SOCIAL MEDIA GUIDELINES
Social Media Guidelines
Social media has dramatically affected the way people communicate across the globe, and higher education is certainly not immune. In fact, creating a presence in social media is crucial for Westminster as prospective students become increasingly entrenched in its use. Social media offers Westminster a vast opportunity to connect and engage with its constituents and share news faster than ever before; this is Westminster’s ultimate, over-arching goal as it increases its social media presence. Social media also presents a branding opportunity and yet challenge at the same time. In this digital era, social media pages are part of brand image and perception. Each page with Westminster’s name and logo is a representation of Westminster in the mind of the user; this includes prospective students who, as a generation entirely, tend to be fickle and quick to judge when they see old, out-dated content on the Web or social media. Each contact is an opportunity to either positively reinforce Westminster’s brand or to damage our image. In order to effectively reach its goal of connection and engagement with constituents from prospective students to alumni, Westminster must unify its message and manage its brand across all social media channels. The following are Guidelines and Considerations for Social Media at Westminster which, if followed, will help Westminster better represent itself in the digital realm where so many vital Westminster community members spend time.
Initial Social Media Considerations The following outlines some of the first things you should consider when planning to create a Westminster College-affiliated social media page.
Do You Need Your Own Social Media Presence? Westminster maintains a presence on several popular social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Westminster’s pages or profiles on these social media sites are considered official College communications. Our overarching goal with social media is to connect and engage with our constituents. Keeping Westminster’s social media presence centralized will help us meet that goal; having only a handful of the most key social media pages will help eliminate the confusion that can be generated by too many unofficial, unused pages. In addition, Westminster heavily promotes its official pages, helping them gain maximum visibility and reach. If you are planning to create a social media page or account for your campus entity (department, club, etc), you should first consider if you actually need a presence separate from Westminster College’s official college page or account. You might be better served by promoting your organization or department through our official Westminster College social media pages, which already have high visibility.
When a Separate Presence is Appropriate We recommend separate social media pages and accounts to specific campus departments or groups if they meet the following criteria: Enough interest exists to support frequent engagement, activity, and growth over time Frequent news updates need to be shared Someone can be dedicated to using the social media, which means: o Daily posts, replies, and sharing o Monitoring page content for appropriateness or negativity o Tracking page performance
Social Media Guidelines
If you have a page or are thinking about a creating one, but don’t have time to actively use and monitor it more than once every few weeks or less, you should consider deactivating it. Any news or information you do want to post can be shared through Westminster’s official pages.
What Type of Social Media Should I Use? Social media profiles can be set up in several different ways, depending on the platform. With Facebook in particular, you can create a fan page, a friend profile page, a closed or open group, an event, and more. Each type of profile is quite different – friend profile pages limit friend quantity to 5,000 friends, for example, where fan pages can have an unlimited number of likes. You can track performance on fan pages via Facebook insights, but you can’t on other types of accounts. If you’re unsure whether or not you should create or continue with a social media presence, or if you want to start a new account but are unsure how, contact Westminster’s marketing office. We can help you understand your audience and guide you through the process of setting up your social media page.
Become an Official Westminster College Social Media Page As part of an initiative to unify our message and manage campus-wide social media, Westminster is developing a social media directory, to be housed on Westminster-MO.edu, which will link to each official Westminster social media page. A link in this directory means more promotion, more visibility, and more traffic to your social media page. An official “stamp” will be provided that can be included as part of your profile picture or page design (see image to the right - contact the marketing office for the development of a profile picture that uses this stamp). In order to be listed in our directory and affiliated with Westminster as an official social media presence, we request that you meet the following requirements. Following these stipulations will help unify Westminster’s brand and will enable you to best grow and connect with your audience.
Designate a responsible party to use, maintain, and monitor the site. The essence of social media is active engagement, connection, and communication with others. One or more persons must agree to actively use the page, to monitor it for appropriate content use, and to respond in a timely manner to comments.
Use the page with some set frequency: no less than once a week. It’s easy, yet detrimental, to create a page then leave it inactive for months on end – inactivity can be interpreted quite negatively by users. We ask that official Westminster pages be active with new content posted at least weekly.
Use the page in a way that supports your department and Westminster’s mission. Official Westminster College social media posts should be on topic, offering value to fans, followers, and users. Activity should be strategic and goal-oriented, whether the goal is to share news, drive traffic to a Web page, promote an event, etc. See the appropriate use section for more details.
Use profile pictures, colors and themes that reflect Westminster’s brand. The marketing office can provide graphics and images for your social media profile that will help our brand become more consistent across the Web. Poor quality design or graphics reflect negatively on Westminster’s reputation. As stated above, an official stamp can be incorporated
Social Media Guidelines
into profile pictures or backgrounds, depending on the platform being used. For example, your Facebook profile picture should be 180px by 540px and modeled after Westminster’s official Facebook profile picture.
Use a college department or organization email address to create your social media account. The email you choose to create your social media account should be a Westminster email, and it should not be the email address of an individual within the department or organization. Use an email such as firstname.lastname@example.org. This prevents the account from becoming inaccessible if that employee were to terminate. *NOTE – a college email address should be used whether or not your page is an official Westminster social media page.
Implement performance tracking methods. Considering the significant impact that social media can have on brand perception, social media efforts in higher education must be strategic. A strategy complete with goals and metrics should be in place; growth of the page and audience engagement should be included in those metrics. Facebook has these tools built in, but contact the marketing office for more information or assistance. Contact the marketing office to have your page approved, stamped, and listed in the social media directory on Westminster-MO.edu. A special note – only official Westminster social media accounts that meet the requirements listed above will be approved by IT to be used in feeds on Westminster-MO Web pages. Whether or not your social media page is listed in Westminster’s social media directory as an official page, it is highly recommended that you follow these guidelines to maximize your page’s performance while helping Westminster build and maintain brand consistency and a positive digital reputation.
Other Social Media Guidelines and Considerations Westminster College offers these general guidelines and considerations to anyone actively managing or using social media for Westminster, whether through an official approved directory-listed page or through any other Westminster-affiliated social media.
Develop a Social Media Strategy Social media, when used for Westminster, should be strategic in nature. Consider Westminster’s overarching engagement goals, and also what you hope to achieve for your department or organization, by developing and managing a social media presence affiliated with the College. Think strategically about the purpose of your social media presence and how you may best achieve those goals over time. Develop a written plan and assign measurable metrics and goals, such as quantity of Facebook likes or Twitter followers, increased post engagement scores, etc. Stay on topic with College-related social media activity. Engage in open discussion about Westminster College, but keep in mind that postings that are irrelevant to Westminster add no value to the mission or to social media goals. Post carefully; remember that all information shared in social media is public, and much is archived for many years. 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.
Social Media Guidelines
Live the Westminster mission, even in social media. Make sure that the information you’re posting is accurate, appropriate, value-added, and supportive of goals and strategy. Verify accuracy of information, links, and images before posting. Social media is 100% public, and reach can grow to be quite extensive. Represent Westminster well with quality content. Help maintain brand consistency by following logo guidelines and style guidelines. Following the requirements for official Westminster social media pages, listed above, will help Westminster maintain brand consistency and will better represent our college to the public.
Consider and Respect Your Audience Your time spent in social media will be more valuable if you consider your audience and their preferences and interests. Try to add value to your fans or followers in every post, comment, photo, or link shared – offer content in which your audience would be interested. Consider who makes up the majority of your audience – target your posts accordingly. Use privacy settings appropriately to restrict personal information on otherwise public sites. Don’t spam or self-promote. Keep in mind that social media is natural and organic – it’s about the conversation. Talk to your readers like you would talk to real people in professional situations; avoid overly-composed language. Don’t be afraid to bring in your own personality and say what’s on your mind. Consider content that’s open-ended and invites response, encouraging comments.
Deal with Difficult Content Effectively Social media is now an accepted, and even an official, means of communication. If someone asks a question on your social media page and you don’t know the answer, forward this question to the appropriate party immediately and respond that you’ve done so, as you would if you received a question via email or phone call. If you need assistance, contact the marketing office. You may occasionally get posts which are inappropriate in nature. From obscenities to spam to other forms of solicitation, it is Westminster’s recommendation to delete these types of inappropriate posts immediately. It’s crucial that a designated party regularly monitors the social media presence; leaving inappropriate content on your page can damage Westminster’s image. You may also receive postings that are negative or derogatory about Westminster, a Westminster event, a Westminster policy, or some other Westminster-related topic. These types of posts require careful consideration. We do not recommend deletion of negative posts and comments – that reduces credibility. Negative posts can often become an opportunity to clear up a problem or correct misinformation. Consider having another fan or guest reply to the negative post if appropriate, which also increases credibility. Westminster College recommends that you follow a step-by-step guide for handling difficult content on social media. This document has been included in Appendix A. When faced with negative or difficult content, be respectful of your audience and Westminster by keeping all comments and replies appropriate and polite; do not engage in defensive discussion or heated arguments. Contact the marketing office if you need any assistance.
Be Authentic and Transparent If posting on social media sites about or for Westminster, it should be obvious that you are affiliated with the College – authenticity will add to your credibility. Never hide your identity for the purpose of promoting Westminster through social media.
Social Media Guidelines
In December 2009, the Federal Trade Commission implemented regulations requiring bloggers and those who write online reviews to reveal if they have been compensated in any way—a free copy of a book, dinner, complementary admission—or have a relationship to a company, product or service they review. Already a "best practice" for most bloggers, such disclosure is now being enforced. A good resource about transparency in online communities is the Blog Council's "Disclosure Best Practices Toolkit" at http://blogcouncil.org/disclosure/.
Protect Confidential Information Keep confidential matters private – Do not post proprietary information about Westminster, including information about students, alumni or employees. Use good ethical judgment and follow College policies. Be aware that all College and legal guidelines, such as FERPA, are also applicable in the social media space.
Respect Copyrights Obtain appropriate written permission before publishing, transmitting, or storing copyrighted or intellectual property content on a Westminster social media site.
Maximize Your Social Media Westminster College offers these guidelines not to prohibit or restrict use of social media, but to maximize its effectiveness, to capitalize on the opportunity social media presents to increase and enhance engagement, and to ensure that we are represented consistently in the best light possible to all constituents. For any additional comments or questions, contact Jamie Patterson at the office of marketing and strategic communications: Jamie Patterson, MBA Marketing Manager Westminster College (573) 592-5125 Jamie.Patterson@westminster-mo.edu
Appendix A Fulton, MO
SOCIAL MEDIA WEB POSTING RESPONSE MATRIX DISCOVER yes
WEB POSTING Has someone discovered a post about the college? Is it positive or balanced?
EVALUATE CONCURRENCE A factual and well-cited response, which may agree or disagree with the post, yet is not factually erroneous, a rant or rage, bashing or negative in nature.
“TROLLS” Is this a site dedicated to bashing and degrading others? yes
“RAGER” Is the posting a rant, rage, joke or satirical in nature?
“MISGUIDED” Are there erroneous facts in the posting?
LET STAND Let the post stand. No response.
MONITOR ONLY Avoid responding to specific posts, monitor site for relevant information and comments. Notify Marketing Department.
FIX THE FACTS Do you wish to respond with factual information directly on the comment board? yes
“UNHAPPY CUSTOMER” Is the posting a result of a negative experience?
RESTORATION Do you wish to rectify the situation and act upon a reasonable solution?
SHARE SUCCESS Do you wish to proactively share your story and mission?
FINAL EVALUATION Write response for current circumstances only. Will you respond? yes
RESPONSE CONSIDERATIONS TRANSPARENCY Disclose your connection to Westminster College.
SOURCING Cite your sources by including links, images, videos or other references.
TIMELINESS Take time to create good responses. Don’t rush.
TONE Respond in a tone that reflects highly on the rich heritage of Westminster College.
INFLUENCE Focus on the most used sites related to Westminster College.
Social Media Guidelines
Appendix B Social Media Tips Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn
Social media guidelins for Westminster College in Fulton, MO.