Social Media Guidelines
George Mason University Social Networking
Social network sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are exciting new channels for you to share knowledge, express your creativity and connect with others who share your interests. George Mason University supports your participation in these online communities to further our branding messages. Because social media channels are fairly new to many employees, we’ve assembled “best practice” guidelines from respected online and industry sources to help you use these forums effectively, protect your personal and professional reputation, and follow university policies.
The keys to success in social media are being honest about who you are, being thoughtful before you post, and respecting the purpose of the community where you are posting. Identify yourself:
- Include your name, title, and department, where appropriate.
- Include the goal or purpose of the site.
Be accurate. Make sure that you have all the facts before you post. It’s better to verify information with a source first than to have to post a correction or retraction later. Cite and link to your sources whenever possible; after all, that’s how you build community. If you make an error, correct it quickly and visibly. This will earn you respect in the online community. Thoroughly and consistently monitor the site:
- Do not host or share confidential or propriety university information.
- Provide only information that can be verified. Do not present false or misleading information. Include links and references to other websites where appropriate.
- Provide constructive comments with the aim of adding value to the conversation.
- Maintain content to keep it directly related to the topic of your site. Do not include any inappropriate personal information.
Be respectful. You are more likely to achieve your goals or sway others to your beliefs if you are constructive and respectful while discussing a bad experience or disagreeing with a concept or person. Think before you post. There’s no such thing as a “private” social media site. Search engines can turn up posts years after the publication date. Comments can be forwarded or copied. Archival systems save information even if you delete a post. If you feel angry or passionate about a subject, it’s wise to delay posting until you are calm and clear-headed. Be aware of your audience. Post news, events and items that are relevant to your target audience. With the influx of information in the Web era, your readers will be quick to ignore or delete you if your information is not helpful to them. Keep it updated. Online news is instant, so readers are looking for the most up-to-date information they can find. Always remember to follow good practices:
- Contact your supervisor when discussions involve sensitive subjects.
- Obtain appropriate written permission before publishing, transmitting, or storing copyrighted or intellectual property content on a University Affiliated Site.
- Quickly recall a post or respond quickly when asked for correction when you make a mistake.
- Apply common sense and exercise good judgment, discretion, and thoughtfulness when posting content on social media channels. Strive for high quality in content.
- Be respectful of comments received. Listen and read them carefully before posting your responses.
- Use social media channels responsibly; you are representing George Mason University.
- Moderate your site to make sure nothing is posted by others that violates confidentiality, policies, or laws.
- Be aware that information conveyed on an Affiliated University Site are statements of the University, and be cognizant of how that information will be perceived by all readers.
All posted content is subject to review. Be aware that:
- Everything online has the potential to become public.
- Use of Social Media Sites that are not Affiliate University Sites is personal use, and is governed by University policies regarding use of state equipment, time, and resources.
- Privacy policies change often. It is your responsibility to be informed about and regularly review the privacy policies of the social media you are using.
How to use
- Communicate with students, potential students, alumni, and interested community members the way they want to be communicated with. Take advantage of the viral nature of Facebook—spread the word through networks.
- Advertise your page internally so that interested people can become ‘fans’ of your page for updates and news. A page is an easier way to communicate with your audience—posts you make on your wall will appear on your fans’ newsfeed when they log in. You can also create a personal URL once you obtain a certain amount of fans on your page, which will help when marketing your page on brochures, in emails or on your web site.
- Make sure to monitor your site often and respond to comments in a timely manner. Remember this is an open forum. Use discretion and good judgment in monitoring feedback and comments from your fans.
Facebook naming conventions
Do not try to be clever or cutesy. Pick something obvious and relevant for the name of your page. That’s how you’ll get followers.
Customizing your page
- Profile Photo — Stick to simple graphics that represent Mason’s brand. Do not try to use Mason’s logo or a departmental logo, as the letters and words will get cropped in thumbnail versions on other places on the site. General images of the university—buildings, scenery, the Mason statue, are best. Some are available here: http://photo.gmu.edu/
- Wall Posts—Post timely events, news or updates on your wall. Try posting photos and videos of recent events you’ve hosted; these usually work well. This allows your fans to comment and shows up on all fans’ newsfeeds.
- Events—Each event gets its own page, so it becomes a micro-site. Each event page has its own set of options, including an invite option that you can push out to all the page fans. Fan responses to those invites are posted on all fan/fan friends home page lists. Event pages are opened and closed by date and then archived as past events on the master page.
- Notes — This is a longer copy option that allows text, photos, links and ability to link to other groups and persons. New notes activate a fan notification.
- Custom — Other custom applications including RSS readers, news feeds, and custom HTML.
- URL — Can get custom listing by URL (Ex: www.facebook.com/georgemason).
- Email — Email capability to all fans for direct communication; exposure to all fans’ friends through the home page updates and fans’ forwards.
Twitter is, in essence, micro-blogging. From a business point of view, it’s a newswire in 140 characters or less. Use Twitter to release brief news and to provide links to additional information. Use Twitter to inform your followers of upcoming events and major news.
- While it may seem obvious, please remember you are tweeting on behalf of George Mason University.
- Twitter can be a two-way conversation tool. Think about not only sending out your news, but monitoring what other people are saying and responding to them. Use casual but professional language. Engaging in conversations with followers can be beneficial and may bring you a loyal audience.
- Do not spam. While it is important to maintain your social media account and keep it updated, too much information is overwhelming. Keep your posts to one or two per day at most.
Twitter naming conventions – limit 13 characters
- Think first and foremost about searchability. Search engines such as Google and Twitter’s own search engine will pull up accounts based on key word relevance. Do not try to be clever and cutesy. Pick something obvious and relevant. That’s how you’ll get followers.
- Your URL on Twitter will be www.twitter.com/yourusername. Use this in marketing materials and promoting your newsfeed.
Glossary of Terms
- Tweet—A post to your Twitter account.
- Retweet—Taking a twitter message someone else has posted, and rebroadcasting that same message to your followers. When broadcasting this message, you should give credit to the original poster. Do this by starting your tweet with RT @ and the user’s account name.
- Direct message (DM)—A mini-email that you can send to another tweeter so only that person gets the message.
- You’ve created an account, now what? Finding your audience is key on Twitter. If you begin to follow other accounts, they may, in turn, follow you back. Start by advertising your account to students, faculty and staff in your area. Email, post to Facebook or add the URL to your web site.
- Use services such as WeFollow to find other Twitter accounts that may be relevant to your area, and follow them.
- Look at the followers of other Mason Twitter accounts, and follow people you think are relevant. Respond to and engage your users.
- You can use free monitoring software services such as TweetDeck to help keep track of your followers and interest topics. You can also easily keep track of what others are saying about you.
- Make sure to regularly check your Direct Messages and @ replies (both found on the right-hand side of your twitter home page) and respond to queries.
- Twitter tracks click-throughs on the tiny urls. George Mason University’s internal Google analytics will also track some traffic on Twitter, so you can use the actual URL if that provides a strategic advantage. There are many sites like TinyURL and Cl.ig.s that have free account access and varying stages of tracking capabilities if you are interested in seeing how many people are reading your tweets.
- If you are linking to a page tracked by Google Analytics (if not sure, please ask your webmaster), then you can use the Google Analytics URL Builder to track traffic from referring sources. We recommend that you also use a URL shortening service as well.
To learn more about this GA tool, please visit: https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1033867?hl=en
- If you need image hosting to supplement a tweet, you can use a service such as twitpic.com, which lets you share photos on Twitter.
Customizing your page
- Stick to simple graphics that represent Mason’s brand. Do not try to use Mason’s logo or a departmental logo, as the letters and words will get cropped in thumbnail versions on other places on the site. General images of the university—buildings, scenery, the Mason statue, are best. Some are available here: http://photo.gmu.edu/
Last Updated: July 10, 2014