University of Guelph - Social Media Guidelines

Introduction

An organization’s identity or brand reflects their values - how that is communicated represents the University. Everything we communicate – from the words we choose in an email to the images on our home page and front covers – reinforces our brand.

Social media is a powerful tool that continues to change the way we communicate – both as an institution and as individuals. It allows us to create a dynamic digital presence for the University of Guelph, and build valuable relationships with the university community and our stakeholders.

The University of Guelph supports the use of social media for institutional purposes by employees to achieve the benefits of information-sharing, making connections, and brand amplification.

While intended to guide social media managers, the best practices cited here may also benefit student groups and individuals who maintain and monitor professional and personal sites.

Our presence online can have a significant impact on organizational and professional reputations. It is strongly encouraged that university sites, accounts and posts are well managed and maintained. These guidelines are intended to help make all of your social media communication easier to create, more impactful, and most importantly, recognizable as the University of Guelph.

Transparency

Be honest and transparent – you are representing the University of Guelph

  1. Identify yourself by creating a profile name and bio that clearly indicates the college/department/unit you represent. If you identify yourself simply as “Guelph” or “U of G,” it implies that you are speaking for the entire institution. Instead be more specific, i.e.: “Department of XYZ, U of G”.
  2. Separate personal from professional – as the person(s) responsible for social media in your unit, remember personal posts are for your personal account and professional posts on your professional account. Be cognizant of separating your own opinions and keeping them separate from the professional account you administer.
  3. Identification - When you identify yourself as a University of Guelph faculty, staff member or student online, be clear that the views expressed are yours and not those of the institution. Remember, what you say publicly on social media reflects your own personal brand and, by association, the brand of the University of Guelph.

Accuracy

Check, double check, triple check – post accurate, concise and useful information.

  • Post only information for which you have verified its accuracy.
  • Verify the source of your information/news before you post.
  • Review your writing for accuracy, typos, and grammatical errors. When beginning, it is often good practice to have a colleague review your posts.
  • If you find an error, correct it immediately – either delete it, correct it, or reissue the content
  • Make your writing quick, concise and easy to follow.

Appropriate Use

Privacy, confidentiality, intellectual property, permissions

  1. Protect confidential information about yourself as well as co-workers, your employer and clients, family and friends. Remember that what you publish through a social media site, even within a closed network, is not private. Assume it will be shared, stored and spread.
  2. Respect and obey privacy legislation and copyright laws.
  3. Follow and read the terms of service of any social media platform employed.
  4. Ask permission before posting photos of other people and/or comments attributed to others.
  5. Adhere to University policies regarding privacy, confidentiality and intellectual property rights, as well as federal and provincial laws governing privacy and copyright. You may want to consult the U of G Acceptable Use Policy.
  6. Avoid making endorsements. Advertising on behalf of external vendors and endorsements of products, causes or political parties and candidates are prohibited on University of Guelph websites and social media sites.
  7. Follow applicable fundraising policies when using social media tools to promote fundraising events or solicit donations on behalf of the University. For assistance, contact Alumni Affairs and Development.

Brand Consistency

U of G brand standards and guidelines

  • Tone – Protect the institutional voice by remaining professional in tone. Remember your “posts” and “tweets” are as public as a conversation with a newspaper reporter.
  • Use approved logos/identifiers – do not crop, change or alter to fit into your social media profile
  • Embrace the University’s brand standards in imagery such as your banner images, profile images, or posts that represent your department or unit
  • Refer to the Graphic Standards Guide before using a University of Guelph trademark or recognized logo on your social media site
  • Strategically use hashtags that are attached to your communications goals for optimal impact and reach, i.e.: #foreveragrayphon, #gryphonpride, #Iamagryphon, #chartourpath, #futuregryphon
  • Nomenclature – use your official name, Department, the University of Guelph. Remember, ‘the’ is not capitalized. Guelph University is not acceptable.
  • Voice – communicate in a strong, unified voice that represents your department/unit – do not overuse acronyms, short forms or institutional jargon despite working within a character limit
  • Delete an old account if it no longer serves a purpose or if it is no longer being maintained. Doing so ensures that the U of G social media community remains vibrant and active and protects inactive sites from abuse, such as account hacking.

Monitoring and Maintenance

Monitoring helps with branding and marketing and can be used to identify customer satisfaction or dissatisfaction

  • Before creating a social media page, secure approval from your manager.
  • Obtain permission to use any institutional University of Guelph name or image from Communications & Public Affairs.
  • Begin with creating a social media strategy to chart your direction, goals and objectives.
  • Assign at least one person to monitor postings and update content, and outline their responsibilities and expectations of time and monitoring.
  • Measure your results based on the goals set, by using available analytics and tracking tools; Facebook and Twitter, for example, have their own analytics.
  • Incorporate Google Analytics into your monitoring and maintenance routine.
  • Use a social media management tool such as Buffer, Hootsuite, Sprout Social, Meltwater, etc. A tool like this will assist you in monitoring your web and social traffic. 
  • Use the data you gather from analytics and your social media management tool to update your social media strategies and objectives, and to remain on brand and on track. For example, review what content evoked the most positive interaction and engagement and plan to share more!
  • Develop a content calendar to maintain consistent and relevant posts; understand that the platform(s) on which you are communicating will determine the frequency of your posts and your level of engagement.
  • Dealing with negative feedback – be positive and constructive, protect your credibility by sharing information that will resolve the problem or concern, or by letting readers know you have directed the comment to someone who has authority to resolve it. For customer service issues or complaints try to direct the conversation offline by sharing information resources such as website or direct contact information. People are upset online because they don’t know where to get the information they need. Aggressive or personal attacks may warrant deletion if they include unacceptable language or violate the University’s Human Rights Policy.

Communications Amplification

Amplify your stories with a strategy to connect social media with web presence, creating a healthy digital ecosystem.

  • Be timely - social media allows us to share information almost instantly, and it is also the expectation of followers. Each platform has its own best practices for content type, posting frequency, and follower engagement. I.e., it is recommended that you tweet 4-6 times per day. When starting a new social media account you are joining a new community with its own unwritten codes of conduct and expectations. It is best to spend time “listening” to the conversations and seeing how others interact. Think of it as joining a new group of friends. Observing is the best way to get to know the social culture  and expectations of the group.
  • Define your goals and develop a well-planned strategy – with a social media strategy you can target your audience and establish the key messages you wish to communicate.  Setting goals will help you choose the appropriate platforms on which to be present, and will help you create impactful, relevant content that will engage your audience in a positive and beneficial way.
  • Link back to your website whenever possible to refer your followers to the long-form content within your web environment. 
  • Tell stories –
    • They should resonate with your audience and be relevant to their needs and experiences
    • Support your presence on social media with rich, vibrant and authentic media, such as photos, videos, animation, audio
    • Do not rely on web traffic to drive your audience to your content – roll out a plan that helps the audience discover your story by leveraging all social channels (even those that exist outside of your purview)
    • Use short, social-driven videos
      • Abandon headers and titles, make the first three seconds count, assume your audience cannot hear the audio

Accessibility

  • Adhere to AODA guidelines. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) addresses barriers to achieve widespread accessibility for all Ontarians.  There are five main standards for which legislation has been applied. Where these social media guidelines are concerned, we should pay special attention to the ‘information and communication’ standards.
  • Create accessible videos on YouTube:
    • Transcripts and captioning are required for videos uploaded to YouTube – YouTube offers tutorials on how to add captions manually.
    • Visit DesignedgeCanada.com for tips on how to make YouTube videos accessible
  • Review and follow Facebook’s accessibility tips
  • Review and follow Twitter’s accessibility tips – they even have videos for easier understanding.
  • Review the accessibility and social media guidelines provided by Diversity and Human Rights.

Emergencies, Crisis, PR

The very nature of social media makes it an immediate communications tool with our audiences in times of crisis.
An emergency can be different than a crisis can be different than a moment that requires positive public relations. In the event of a campus-wide emergency or crisis, the University of Guelph social media accounts will support the University of Guelph’s communication policy.

In the event of an emergency like a snow storm, or loss of power, you can use your social media accounts to support messaging on the University homepage.

In the event of potential public relations issue, seek direction on how to manage and control messaging on your social media accounts.  In such cases contact:

Stuart Robertson
Manager, Web & Social Media
519 824-4120, Ext. 56579


@StuartRobx

Lori Bona Hunt
Director, News Service
519 824-4120, Ext. 53338

@lbonahunt

Getting Support

Each platform offers individual platform-related support that is easily accessible through their main site.

Your unit’s individual IT department and/or Managed Desktops can help you with issues such as embedding Twitter feeds on your website, embedding content, etc.

There are a number of relevant resources available to you:

Social Media Accounts

Index of University of Guelph Social Media Accounts

University Contacts

Communications and Public Affairs
Level 4 University Centre
University of Guelph
Guelph, ON N1G 2W1
Tel 519-824-4120, Ext. 56582
Fax 519-824-7962
www.uoguelph.ca

Chuck Cunningham, Assistant Vice-President (Communications & Public Affairs) - ccunning@uoguelph.ca
Stuart Robertson, Web & Social Media Manager - s.robertson@exec.uoguelph.ca
Lori Bona Hunt, Director News Services - l.hunt@exec.uoguelph.ca
Angi Roberts, Social Media Committee Chair - angir@uoguelph.ca