Social media is an ever-evolving communication tool that has a significant impact on both organizational and professional reputations. Social media blurs the lines between personal and institutional voice, therefore, Heidelberg University has drafted the following policy to define best practices for usage of social media and protect personal and professional reputations.
Social media is the online tools that individuals use to create interactions and share content, profiles, opinions, insights, experiences and perspectives (Brian Solis, FutureWorks PR). Examples of social media sites include, but are not limited to: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, MySpace, Flickr, Digg, Tumblr and Delicious.
As with all professional and institutional roles, employees must conduct themselves in the same manner online as they would in real life. Employees are liable for anything they put on social media sites, therefore the same laws, guidelines and professional expectations that are applicable for interacting with students, parents, alumni and other University constituents apply to online usage.
Section 1: Policies for all social media sites, including personal sites
- Protect confidential information: Do not post confidential information about Heidelberg University, students, employees or alumni on social media sites. Employees are required to follow federal requirements for information sharing such as Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and NCAA Regulations, and all University privacy and confidentiality policies. Employees who choose to share confidential information accept the risk of disciplinary action, including termination.
- Respect copyright and fair use: When using social media sites, be aware of the copyright and intellectual property rights of the University and other individuals. For more information, consult Heidelberg University’s Computing Policies.
- Don’t use Heidelberg University logos for personal pages: Do not use any of the Heidelberg University logos or any other University images on personal social media sites. Do not use any Heidelberg logo to promote a product, cause or political party and/or candidate.
- Respect University time and property: University computers and time are to be used for University related business as approved by supervisors and in accordance with the Heidelberg University Computer, Network and Information Technology Acceptable Use Policy.
Section 2: Best Practices
The following guidelines are intended for those who will be posting on behalf of Heidelberg University; however, they are also helpful for anyone utilizing social media in any capacity.
- Think twice before posting: There is no privacy within the realm of social media. Anything posted on the web and/or through a social media site becomes public. Search engines can turn up posts years after they are published, furthermore, The Library of Congress is archiving tweets to keep a record of history. If you wouldn’t feel comfortable saying something in a conference or to a member of the media, chances are you should not post it online either. If you are unsure whether or not you should post something, or how you should respond to a comment please contact the Social Media Coordinator, email@example.com.
- Strive for accuracy: Be sure you have all of your facts straight prior to posting something through a social media site. Carefully review all content for spelling, grammatical errors, etc. It reflects very poorly on the institution to have errors in posts.
- Be respectful: Be mindful that content posted on a social media website encourages comments, feedback and discussion. All posted comments should be considered very carefully in light of the situation and how they will in turn reflect on the institution.
- Remember your audience: Understand that your presence on a social media site is, or easily can be made available to the public, which includes current and prospective students, employees, colleagues and peers. Consider this prior to posting to ensure that your post will not alienate, harm or provoke any of these groups.
- Personal sites: If you are active on a social media site and maintain the page in a personal capacity, please identify your views as your own. If you identify yourself as a Heidelberg University faculty or staff member online, you must make it clear that the views expressed through the site are your own, and not necessarily those of the institution.
- Photography: Photographs posted on social media sites can easily be used by visitors in a manner other than their intended use. In order to protect your images, consider adding a watermark and/or posting images at 72 dpi and a resolution of approximately 800x600. Images posted at this size are not suitable for printing, but satisfactory for viewing on the web. Do not post photographs of children that are not your own.
Section 3: Institutional Social Media
If you are posting on behalf of Heidelberg University, or any official University unit, you must adhere to the following policies, in addition to all of the policies and guidelines listed in Sections 1 and 2.
- Notify the University: Departments or University units that either have a social media page or are interested in starting one should contact the Social Media Coordinator at 419.448.2338 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We aim to ensure that all institutional social media sites coordinate with other Heidelberg University sites and their content. All institutional pages must have a full-time employee appointed to be responsible for the content of the page.
- Acknowledge who you are: If you are representing Heidelberg University on a social media site, acknowledge this.
- Have a plan: Departments and University units who have a presence on social media sites should be mindful of their messages, audiences and goals. It is also imperative to develop a strategy to keep information up-to-date on all social media sites. Plan to add content at regular intervals.
- Link back to the University: Whenever possible, link back to the Heidelberg University website. Posts on social media sites should be brief, directing visitors to the content contained on the Heidelberg University website. When linking to a news article about Heidelberg, check first to see if there is a news article on the website that will satisfy your need. Heidelberg news articles can be located at www.heidelberg.edu/newsevents.
- Protect our institutional voice: Anything that is posted on a social media site should protect the institutional voice of Heidelberg University. All posts must be composed in professional tone and remain in good taste. No individual Heidelberg University entity should create a social media site and represent the University as a whole. When naming pages and accounts, selecting profile pictures and icons, and choosing content, be sure to identify your particular department or unit rather than the University as a whole. If you need graphics or advice on graphics, contact the Social Media Coordinator.
The technology that drives social media and web communication is ever changing; therefore, this policy may be adjusted as issues arise to effectively protect and ensure that Heidelberg University’s presence on social media sites remains professional and upholds the Heidelberg mission.
Section 4: Official Facebook Page Guidelines
Heidelberg University encourages interaction from Facebook users but is not responsible for comments or wall postings made by visitors to the page. Comments posted also do not in any way reflect the opinions or policies of the University.
Remember that your name and photo will be seen next to your comment, visible to all visitors to the page.
We reserve the right, but assume no obligation, to remove comments that are racist, sexist, abusive, profane, violent, obscene, inappropriate, spam, that advocate illegal activity, contain falsehoods or are wildly off-topic, or that libel, incite, threaten or make ad hominem attacks on Heidelberg students, employees, guests or other individuals. We also do not permit messages selling products or promoting commercial, political or other ventures.
Facebook encourages all users to utilize the “Report” links when they find abusive content.
Additional rules apply to posts involving prospective student-athletes. Please see the NCAA.org article on "Social media and recruiting.”
If you have questions about the Heidelberg University Facebook Page, please contact the Social Media Coordinator, email@example.com.
These guidelines are adapted from The University of Kansas, with permission. Updated September 13, 2011.