Social Media Guidelines
Table of Contents
The UT System Office of Communications and Marketing maintains the official social media presence for UT System Administration.
Individual departments are welcome to create their own social media accounts but must remember that content posted on behalf of an official entity reflects on the UT System as a whole. If you are considering using one or more social media platforms or have questions about using a social media platform, please contact Sam Thomas firstname.lastname@example.org or call 865-974-9860.
Social media has broken longstanding barriers maintained by traditional media in disseminating information widely to mass audiences. While a few popular social media platforms dominate usage, new platforms are introduced continually.
University students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends – along with fans of University athletic teams – use social media to stay connected. Statewide, many official University entities also have adopted social media as a communication tool and use it to reach their stakeholders.
Because of social media’s potential to impact perceptions of the University and its reputation, these guidelines were developed for all social media sites, accounts, interactions and posts on behalf of UT System administration entities or officials in connection with their professional capacity or relationship to the University.
These broad guidelines are intended to accommodate differences in social media platforms while maintaining a universal code of conduct. These guidelines will be adjusted as needed to adapt to changes in the communication landscape.[Contents]
Best Practices and Other Considerations
- Prominently list on your organization’s or department’s website all officially recognized social media accounts.
- Ensure officially recognized social media accounts are clearly identified as such.
- Display code of conduct information as appropriate.
- Review all Terms of Service/User Agreements before adopting a social media platform, and plan to keep up with changes to these documents.
- Ensure that all official social media accounts/users adhere to University branding guidelines: tennessee.edu/identity/
- Use sound judgment and common sense in any online activity: Assume anyone can access and view postings, including those which may exist in some form long after considered “deleted.”
- Ensure the accuracy of postings – double-check every time – before making them public.
- If a posting is found to be inaccurate, retract or correct it as quickly as possible.
- Avoid lengthy approval processes for site visitor comments.
- Monitor and respond to site visitor comments as quickly as possible.
- Avoid online confrontations and conflicts. If appropriate, respectful disagreement may be expressed, but personal attacks are inappropriate and reflect poorly on the individual and on the University.
- Encourage open conversation – listen to people and respond to as many comments as possible with constructive feedback. Permit negative comments (but delete spam and anything inappropriate, such as profanity) and seek to respond rather than censor.
Questions to Consider
Is a social media presence necessary?
A successful social media presence features new, useful and interesting content that is updated regularly. Time intervals for updates depend largely on content and platform. For a blog, this could mean posting once a week; for Facebook, once a day; for Twitter, once every few hours. In addition to considering whether your office has the content and capability to commit to maintaining an effective social media presence, you must consider whether doing so serves a useful purpose toward achieving your goals and objectives.
How does social media tie in to other communication efforts?
Think of social media as one of multiple tools in your communication toolbox. If you’re sending out email, newsletters, distributing fliers and so on to reach out to your audience, consider whether social media will complement and coordinate with your other efforts.
What goals are we trying to achieve?
Will creating a social media presence help your department/organization reach its goals? Will you use the platform to reach out to new constituents? To communicate with your current audience? An effective social media presence requires defining its mission and purpose, and its relationship to our other communication efforts, to enable consistent messaging and purpose across all communications channels.
Who will monitor our presence?
You must define one or more content manager[s] before starting your social media presence. This is the person responsible for routinely posting engaging content and monitoring the account for comments, questions and spam messages. In the event of both planned and unplanned absences of designated content manager[s], it is also recommended that you designate one or more back-up content manager[s] and keep up-to-date log-in and password information accessible in the workplace.
Content & Comment Guidelines
Social media is interactive. You should expect and encourage feedback and discussion!
What should be posted?
Your social media account’s content should directly relate to your department or organization and engage your audience directly. Feel free to pose questions or solicit feedback. No matter what you post, your content should be aimed at starting or continuing conversations with your audience.
Can I/Should I Post This?
Remember, activity on your social media accounts represents the UT System as a whole to a large audience. Make sure your posts carry out the spirit of our mission. Be sensitive to topics that may be incendiary or that may reflect poorly on the University. Do not post any copyrighted or questionably legal content.
What about negative comments?
Comments that include profanity or similarly inappropriate language, or are threatening should be deleted. Otherwise, comments that are merely negative should either be ignored or should receive a polite, constructive response. If you’re unsure how to handle a negative comment, contact Jane Hudson email@example.com or 865-974-4211.
Guidelines for Posting as a UT Representative
Only authorized University representatives may make official statements on behalf of the University. Any message that could potentially serve as a statement on behalf of the University, one of its campuses, institutes or enterprises, must be approved by the appropriate communication official for that University entity.
Get the Facts
Ensure accuracy before posting. Official information must be verified with the appropriate University source. When possible, citing sources in posts is suggested.
Protect the University
Postings on behalf of the University are perceived as speaking for the University. Nothing in these guidelines shall be construed as infringing on the free speech rights of University employees as citizens, but employees’ personal views of any kind are not to be purported as representing the University. When in doubt, consult your supervisor or the appropriate communication official for your University entity.
An administrator should be assigned to monitor and check online postings at frequent, regular intervals.
Postings are the responsibility of their creator.
Remember that University postings represent and reflect on the University. Be respectful of others’ posted opinions, even though they may be critical of University postings. Inappropriate postings (spam, profanity or other inappropriate or threatening language) to official accounts supported by the Office of Communications and Marketing will be deleted.
Think Before You Post
When in doubt, consult your supervisor or the appropriate communication official for your University entity.
UT Marks and Logos
Use of University logos, wordmarks or other graphic identity elements on any social media site on behalf of the University must adhere to University graphic identity standards.[Contents]