As prospective and current students, faculty, staff, alumni, and other University audiences increasingly rely on social media such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to communicate, many higher education professionals who initially were reluctant to use social media are now interested in using it to advertise conferences and events, recruit prospective students, engage alumni, leverage fund-raising efforts, and hold conversations regarding the latest research advances, to name just a few uses.
As more faculty and staff create Facebook pages, blogs, Flickr albums and Twitter feeds, questions remain regarding how to best leverage nascent Web-based technologies and third-party services. This page provides broad guidance to the effective use of social media at Illinois.
Before You Begin
Understand that social media is one element in an overall integrated communications plan. Separate your personal social media use from your professional social media use and keep in mind that you are representing the University. Bring your personality to your professional social media postings, but leave personal postings (such as what you had for breakfast) to your own social media.
Use social media only if you are willing and have set time aside to:
- Create quality content to post regularly, avoiding over-posting or “spam”
- Listen to your audience and interact and engage with them and provide content those audiences find useful. Remember that social media is a conversation, not a one-way broadcast
- Give up control of comments, especially negative feedback
- Promote the account in other communication formats
- Link to other relevant University accounts and actively follow them, rebroadcasting relevant info on your account/feed
- Set time limits as part of your daily routine. Think about what tasks you’re not completing while using social media to help ensure your use of time is wise.
- Keep up with the rapid changes to social media. New services appear rapidly and older ones may not have staying power. Settings and policies also may change without much notice from the provider.
- Delete the account if you later decide it isn’t achieving its goals – an abandoned account with no updated content helps no one and should be avoided
Create a Social Media Communications Strategy
- Define your target audiences
- Define tactical activities
- Select appropriate social media based on objectives and audiences
- Establish metrics and desired outcomes
- Give the account/feed/blog time to grow
- Measure the results and return on investment
Create a Distributed Management System
- Use a common resource email mailbox so that team members or a substitute designee can continue updating the account regardless of personnel changes, vacations, etc.
- Consult with your campus unit’s communications staff regarding how the feed fits into your campus unit's overall communications strategy
- Keep a contact list of who is managing what media to coordinate communications
- Use resources such as HootSuite (for Twitter) that allow multiple users to manage multiple social media accounts and messages
Know the Risks
Be aware of the issues and consequences involved in relying on the use of third-party services for social media. Many vendors have very poor or non-existent customer support. Your unit's Facebook page, Twitter account, etc., can disappear without explanation, and it is often very difficult to find simple contact information for many of the vendors to resolve the problem.
- Keep the tone of postings conversational but professional, along the lines of what you would say if you were invited to represent the University as a dinner guest in someone’s home
- Follow existing campus guidelines such as the code of conduct, ethical behavior, policies regarding the use of campus computers, sponsorships and advertisements, research rules, security issues, protection of confidential student information, copyright, etc.
- Think before you post. Remember that journalists and bloggers actively follow social media feeds. Once content is posted online it can be repeated and shared globally
- Follow the guidelines for the campus name by using Illinois or the Urbana campus – do not use UIUC in the name of your feed or account or in your content. Read more
- Don’t create logos to represent campus units - refer to your unit with text and use the Illinois logo. Read more
- Departments and other campus sub-units should acknowledge their college, school, institute, or major administrative unit in text, most commonly in the “description” section of the account/feed. Each college, school, etc., has different guidelines; consult with your unit communications staff
- Student groups should identify themselves as such and should not imply that they are official University sources
You may wish to create and post a policy regarding the type of commentary permitted on your Facebook page or other social media accounts. The posting policy currently used on the campus Facebook page is:
Your comments, links, photos, and videos are welcome here. All postings should be relevant to the University community and are reviewed. While creative and inventive postings are most welcome, if you wouldn’t share your comments with your family at a holiday dinner, you shouldn’t post them here. We will remove any postings that are offensive, inappropriate, contain insults, illegal suggestions, attacks, commercial advertising, spam, or solicitations. Comments posted here do not represent the opinions of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.