Social Media Guidelines

The University Social Media Guidelines have been developed to assist units at Southern Miss with their social media presence. The guidelines were created to provide helpful direction to the areas of the University interested in utilizing social media as a tool for marketing, PR, crisis communication and student relations purposes. These recommendations and tips are encouraged by University Communications when managing a social media account affiliated with Southern Miss.

For further guidance in responding to user-generated posts, please see the Southern Miss Social Media Decision Tree for Negative Facebook Comments at the end of the University Social Media Guidelines PDF.  

If you have questions about material included in the University Social Media Guidelines, please contact The Office of University Communications at 601.266.4491.

Guidelines

(Download as a 5-page PDF.) 

 

Overview

Social media is one of many important communication methods The University of Southern Mississippi uses to engage with the campus community. This channel, unlike most others, provides instantaneous, two-way communication access to prospective students, current students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents of current and prospective students, media and other audiences. Additionally, social media allows the University to share information, raise awareness of our mission and values, build support and engage the university community.

These social media guidelines have been created to provide helpful direction to areas of the University interested in using social media as a tool for marketing, public relations, crisis communication and student relations purposes.

Channels Used by the University

There are an abundance of social media channels – and more being created every day. The University strategically makes decisions to pursue platforms based on various criteria including popularity among our audiences, channel success and growth rate, communication need and resource availability.

  • Facebook (facebook.com) | www.facebook.com/usm.edu
    Facebook allows people and organizations to connect through establishing an online community. As of March 2012, Facebook had more than 901 million monthly active users and more than 42 million pages with 10 or more “likes.”
  • YouTube (youtube.com) | www.youtube.com/southernmiss
    YouTube allows users to discover, watch and share videos. According to YouTube, in 2012 over 4 billion hours of video were watched each month.
  • LinkedIn (linkedin.com) | https://www.linkedin.com/edu/school?id=18750
    LinkedIn is the largest professional network on the web. It has 161 members worldwide and more than two million companies with LinkedIn Company Pages.
  • Pinterest (pinterest.com) | www.pinterest.com/usm1910
    Pinterest is a virtual pinboard that allows users to organize and share photos from the web. Users can create pinboards and view pins from others.
  • Foursquare (foursquare.com)| https://foursquare.com/p/the-university-of-southern-mississippi/38245534
    Foursquare is a location-based social media platform that allows users to keep up with friends, find places nearby and unlock deals. As of April 2012, Foursquare had more than 20 million users, two billion check-ins and 750,000 companies and organizations on board.

Managing Accounts

Each social media account needs a coordinator to manage the content and monitor engagement. This person should be able to create updates and respond to feedback/questions from users who seek to contact the University through that specific social media platform.

Areas of the University with previously established social media accounts may need to review whether the accounts are necessary. Before creating an account for your office, department, etc., you are encouraged to evaluate whether social media can work as an integral tool to meet your unit’s communication goals and objectives, the needs of your audiences and if content creation and maintenance will be feasible. Accounts that have been inactive for three or more months and/or accounts with very few followers and little engagement should most likely be closed. Some areas of the University may find that the primary University accounts administered by the Office of University Communications can assist in posting information and updates as needed on behalf of your area.

For social media platforms that are instrumental in providing public relations- and marketing-type support to various areas of the University, account coordinators should observe the guidelines below.

Social Media Guidelines

The University Brand

  • Visual Identity: It is important that the account coordinators follow The University of Southern Mississippi’s graphic standards manual to ensure the University maintains a strong, unified visual identity online. This includes using logos and/or text for avatars, thumbnails and other photos. To avoid confusion, the stand-alone dome icon should be reserved for use on the University's primary social media accounts. Images for backgrounds, avatars and covers should be in good taste and representative of Southern Miss. The Office of University Communications can provide guidance and assistance with the creation of images for your social media platforms.
  • Official university accounts: Social media accounts that are University-driven should include signifiers that clearly designate the page, handle, channel, etc., as an official channel of the University. Including this information in the “About” section of your channel, using the University logo when applicable and including links to the University’s websites or other University-driven social media accounts will help convey this image.

When applicable, the following information can be listed:
A short message such as, “Welcome to The University of Southern Mississippi’s official Facebook page for _______” with the name of the college, department, office or area of the University included in the blank.

Additionally, a page disclaimer can be incorporated. The university’s primary Facebook page uses the following statement, which can be adopted by other areas of the university, “Disclaimer: While we welcome all feedback, comments will be moderated so please be respectful of comments posted by others and refrain from hate speech or profanity.”

Potential links to include:

Social Media Content

  • Account- and user-generated posts: Account coordinators should be mindful that all content posted on Wniversity-driven social media accounts is reflective of Southern Miss. If you make a mistake, admit it and move forward with a simple update such as “Correction:” or “Update:” followed by the updated, correct information; your followers will be more likely to forgive and move forward as well if you are forthcoming and honest.

    Never post content that contains profanity, hate speech, personal attacks against others or slurs. In situations where an audience member makes a questionable post on a university-driven social media account, care should be taken to respond appropriately. Please refer to the Southern Miss Social Media Decision Tree for more guidance. University Communications recommends that you do not delete a user comment just because it is negative, but delete it only if users are using hate speech or profanity. Account coordinators should try to resolve the problem by responding to posts when possible and appropriate. It is acceptable to delete posts that involve political endorsements or banter, advertisements and spam.
  • University news/announcements: University Communications recommends that major University announcements not be leaked through social media. This includes situations where the University is waiting to officially release information to the public and members of the media at a press conference.

    Pay close attention to the information released by the Office of University Communications in the University’s Mailout to faculty, staff and students as well as to the information that is posted in Info Center, on the home page of the website and the primary social media accounts when there is major-university news to be released. Please use caution before posting “breaking news” to your social media accounts or speculating on big announcements that do not have details included in official university correspondence.
  • Attribution: Copyright and fair use laws should be followed; as with any other communication vehicle, account coordinators should not plagiarize. Attribute sources by linking to the website where the original content was generated, noting the author or including “RT,” which stands for retweet, or “MT,” meaning modified tweet, on Twitter.
  • Faculty/staff/student interaction: A Committee on the Instructional Use of Social Media at the university has established social media guidelines for faculty and staff to use for interactions with University of Southern Mississippi students. All employees of Southern Miss are urged to familiarize themselves with these policies, which can be found on the Institutional Policies site and in SOAR (Main Menu > Self-Service > USM Self-Service > Social Media Tutorial).
  • Privacy: In accordance with the Family educational rights and Privacy Act of 1974 and student privacy policies, personal information of University of Southern Mississippi students should never be disclosed. Care should also be taken not to compromise the privacy of the university’s faculty and staff members.

Other Considerations

  • Facebook pages/profiles/groups: Companies and organizations should have a Facebook page, not a Facebook profile. Facebook’s policies note that profiles are meant for individuals while pages are for businesses and organizations. Groups allow individuals to share information, photos, updates, etc., privately or publicly and work well for those seeking to share content among a smaller group of people. These are recommended for situations with a small audience such as groups of students who are seeking to create small alumni groups to keep in touch or similar instances.
  • Tracking: Take advantage of free metrics and tracking capabilities that are available - this will help you become more educated on your audience’s interests. Facebook has built-in metrics that page administrators can access. Other helpful tracking sites include: bitly. com, goo.gl, cotweet.com, hootsuite.com, tweetdeck.com and many others.

    The Office of University Communications uses goo.gl and Sprout Social, which charges a small monthly fee to manage several accounts in one platform. If account coordinators need assistance with establishing metrics for their accounts, please contact University Communications at 601.266.4491.