Introduction: Why do we need guidelines for social media?
This document outlines guidelines for all for Penn State employees for communicating online on behalf of the university, the college, or their program or unit.
Social media guidelines set employer expectations, while empowering employees to tweet, post, or blog. In addition, guidelines educate faculty and staff on issues and items to avoid in both personal and professional status updates.
All University employees must be aware that when representing Penn State, we need to comply with uniform policies and present one clear message. These guidelines apply to employees when they are participating in social media for work and during personal online activities that may give the appearance that they are still speaking for Penn State.
Be responsible in your communications.
The keys to success in social media are honesty, thoughtfulness and awareness of your audience. Make sure your communications are in good taste. Be sensitive about linking to content; redirecting to another site may imply an endorsement.
Above all, exercise good judgment and common sense. Do not use profanity, slurs or derogatory comments. Be civil.
There's no such thing as a "private" social media site. Remember that what you post has a longer shelf life than you do. Archival systems save information even if you delete a post. If you feel angry or passionate about a subject, it's wise to delay posting until you are calm and clear-headed.
Be transparent and authentic. Be yourself.
Be honest about your identity. If you are authorized by your supervisor to represent Penn State in social media, say so. If you choose to post about Penn State on your personal time, please identify yourself as a Penn State faculty or staff member when appropriate. Never hide your identity for the purpose of promoting Penn State through social media.
Never pretend to be someone else and post about Penn State. There have been several high-profile and embarrassing cases of company executives anonymously posting about their own organizations.
The essence of community is the idea that it exists so that you can support others and they, in turn, can support you. Learn to balance personal and professional information, and the important role that transparency plays in building community.
Make sure you have all of the facts before you post. It's better to verify information with a source first rather than post a correction or retraction later. Cite and link to your sources whenever possible; after all, that's how you build community.
If you make an error, correct it quickly and visibly. This will earn you respect in the online community.
Respect copyrights and fair use.
Always give people proper credit for their work, and make sure you have the right to use something before you publish. Only those authorized by Penn State may use the University's marks or logos, so be sure you do not include Penn State brand symbols in your personal postings.
Remember to protect confidential & proprietary information.
Being transparent doesn't mean giving out the Colonel's special 11 herbs and spices used in KFC chicken. Online postings and conversations are not private. Do not post confidential or proprietary information about Penn State, its students, its alumni or your fellow employees. Use good ethical judgment. Follow University policies and federal requirements, such as FERPA.
Productivity matters - respect University time and property.
University computers and your work time are to be used for University-related business. It's appropriate to post at work if you have been instructed to do so or your comments are directly related to accomplishing established work goals, such as seeking sources for information or working with others to resolve a problem. Maintain your personal sites on your own time using non-Penn State computers.
Do not use Penn State's name to promote or endorse any product, cause or political part or candidate.
Also, linking to other sites is usually a good thing, but it's important to consider the associations you want to share with potential applicants, donors and research funding agencies. Do you want to link to your favorite bagel or bicycle shop or would linking to the National Science Foundations, the NCAA, NASA or the American Medical Association make more sense and add more prestige to your site?
Most people who maintain social media sites welcome comments - it builds credibility and community. However, you can set your site so that you can review and approve comments before they appear. If you choose to delete comments, you should have a policy on unacceptable posts that is easy for viewers to see, such as:
The following comments are subject to editing or rejection:
- Comments including blatant profanity, racist, sexist, or derogatory content
- Product advertisements
- Political support
- Comments that are off-topic or SPAM
- Comments that are personal attacks on an individual
In general, if the content is positive or negative and in context to the conversation, then we approve the content, regardless of whether it's favorable or unfavorable to Penn State.
Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and other social media sites are meant to be interactive, current and engaging. If you find your site is not relevant, has few posts or receives little traffic, it would probably be best to kill the site and use your energies on other communications endeavors.
Social media will more likely pay dividends for you if you add value to your followers, readers, fans and users. If it contributes directly or indirectly to the improvement of Penn State; if it allows the general public to learn more about Penn State; or if it builds a sense of community and helps fans and friends feel more connected to Penn State, then it is adding value.
If your Penn State-focused social media platforms offer links, you are encouraged to tie them into the University's and college's core branded sites, which have a broader appeal, large followings and constant updates.
Posting Guidelines - sample text
We highly recommend that your unit or group include the following "Posting Guidelines" (or very similar language) on any channel you maintain:
Penn State Harrisburg welcomes your questions, opinions, and comments. We are aiming for a conversation in which groups from within the college and from the broader community share their content, ideas, and experiences.
To keep the conversation lively and constructive, we ask that you respect the rules of this social media site as well as our social media guidelines (http://ow.ly/3AdLc). We reserve the right to remove posts that do not comply.