Many academic and administrative units at UBC are using social media to advance their goals. The information below reflects current best practices on how to create your strategy and manage official channels that represent university units, rather than individuals.
While participating in most social media channels is free, doing it well takes significant, ongoing staff resources. Before you get started, be sure you have a clear sense of your objectives and target audience(s), and define how you will measure success.
Choose the Right Channel
Different networks have different audiences and purposes, and it’s important to select the networks that best fit your strategy. If you are unsure, monitor where people are talking about you online before deciding where to focus your efforts. Different social networks also have different cultures and unwritten codes of conduct. Take some time to understand the best practices and terms of service that regulate users for the platform you are considering before getting started. There are links in the Resources section to help you get started.
Plan Your Staffing and Content
Plan who on your team will be responsible for your efforts before you get started. Consider who will cover for that person when they are out of the office, or if they leave your unit. We recommend that you use a general email address for your unit when you set up the account, and always change passwords when someone working on your social channels leaves the unit.
Before you begin, have a plan for the type of information you will share, and how you expect to engage with the content others in your community may share. Communities are about value exchange, so think about how you will add to the conversation, not just about what programs, events, etc., you want to promote. We suggest you create an editorial plan / content plan, outlining how often you will post and what topics you will post about, to help you get started. If there are planned absences, ensure someone sets up scheduled posts to continue while they are away.
- If your unit has a marketing communications team, check with them first before creating any new accounts to ensure your efforts are coordinated with others in your area.
- Include “UBC” in your handle or page / group name as well as the name of your unit. In your About or Profile information, indicate which campus your unit is located on (if specific to one).
- Avoid appearing as an official account for the whole university or individual faculties / departments if you have not been authorized to speak for them.
- Follow the social media brand standards when creating avatars and backgrounds.
- Once you have created your channels, add them to the wiki list of UBC social media accounts.
Social media accounts that are created for official university purposes are owned by UBC. The domain names, user names, and handles of these accounts are digital assets that protect and promote the online initiatives of UBC units. In order to protect against brand encroachment, violation, or mis-use, purchase and register a number of domain/handle variations on all social platforms. Consider variations with current campaigns, institutional branding, sub-brand combinations, key search terms, or locations (i.e. Robson, Okanagan, Kelowna, etc.) Keep the list registration (with login credentials) in a secure, central environment and ensure someone is accountable for tracking and renewing registrations.
- All official UBC channels must be managed in accordance with the university’s policies.
- Consider who you “friend” or “follow” carefully to avoid creating the impression that the university endorses a particular individual, cause, or organization. Also consider the information that may be shared before you connect with students and colleagues.
- Think before you post. Be sure you have the facts correct, and check your grammar and spelling as you would any other university communication.
- If you make an error, be upfront and quick with your correction.
- Be aware of the amount of time you are spending on social media while at work to ensure it doesn’t interfere with your other responsibilities.
- Do not use official UBC social channels for political purposes, to conduct private commercial transactions, or engage in private business activities.
- Collaborate with other UBC units engaged in social media by liking other pages and / or following and retweeting or sharing other posts that are relevant to your audience.
- Contribute to UBC-wide social media channels, such as YouTube edu, SlideShare, and www.aplaceofmind.ubc.ca.
- Based on your objectives, use analytics tools included in most social media platforms to evaluate your success. If social media is an important part of your marketing communications strategy, consider joining the Radian6 social media monitoring pilot currently underway through UBC IT.
UBC is required to protect personal information under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA). Never share personal information about identifiable individuals without their written permission. For example, the names, admissions information, and grades of UBC students must not be released. You may disclose the names, titles, and work contact information of employees as this is considered public information.
Before posting images and / or videos onto social media sites, you must obtain a written consent from any individual visibly recognizable in the photograph using UBC’s Consent to Use of Image form.
If you are hosting or establishing your own social media account (e.g. creating a new Facebook page or group) as opposed to using a pre-existing social media account (e.g. commenting on another person’s blog), then you have additional privacy responsibilities. You must provide a “Privacy Notice” including the legal authority to collect the information, the purpose of the collection, and the contact information of an employee who can answer questions about the collection. Also, you must manage the social media account in such a way that it is only used to collect personal information that is necessary for the stated purpose. Your privacy notice can live on a web page, as long as you provide a link to it from your social media channel. If third parties post irrelevant personal information on a UBC-hosted social media account, you must delete the information.
In addition to your obligations to protect personal information under FIPPA, you must not publish, post, or release any other information that is considered confidential, such as information about the security of facilities or systems. As a guide, you shouldn’t post anything that you would not present in any public forum. Do not post regarding a legal matter without approval from the Office of the University Counsel. Employees are also expected to adhere to any confidentiality agreements they may have entered into.
UBC respects the intellectual property rights of others and requires that employees do the same. Never post anything that belongs to someone else, including written, video, photographic, and audio materials. Keep in mind that in many cases, content posted to social media sites becomes the property of the platform operator. For this reason, a social media site should never replace a university unit’s or faculty’s website as its official online presence. One way to protect UBC’s intellectual property is to post images at resolutions suitable only for online viewing, or with a watermark. Finally, keep in mind that images and other information posted on social media sites can easily be appropriated by others in ways you may not intend. If you believe that your work has been copied and is accessible on a site in a way that may constitute copyright infringement, please contact the Office of the University Counsel.
Responding to Critical or Negative Posts
Social media sites encourage comments and discussion of opposing ideas. As transparency is needed to build credibility in social media, posts should not be censored merely because they are critical. While UBC values the free and lawful expression of ideas and viewpoints, it does not tolerate discrimination, harassment, or other conduct that violates the legal rights of others, such as libel. Here are a few suggestions for dealing with negative posts:
- Create a “community rules of conduct” detailing what sorts of posts will be removed and what sort of language will not be tolerated. For example: “The moderator may remove any messages that are discriminatory, harassing, racist, hateful, threatening, vulgar, or obscene; that violate any laws; or that contain unwanted commercial messages (spam),” and then be sure to remove any such posts.
- If someone posts incorrect or misleading information, correct it.
- If the post is accurate but critical, acknowledge the issue and try to resolve it if possible or connect the poster to the appropriate unit on campus that can resolve it.
- If the post relates to a controversial issue, contact Public Affairs so they can respond or provide you with an official response. If you are contacted via social media by a journalist, direct them to UBC Public Affairs for assistance, unless you are a spokesperson for the relevant topic.