Social Media Guidelines
For Institutional, Departmental and Organizational Use
Building a social media presence is a good way to extend your web presence, promote your programs, and connect with your audience in an environment that allows for a more personal communication style.
Consider establishing a consistent naming convention across social media sites if available. For example: twitter.com/uscalumni, facebook.com/uscalumni and youtube.com/uscalumni. You may want to create a style guide and read content guidelines for the social media sites to help establish your writing style and voice.
Once you set up a social media presence, keep it active; inactive accounts can make a bad impression. Engage in a two-way conversation with your followers and strive to create a positive community. Remove spam that is posted to your page, and don’t advertise non-USC products or accept money to do promoted tweets.
When creating social media for your institute/center, department, or unit, consider the following guidelines and best practices:
- Be confidential. Be careful not to reveal confidential or proprietary information about students, patients, staff or faculty. Adhere to all applicable University, federal and NCAA privacy and confidentiality policies. All employees of USC are subject to FERPA, HIPAA, and other laws mandating the nondisclosure of personal information. We recommend reviewing best practices for account security: https://itservices.usc.edu/security/tips/
- Protect property. Follow copyright, fair use and intellectual property rights. In some cases, content posted to a social media site becomes the property of the platform operator.
- Protect the shield. The USC logos (including the shield and the SC interlock) cannot be modified or used for personal endorsements, and trademarked names cannot be used to promote a product, cause, political party or candidate.
- Respect USC. Remain professional and in good taste, and protect USC’s institutional voice. As a representative of USC, avoid pranks and postings that could be misinterpreted. Ask your supervisor or University Communications if you are unsure.
- Respect others. Social media sites are designed for two-way communication, and content contributed to a social media site may encourage comments or discussion of opposing ideas. As an administrator, you can and should respond when relevant, but consider how your response may reflect on you, your department and the University. You may remove comments libelous or offensive by standards of the USC community, but do not censor posts with which you personally disagree.
- Stay accurate. Get the facts straight before posting them on social media sites. When possible, link back to the original source. Review content for grammatical and spelling mistakes. If you make an error, correct it quickly and visibly. This will earn you respect in the online community.
- Remain transparent. Be honest about your identity. Because no individual departmental social media site represents all of USC, clearly link pages, account names, images and content to a particular department or unit within USC. If using personal accounts in a professional context, identify your role within the university. Never hide your identity for the purpose of promoting USC through social media.
- Be safe. Be cautious of “phishers.” Phishing is the attempt to gain control of a personal or institutional social media site by deceiving a user into revealing the account’s username and password. Monitor your social media sites carefully to ensure you notice quickly if an unauthorized person gains access—the larger your audience, the more tempting your site becomes as a target.
- Connect thoughtfully. Connecting to other social media members and sites builds credibility and community but could also give the unintended impression that your site endorses a certain cause, group or person. Consider carefully who you “friend,” “follow,” link to or allow into your site and to what extent you will allow comments.
- Avoid using personal accounts to set-up institutional accounts. If you are setting up social media accounts on behalf of your department, use a generic email @usc.edu account whenever possible. Always be sure to keep up-to-date documentation of usernames and passwords, as well as identify the people with responsibility for managing any accounts created. This will ensure a successful transfer of administrative power if and when you no longer are responsible for updating the account.
- Follow web accessibility guidelines. Make sure your content is user-friendly for those in your audience that may have disabilities. Follow all recommended guidelines when creating content for social media.
For Social Media Managers & Professional Use
Wondering about best practices for using social media professionally?
- Plan first. Consider messages, audiences, goals and your strategy for keeping information timely. It is time-consuming to maintain more than one social media site at a time so choose carefully. Creating a content calendar can also help organize postings and ensure that you won’t forget to post new content.
- Assign responsibility. When possible, identify a full-time appointed employee responsible for social media content and monitoring. If responsibility is not assigned, new content might not be posted, and the site will wither and die. As your site grows, you will also need someone familiar with the site to attest what is and isn’t working for your audience.
- Launch for success. A common misconception about social media is that if you build a site, people will automatically come. Fill your new site with content, so your site doesn’t feel empty. Remember no one wants to move into a ghost town. When you launch, announce it through your traditional channels: email, newsletter, and website.
- Interact with your audience. Social media is meant for two-way communication. People Google or read the news to get information, but people visit social media sites to interact with other people. Welcome new audience members, respond to comments, or follow up a posting with a question about the content. Engaging with your members will also make your site more valuable to them and keep them coming back.
- Monitor comments. Most people who maintain social media sites welcome comments—it builds credibility and community. Consider posting a disclaimer or comment policy to let audience members know what is and isn’t appropriate. On some social media platforms, you can set your site so that you can review and approve comments before they appear. This allows you to respond in a timely way. It also allows you to delete spam comments and to block any individuals who repeatedly post offensive or frivolous comments.
- Measure for results. Make use of analytics and tracking tools to evaluate posting activity and interaction within a social media site. Most social media platforms now offer analytics reports that can be reviewed on the site or exported for further analysis. Link tracking services such as bit.ly can be useful for tracking results. Reviewing these data will help you refine your strategy and better understand your audience’s preferences and behaviors.
- Connect to the community. Help USC keep its online community connected. Please consider joining our USC Social Media users group on Facebook and email firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the Social Media Council mailing list.
A note on institutional account passwords: For institutional accounts, it is recommended to create a redundancy system in coordination with the lead communication officer of your school or division, to ensure appropriate access to institutional accounts at all times. Contacting a social media platform to change passwords or delete accounts can prove to be challenging and time-consuming.