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Social Media Guide

Approved by the Whitworth University Cabinet, March 2013

  • I. Introduction

    Acknowledging that social media use is widespread among its faculty, staff and students, Whitworth has created the following guide to help direct our community in how to participate most effectively in these platforms. Social media are powerful communication tools that often blur the lines between professional and personal interests, so this guide seeks to clarify best practices to ensure that Whitworth's interests and those of its individual community members are reflected respectfully and appropriately.

    For this guide, "best practices" refers most to the widely used university platforms: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. However, be aware that this also applies to other types of social media, including blogs, photo- and video-sharing sites, Snapchat, LinkedIn, YouTube and Instagram, among other applications.

    Social media are ever-changing, and these policies will continue to evolve with the changing landscape. If you have any questions or suggestions for best practices, please contact the university communications office.

  • II. How Whitworth Uses Social Media

    Whitworth welcomes the use of social media to promote our mission and the work of students, faculty and staff. Our official presence on social media allows us to interact with students, parents, donors, prospective students, staff and faculty in direct and immediate ways, and also allows the university to respond to campus-related news and concerns.

    The university communications office handles the primary university accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, WordPress, Flickr and YouTube.

    University-endorsed pages and accounts have been approved by the university communications office and are managed by members of the Whitworth community. Refer to our social media index for a list of these accounts (or apply for a university-endorsed account ). However, many non-university-endorsed pages, accounts and hashtags, including personal profiles, are managed by students, faculty and staff. All reflect the varied voices and perspectives of the Whitworth community. We ask that every member of the community consider this document a guide to best practices.

  • III. General University Policies for Social Media

    Employees and students are expected to follow applicable university codes of conduct and are responsible for anything they post online.

    1. Protect confidential and proprietary information: Do not post confidential or proprietary information about students, alumni, employees or the university. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and other federal requirements apply to social media, and the same disciplinary action will be taken for violations of these laws.
    2. Copyright and fair use: Be certain that what you're posting does not violate the copyright and intellectual property rights of others or of the university.
    3. Use of Whitworth's logo and photos: Use of the Whitworth logo and copyrighted photos is not permitted without permission. Administrators of social media accounts will be asked to take immediate action if a violation has occurred.
    4. Advertising and endorsements: Do not use Whitworth's name or logo to promote a product, cause, or political party or candidate.
    5. Respect university time and property: Though social media can be endlessly entertaining and engaging, please be aware that users are expected to follow Whitworth's Computer Policy regarding appropriate use of technology. Faculty and staff should determine with their supervisor or department head what is appropriate for time spent tending to each department's social media presence and should limit personal use while at work as directed by departmental guidelines. This also applies to student employees who are assigned to work on social media. (Refer to section XI. Appropriate Use of Technology in the Whitworth Computer Policy for more details.)
    6. Handling questionable or potentially damaging social media comments: Before jumping to respond to a comment, take a moment to determine the best course of action in handling it. Refer to our comment flowchart.
  • IV. University Endorsed Social Media

    In addition to best practices listed above, the following guidelines apply to those posting on behalf of the university on university-endorsed sites.

    1. Determine whether your site should be endorsed by the university. The two main types of university-endorsed accounts are...
      i. accounts that represent academic departments (e.g., the English department)
      ii. accounts that promote specific programs (e.g., off-campus studies, Whitworth athletics)
    2. Notify the university communications office. Please complete a brief application that indicates the social media platform to be used, the primary contact person, the requesting department, and the intended audience and purpose. This allows our communications efforts to remain centralized and helps build campus awareness of how Whitworth is promoted across various channels.
    3. Name guidelines: For consistency, university-endorsed accounts must include "Whitworth" either in their handles, their descriptions, or their addresses.
    4. Management and administrative roles: University-endorsed accounts must have at least two full-time staff or faculty as administrators. If you do not have a second employee to fulfill this role, a member of the university communications staff will be your administrator. For Facebook accounts, student employees are to be assigned as editors only. Please let UC know of any changes to administrator roles.
    5. Icon and cover photo, other graphics: University-endorsed accounts feature icons and cover photos that have been designed and/or approved by university communications. If you would like to change your cover photo, please notify university communications to make arrangements or seek approval of a photo. Do not apply your own graphics or logo to any image without seeking approval from university communications.
    6. Events: Administrators are welcome to use the Facebook Events feature to promote events on campus as long as they have a corresponding event page on the Whitworth website. The image for the event should be a photo or university-designed graphic only, i.e., not a copy of the event flier.
    7. Advertising: In consultation with university communications, a limited number of departments on campus have been granted permission to advertise on social media. In order to comply with branding standards, objectives, and other advertising efforts of the university, do not advertise, boost posts, or promote your social media in any way until you contact the university communications office.
    8. Transparency: Acknowledge who you are when posting or responding on behalf of the university.
    9. Promote the Whitworth website: Particularly in the cases of campus events and news, link back to the appropriate Whitworth webpage.
    10. Have a plan: It is important to keep your social media presence active. Departments should have a shared understanding of messages, audience, purpose and goals, and should put in place a plan to keep their posts up-to-date. Refer to our Social Media Checklist when setting up accounts, and contact the university communications office with any questions.
  • V. Student-Specific Policies

    Behavioral policies outlined in the student handbook apply to social media venues as well. As stated in the handbook, students need to be responsible with postings to their personal sites, understanding that anything posted that breaks university policy or civil law could be considered a violation of the university's behavioral expectations.

    1. Protect your own privacy: For safety and security reasons, students should not post any specific identifying information about themselves, such as personal phone numbers or university email addresses on such websites. Privacy policies on social media sites change regularly. It is your responsibility to know the policy of the platform you choose to use and to understand how to protect your information.
    2. Know when to involve help: Sometimes, situations arise in which an online conversation or interaction escalates to a point of discomfort for students. In these cases, students should seek the help of their RAs or other administrative leaders. The university communications office is available to serve as a resource in this area.
    3. Comply with university policies and identity standards: Student club/organization webpages are not subject to Whitworth's visual identity standards, but they must be consistent with Whitworth's mission, university computer-user policy, computer-use agreement, FERPA, and the student handbook.
  • VI. Best Practices for All Users

    1. Respect: Practice professionalism and respect through your presence online.
    2. Transparency: Social media provides a unique opportunity to personalize the Whitworth community. Be clear about who you are when tweeting, Facebooking, blogging, etc., particularly in the cases of staff and faculty. Use your own voice and do not ghostwrite. And be clear that the views expressed are not necessarily those of the institution.
    3. Be active: If you have a Facebook or Twitter account, blog, etc., use it! If you find you don't have time for it, you probably should reconsider it. If it helps, set up a schedule each day or week to update and keep your content fresh. Consider options that allow you to schedule posts ahead of time to help your page remain active.
    4. Comment and listen: Let people know you're listening by responding to questions and comments on your site and theirs. Refrain from heated arguments and respect differences of opinion. (Refer to our Social Media Comment Flowchart.)
    5. Think before you post: Be aware that social media is public. Before you post, consider your students, professors, colleagues, prospective students and others who could come across your page to ensure that content will not alienate, harm or provoke these groups. If you wouldn't say it at a conference or to the media, reconsider posting it online.
    6. Separate personal from professional: If you are an avid user of social media in both arenas, keep these two presences separate by limiting content about your non-work life to your personal page. In all cases, refer to the previous point.
    7. Be a valued community member: Share the best information you've found from trusted sources outside Whitworth as it relates to your work, your department or the university. This can help build your audience and add value to your site.
  • VII. Resources