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Using Union's Social Media Channels - Best Practices

Union College supports the engagement of its students, faculty and staff in the social media space, both individually and as part of their work for the college. To make that experience most beneficial to all involved, the Office of Communications & Marketing offers the following social media best practices and policies. In creating these guidelines, we borrowed from organizations such as SUNY New Paltz and Intel, both of which are lauded for their innovative and progressive use of social media (IBM has also crafted a comprehensive set of policies and guidelines which you may read online here.). If you use social media, or are considering using it, familiarize yourself with the following information. They will almost certainly change over time in response to the ever-evolving social media landscape, so please plan on checking this page again.

Creating an Official Union College Social Media Presence

Before you embark on creating a social media presence for your individual office, program or department, please complete and submit the Online Project Request Form to discuss your needs with our office.

Once it has been submitted, we will schedule a meeting with you to discuss your specific objectives and to review various online tools and tactics. In helping you formulate a strategy, we may recommend other resources rather than a new social media account to achieve your stated objectives.

Any social media strategy should always include the designation of specific roles and responsibilities as well as benchmarks for measuring and monitoring success.

While the Office of Communications & Marketing cannot assume maintenance responsibilities of social media presences created by individual offices/programs, we can offer guidance and support in regards to social media strategy.

Social media is a very important communications vehicle for Union College and requires regular maintenance and updates as posts can show up in the search results of engines such as Google. To ensure that Union’s social media visibility continues to be a positive marketing and communications outlet for the College, social media users are reminded that any presence that cannot be sustained should be:

  • transferred to another person(s) within the responsibility center OR 
  • deactivated OR 
  • deleted

if allowed by the social media service.

General Best Practices for Social Media

Be Transparent
Never masquerade as someone (or something) you are not in social media channels. Avoid anonymity, and if you use social media to promote Union College, always reveal your affiliation with the school. Also, never be shy about acknowledging and correcting your mistakes, which will only earn you more credibility within your social media circle.

Be Yourself
Give users a peek at the "person behind the curtain." Share your knowledge, interests, and passions. Avoid stiff prose and "marketing spin," and don't be afraid of conversational, informal language. When you post a message, visualize a person sitting across the table from you as you talk over a cup of coffee, and adopt that kind of tone.

Use Your Knowledge to Build Awareness
Mine your expertise and skills to generate interest and build awareness. For example, Union College Professor Chad Orzel uses social media vehicles like blogs and Twitter to share his formidable knowledge of physics.

Think Before You Post
Be yourself, but use common sense. Think twice before posting something that may compromise your privacy, and never post confidential or proprietary information. Be aware that courts may judge certain material as proprietary, copyrighted, defamatory, libelous or obscene. Remember: What you post is archived on the Internet forever, and there is a good chance someone like a prospective employer may one day see it. Perhaps Intel's Social Media Guidelines put it best: "If it gives you pause, pause."

Engage with Others
Think of social media as an ongoing conversation. Engage with others on a regular basis. Respond to comments and questions as expeditiously as practical. Take a sincere interest in members of your social media circle and be generous about sharing their contributions.

Know the Etiquette
Ever get an e-mail written in all uppercase letters and find yourself taken aback? In social media, there are also cultural norms, expectations and conventions that govern user interactions. Failure to observe them may compromise your credibility.

Have Fun!
'Nuff said.

If You Post On Your Own Behalf. . .

Do Not Post as Union College
Misrepresenting yourself is inconsistent with the social media ethic of transparency, and representing the College without consent violates Union’s code of conduct. Be open about your association with Union College, but avoid visual identifiers and language that may give the misleading impression you speak for the school in an official capacity. A disclaimer is an effective way to clear up any ambiguity.

Do Talk about Union
It's certainly okay to talk about Union College, its community and its academic mission. If you happen upon a question or inquiry about the school, by all means respond and/or direct the person(s) to an appropriate institutional representative. Refute any misleading or inaccurate information about the school with links to factual materials. Take the high road in response to any provocations.

Think Before Friending
Be aware of the potentially awkward position work colleagues, college employees or students may find themselves in after receiving an invitation to join your personal social network. Before accepting or extending such invitations, clearly understand a social network’s privacy controls, etiquette and Union College's policy governing employee-student conduct.

Respect College Privacy, Time and Property
Please read Union College’s policies on the use of computer equipment. Use your own time and equipment to post to your personal social networks. Never post confidential, proprietary or work-related information not intended for public consumption.

If You Post on Union College's Behalf . . .

In addition to the above best practices, please observe the following guidelines:

Adhere to Brand and Identity Standards
All Union College-sanctioned social media should feature the appropriate visual identifiers and conform to the school’s branding guidelines (see our online Style Guide for reference). There must be at least one link to an official Union College Web page that contains the appropriate contact information.

Be Thoughtful
You are officially representing the college, so exercise good judgment before posting your own personal views and responding to provocative posts. And if someone from the media contacts you via social media, please redirect them to the Office of Communications & Marketing. Never use Union-branded social media to endorse a political candidate, service, business, etc.

Respect Privacy (including your own)
Don’t post confidential, proprietary, or work-related information not intended for public consumption, or information that may compromise your privacy or the privacy of a colleague or student.

Don't Be Shy about Getting Help
Questions? Concerns? Help is a mere mouse-click away.