direct someone to a UT Direct service, link to a university-owned Web page that then directs visitors to the password-protected site. For example, “To access this service, visit [department home page] and log in to UT Direct.”
- All University of Texas at Austin social media sites are encouraged to use the approved, standard “Contribute Now” button – available from the Office of Development – on social media platforms, where it’s possible to do so. No other “Contribute Now” buttons should be used.
- University of Texas at Austin-managed social media sites can’t host advertising. On third-party social media platforms, if ads can be turned off on university pages, they should be.
On sites such as Facebook where ads can’t be eliminated without significant investment, the units should make sure the benefit of being on Facebook outweighs the risks of advertising being hosted on the page.
- All University of Texas at Austin-managed social media sites should meet the university’s Information Security Office standards.
We emphasize the importance of controlling the administration of organizational social media accounts; that is, keeping the number of administrative publishers to a minimum and having rules in place for managing login credentials. Don’t share your social media passwords around the workplace or classroom.
- All University of Texas at Austin-managed social media sites should meet the university’s Web Accessibility Policy. University pages on third-party social media sites should make the best effort to follow Web accessibility guidelines.
University-managed social media sites can be hosted by third parties as long as they meet Web accessibility and Information Security Office guidelines.
- Agencies working on behalf of The University of Texas at Austin must also follow these guidelines, including disclosing their business affiliation.
Policies and Resources
- Acceptable Use Policy
- Copyright and Fair Use
- Equal Opportunity Services
- Extended List of Category-I Data
- FERPA and Students’ Privacy
- Guiding Principles for Engaging with Social Media
- Information Security Office
- Institutional Rules on Speech and Expression
- Social Media Collaborative @UT Mailing List
- Social Media Collaborative @UT Wiki
- Social Media Directory on Know
- Visual Guidelines
- Web Accessibility Policy
- Web Publishing Guidelines
- What Starts Here Changes the World Brand
- If you have questions about this social media guidelines document, contact University Communications at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If you discover inappropriate behavior on a University of Texas at Austin-managed social media property, contact University Communications at email@example.com.
- If you want to exchange ideas with University of Texas at Austin colleagues who are engaging with social media, subscribe to the Social Media Collaborative @UT mailing list, and let the discovery and collaboration begin.
About the Social Media Guidelines
- Document Authors: This social media guidelines document was authored by a group of the university’s Social Media Collaborative @UT, a consortium of staff, faculty and students devoted to using social media technologies to further the mission of The University of Texas at Austin.
- Review Process: This document will be annually reviewed (and revised, if necessary) by the Social Media Collaborative @UT.