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.
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.”
- Twitter (twitter.com) | @SouthernMiss & @SouthernMissNow | #SouthernMiss #SMTTT #GoldenEaglePride
Twitter is a social media channel that allows users to connect and discover the latest news, ideas and opinions in 140 characters or less. Companies use Twitter to connect to their audiences in real time.
- Blogs | http://www.usm.edu/academics/blog/ | http://blogs.usm.edu/blogging-abroad/
Blogs allow users the flexibility to post different content types without a word count constraint. People all over the world including students, professionals in academia and corporate, moms and many others have their own blogs. The university has blog guidelines available through the Office of University Communications to help students, faculty and staff.
- 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.
- Google+ (plus.google.com) | https://plus.google.com/+universityofsouthernmississippi/posts
Google+ is similar to Facebook, but it has additional features such as “hangouts” and it plays an important role in search engine optimization results.
- 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.
- LinkedIn (linkedin.com) | www.linkedin.com/company/university-of-southern-mississippi
LinkedIn is the largest professional network on the web. It has 161 members worldwide and more than two million companies with LinkedIn Company Pages.
- Foursquare (foursquare.com) | www.foursquare.com/southernmissnow
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.
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:
- Alumni Association: http://www.southernmissalumni.com/
- Athletics: http://www.southernmiss.com/
- Emergency Updates: http://www.southernmiss.info/
- News: http://www.usm.edu/news/
- Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/southernmiss
- YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/southernmiss
- Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/usm1910/
- Foursquare: http://foursquare.com/southernmissnow
Social Media Content
- Account- and user-generated posts: Account coordinators should be mindful that all content posted on university-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.
- 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.
A blog is a great way to disseminate news and information about your unit, but it should be used in the context of an overall communications or content strategy. Don’t blog without a plan. Define your communication goals and your target audience(s). Blogs that frequently publish articles have a better opportunity to turn up in search engine results, as search engines are more likely to index sites that publish content more regularly.
Think about relevant terms and phrases that may be used when searching for information related to the topic you’re writing on, then make sure you include those phrases – as much as is practical – in your article title and in the texts of your posts. Link relevant words or phrases to pages within your site or on other university sites that can provide additional information or background on your topic.
Blogs provide a means of reaching a larger external audience, particularly new visitors that might not know about Southern Miss or your unit. By focusing on articles that emphasize university personnel’s expertise, interesting programs and projects and other topics that have broader appeal, blog posts can help promote the university’s image and brand as well as those of your individual unit.
General Blogging Recommendations for The University of Southern Mississippi
Students, faculty and staff who blog on behalf of the university have the unique job of telling others their Southern Miss story through a university-promoted platform. This is not only reflective of yourself, but also of the university simply through your affiliation. The suggested blogging frequency is to create and publish a post at least once a week to every two weeks. Always proofread your posts for errors and areas that may need additional detail or explanation.
- Keep it short: When writing your blog, don’t be too lengthy unless it’s purposeful – aim for 300 to 500 words. Be sure to break your blog up into paragraphs instead of one long paragraph. Use bullet points and lists when applicable. Write inverted pyramid style (journalistic style) with the most important things first and save the details for the end, but be sure to remain conversational.
- Include photos and video: Use pictures and video when possible to help tell your story. When using pictures, be sure to add captions so readers are aware of what they are viewing. When incorporating video, it should be long enough to thoroughly explain the blog topic, but keep it as short as possible.
- Have fun: Be conversational and personal in your writing to let your personality show through your blog posts. Consider that many people reading this may be thinking about participating, so add value to the program, organization or fund you are writing about. Generate content about experiences that impacted you; otherwise, your lack of enthusiasm will be reflective in your writing.
- Share your posts: Once you have created and constructed each blog post, promote it through your social media platforms so that others can read it. Don’t forget to tell the appropriate coordinator that you’ve created a new post, so it can be shared via social media platforms.
- Perception: Always identify your affiliation with The University of Southern Mississippi and be mindful that your content (words, photos, videos) represents Southern Miss; therefore, care should be taken to ensure your content would be viewed in a positive manner. Make sure your content is positive and avoid profanity, offensive speech and mention of illegal or vulgar activity.
- Attribution and legal matters: Avoid copyright issues by ensuring you have permission to post any copyrighted items in your blog posts. Disclose any sources you borrow or quote material through proper attribution. Always respect the privacy of others in your postings, and do not include information that someone would not want made public knowledge.