Social Media Guidelines

(posted January 2023)

These social media guidelines are intended to provide helpful instruction and best practices to those using official University social media account(s) (OUSMA) as a tool for marketing and communication.

CREATING ACCOUNTS

Before creating an OUSMA, we recommend you take the following steps:

  • Evaluate your goals and objectives, which may vary based on the audiences on each social media platform.
  • Determine the scope and content requirements of the audience(s) you are trying to reach.
  • Decide if consistent, quality content creation and maintenance will be feasible with resources/personnel/time available.

Email address associated with OUSMA

  • Instagram, Twitter and TikTok: It is required that you create the account using a generic University email address such as social@ua.edu and a strong password. Creating the accounts under a generic University email lowers the risk of being locked out of an account or completely losing the account in the event the account manager leaves the University.

 

  • Facebook and LinkedIn: These accounts require a social media account to be connected to a personal account. These accounts will need to be created using the account manager’s personal social media account. The account manager will be made an admin for the OUSMA and will then be able to add secondary account managers. To add account managers, insert the email address connected to the staff member’s personal Facebook or LinkedIn account on the page roles section of the OUSMA. It is recommended to have at least two additional full-time staff members included as admins on these accounts to make it easier to remove someone quickly when a person separates from the University, when someone is no longer allowed access to the OUSMA for any reason, or should the account be locked by the platform based on an issue with the account manager’s personal account.

ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT

The following is required for all official University social media accounts:

  • Every account must have a designated account manager(s) to oversee content creation, make posts, monitor engagement on a consistent basis and ensure compliance with University policies.
  • Account manager(s) must be University faculty or staff members.
  • At least one account manager must participate in the Trending Tide social media communicators group. To request to join the private Trending Tide Facebook group, please visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/TrendingTide.
  • Account managers should be cautious in providing account access to students, including for takeovers (see more information below regarding account takeovers). Ensure you have properly vetted students and discussed expectations with them. Students with access to OUSMAs should be required to review and prove an established understanding of these guidelines prior to access. Account manager(s) should review and approve all content prior to posting on OUSMAs.

You should have a clear plan that establishes objectives and desired outcomes. That plan should reflect your unit’s unique personality. There are several social media tools you can utilize to maximize your digital presence.

A few of the free tools that can assist with social media management include:

  • Facebook Creator Studio brings together all the tools you need to effectively post, manage, and track performance of content across all your Facebook Pages and Instagram accounts.
  • Twitter Media Studio is a platform to help you manage and measure your videos on Twitter. The analytics dashboard makes it easy to measure your performance on Twitter.
  • TweetDeck offers a convenient Twitter experience by letting you view multiple timelines in one easy interface. It includes a host of advanced features to help get the most out of Twitter, including managing multiple Twitter accounts, scheduling Tweets for posting in the future and more.

For more robust features, the University has a contract with Sprout Social to assist UA personnel in diving deeper into social media analytics, listening streams and content creation.

Inactive accounts
At a minimum, account managers should review OUSMAs every 30 days. The Division of Strategic Communications may request accounts be closed if they have been inactive for 120 days or longer.

If an active account strategy is not possible, Strategic Communications may be able to post information and updates to the main University social media accounts on behalf of a University unit that does not have an active social media account. For more information regarding this, contact social@ua.edu.

Actions to take when closing an account:

  • Set the account to inactive/unpublished.
  • Delete or request deletion.
  • Email the Division of Strategic Communications at social@ua.edu.

SOCIAL MEDIA CONTENT

Account-generated posts
Be mindful that all content posted on OUSMAs affect the image and reputation of the University. Never post content that contains profanity, hate speech, personal attacks against others or slurs. Posts should not disparage anyone, particularly the University, University System office or trustees, University employees or students, or other institutions. Critical thought about how the post could be negatively received or interpreted should be given prior to any posting.

Anyone using social media in a professional manner should be aware that content published on OUSMAs may be subject to policies outlined in the University Employee Handbook including, but not limited to, the Standards of Behavior section. Other University policies and documents that may govern the use of social media include, but are not limited to, the Web Policy, the Code of Student Conduct, and the Terms of Use of Electronic Accounts.

The Division of Strategic Communications may require the removal of any posts that violate the aforementioned standards.

Any content that would be deemed a violation of the aforementioned standards or University policies in a face-to-face or telephone communication would also violate those standards and policies on social media.

If you mistakenly post incorrect information, admit it and provide updated, corrected information; your followers will be more likely to move forward if you are forthcoming and honest.

Account manager(s) must take care to avoid mixing personal and professional social media accounts and posts.

If you post or link to content written by others (especially opinion/editorial pieces), you must include a statement in the “About” section of your account stating that the views expressed or shared do not necessarily represent the views of the University.

A unit should not post or share information about events, fundraisers, giveaways, etc., not related to the University or OUSMAs.

Social Media Takeovers
A social media takeover happens when you allow an individual to lead the content of your social media account for a set period of time. Prior to scheduling a takeover, account manager(s) must review takeover strategy with the Division of Strategic Communications.

Proper planning is important prior to launching a takeover. Best practices for a social media takeover are as follows:

  • Ensure the individual understands the University’s expectation for appropriate content.
  • Establish a beginning and end date for the takeover. Provide log-in information immediately prior to the takeover and change the account password following the completion of the takeover. It is recommended that the account manager manually log the student out of the account and immediately change the password.
  • Encourage creativity and authenticity.

Be sure to communicate the following to the individual:

  • Do not include any content that includes drinking or drug use; hate speech or bullying; nudity or sexually provocative posts; promotion of a business not affiliated with the University.
  • Do not share photos or videos of others without their knowledge.
  • Do not share videos or photos after the end of the takeover.
  • Do not follow or unfollow any users from the account during the takeover.
  • Do not change any account settings or information.

University News/Announcements/Crisis
Take care not to post University information that has not yet been announced on the main University accounts. This includes situations where the University is waiting to officially release information to the public and/or members of the press.

Use caution before posting “breaking news” to OUSMAs or speculating on big announcements that do not have details included in official University correspondence.

In the event of a crisis (i.e. a dangerous situation or sensitive concern), no OUSMA other than those administered by the Division of Strategic Communications and Emergency Management may post original content related to the ongoing crisis. This requirement exists to minimize the spread of misinformation and content shared out of context. When managing your OUSMA during times of crisis, you may, at your discretion, choose to reshare or repost content that has already been released on main University social medial accounts and on the @UA_Safety Twitter account.

THE UNIVERSITY BRAND

Visual identity
Account managers should follow the University’s Graphic Standards to ensure the University maintains a strong, unified visual identity online. This includes logos and/or text for avatars, thumbnails, and other photos. Images for backgrounds, avatars, and cover photos should be in good taste and representative of the University. Branding guidelines and resources can be found at brand.ua.edu.

Official University Social Media Accounts
OUSMAs should be easily identifiable as an official account of the University. Identifying the official University affiliated unit, using the University logo when applicable, and including links to the University’s websites will help convey this image. If you post or link to content written by third parties (especially opinion/editorial pieces), you must include a statement in the “About” section of your account and/or directly in the post stating that the views expressed or shared do not necessarily represent the views of the University.

BEST PRACTICES

Listen, assess, adjust
A strength of social media is that you receive feedback from your audience, providing insight on how to improve your approach. Listen to that feedback and use it to adjust as necessary.

Publish content via social on a regular basis
While it is not necessary to post every day on every platform, the accounts should reflect a consistent effort related to posting and engagement.

Be prepared when responding to questions or feedback shared through your social channel
Public responses may be seen by many people. If the response contains sensitive information, or if the response is specific to an individual, provide the individual with a more direct way to contact you (email or phone).

Assume everything you share is public
The privacy policies of third-party websites are outside of the University’s control and subject to change. In addition, you are interacting with other people whose notions of privacy may differ from yours, possibly resulting in what was believed to be a private communication becoming public.

Recognize that social media is not about control
You can only control what you say through your social accounts – but you cannot control how people interpret your message, how they will react, or what they will communicate to others through these accounts about your unit. Focus on telling your story honestly and providing accurate, timely information that is relevant to your audience.

Ask for input from your audience
If you need your audience’s opinion on a particular topic, sometimes it is appropriate to simply ask. Writing a post in the form of a question can be a simple and effective way to do this. Think about how your audiences might respond before doing so. It is important to remember you don’t control the answers, so be prepared for both positive and negative responses.

Be mindful of accessibility best practices
When posting on social media accounts, be mindful of inclusivity and access. Best practices for accessibility on social media platforms include avoiding excessive emojis, adding captions to videos, writing alt-text for photos and graphics, and utilizing camel case for hashtags (i.e., #WhereLegendsAreMade).

Metrics and Tracking
Take advantage of free metrics and tracking services that are available – this will help you become more educated on your audience’s interests and how they are responding to your content. Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn have built-in metrics that page administrators can access, and Twitter provides metrics for the past 28 days at any given time. Other helpful tracking sites include bitly.com and hootsuite.com.

Sprout Social
On July 1, 2021, Strategic Communications signed a two-year contract with Sprout Social. We selected this all-in-one platform because of its robust and user-friendly publishing, reporting and social listening capabilities, which is key for Strategic Communications and our main University platforms. Sprout Social is available for departments on campus, but there is a monthly fee associated with the platform.

For more information about Sprout Social or questions regarding the social media guidelines, please contact Mallori Lanier, assistant director of social media strategy, at mallori.lanier@ua.edu.

DEFINITIONS

Account manager(s) – University faculty and/or staff member(s) designated by a unit to oversee all OUSMA operations, including but not limited to, account content and engagement and policy compliance. Students are not authorized to be account managers.

Main social media accounts – The University of Alabama social media accounts run by the Division of Strategic Communication. See the University’s main social media accounts listed here.

Official University social media account(s) (OUSMA) – social media accounts created for use in a professional communications or marketing capacity and representing a University unit.

Unit – Any University of Alabama official college, office, department, division, program, center, organization, or other area of campus.