Social Media Guidelines

Last updated: September 21, 2016

These guidelines are intended to assist campus social media users to effectively and properly portray, promote, and protect the institution. These guidelines direct social media sites that are funded by, produced on behalf of, directly associated with, or officially representative of the university, its programs, services, alumni chapters, and/or employees. Additionally, these guidelines apply to employees, contractors, and others officially affiliated with the university who create or contribute to blogs, wikis, social networks, virtual worlds, or any kind of social media.

Guidelines

Transparency

Honesty and candor are important practices in social media. Do not make any claims—be certain that your posts are entirely truthful. If you make a mistake, admit it openly and quickly. If you aren't an authority on a subject that may be sensitive, send someone to the expert rather than responding yourself.

Protection

Members of the Appalachian State community are personally responsible for the content they publish on-line, whether in a blog, social media site or any other form of user-generated media. Do not disclose confidential information, including details or particulars covered by FERPA or HIPPA. Be mindful that what you publish will be public for a long time—protect your privacy.

Respect

Treat others with respect and inclusivity. Understand that others may have differing opinions from your own. Show proper consideration for the privacy of others. Be courteous towards our competitor schools and sister institutions. When posting under official university pages, know that you are representing the entire Appalachian institution—students, faculty, staff, alumni, friends, donors, etc.

Common Sense

With everything you post, your main objective should be to provide worthwhile information and perspective. Be mindful of the words you choose to convey your message. Social media is not the place for sarcasm, jokes, racial slurs or distasteful comments. Participation in social media on behalf of Appalachian is not a right but an opportunity, so please treat it seriously and thoughtfully.

Best Practices

Appoint at least two employees as administrators, and one should be the area’s communication liaison. Protect your passwords. When an account administrator leaves the university or no longer wishes to be an account administrator, it is the department’s responsibility to designate another employee to serve as an administrator and update the site’s administrator list. Account administrators are responsible for managing and monitoring each site’s content and for removing content that may violate the social media’s respective terms and conditions.

Allow University Communications to be an admin on your account. In the case of a campus-wide emergency, it is important that UComm has admin privileges on your account for reasons of disseminating information and replying to messages. After registering your account with UComm (instructions below), Facebook user "Yo Sef" will like your page, after which you can make him an admin. This will also assist with keeping you from being locked out of your page in the event that an admin leaves without sharing the password.

Protect your passwords. Change them quarterly. Make sure they are stored somewhere administrators have access to current passwords. When a single individual controls passwords, it is notoriously difficult to retrieve passwords when students graduate or faculty and staff leave the university.

Develop a communication strategy for your account. The strategy should include the site’s goals, audience, monitoring and evaluation, and how it will be integrated into the office’s overall communication plans. Contracts with vendors who are hired to manage university owned accounts must include a statement that all social media content, activities, and fans are owned by the University.

Standardize your account with other Appalachian State accounts. The name Appstate, App State, Appalachian State, Appalachian, or Appalachian State University should be listed prior to the name of the college, department or program. This helps build an awareness of all units and helps users find relevant Appstate units in search results. Do not use “ASU” in the name. Include a statement in the bio, about, or description section of the site that the site is the “official” presence of your department or unit. When promoting social media sites, departments should use university approved graphics for social media icons.

Perform regular monitoring of your social media accounts. This includes monitoring replies and comments at least daily and responding promptly when appropriate. Efforts should encourage fans, followers, and friends to share their thoughts with one another by commenting on posts and other social media content. Follow these basic guides for healthy discussion on social media. Do not remove any posts unless:

  • They contain hateful, threatening or abusive content
  • They contain content designed to incite violence
  • They contain content that devolves into personal attacks
  • They include profanity
  • They are engaging our pages to do anything unlawful, malicious, discriminatory, or in violation of university Code of Conduct.
  • They are using our pages to encourage others to engage in any of the behavior above
  • They are commercial ventures attempting to solicit our Facebook fans.

Only ban users that engage in this behavior repeatedly, and they are only banned from posting on our page. They still have access to read the page.

If it causes you to pause, then pause. Participation in social media on behalf of Appalachian is not a right but an opportunity, so please treat it seriously and with respect. If you are about to publish something that makes you even the slightest bit uncomfortable, review these guidelines and try to determine the cause of your hesitation. If you are still unsure, contact University Communications for consultation before publishing. (ucomm@appstate.edu or 828-262-6156)

Separate your personal social media sites from your professional sites. In personal posts, you may identify yourself as an Appalachian State University faculty or staff member. If you identify yourself as an Appalachian State University employee, it should be clear that the views expressed are not necessarily those of the institution.

Steer clear of legal matters. Never comment on anything related to ongoing legal matters, litigation or any parties Appalachian State may be in litigation with. Refer all social media activity around university legal matters to the University Attorney’s office.

Do not delete or suppress negative or critical posts if they are valid points to consider. Let the comments stand. Correct misinformation, but don’t engage in heated arguments. Often, the community will correct itself and step in to correct inaccuracies or defend the institution. If this happens and is sufficient to resolve the issue, there may be no need for an additional official response. If you feel a post merits greater concern, contact University Communications for consultation. (ucomm@appstate.edu or 828-262-6156)

Secure rights and permissions before posting, sharing or distributing copyrighted materials, including but not limited to: music, art, copyrighted photographs or texts, portions of copyrighted video, or information considered proprietary by a university partner, vendor, affiliate or contractor. Respect copyright, fair use and financial disclosure laws.

The university reserves the right to remove or cause the removal of any social media or mobile application sites or content for any lawful reason, including, but not limited to, content that is out of compliance with these guidelines. The request for removal of such material may arrive at the direction of a Department Chair, Dean, Vice Chancellor, or the Associate Vice Chancellor of Communications and Cultural Affairs.

The Social Media Disclaimer statement must be included on all accounts.

If there is uncertainty whether or not a post is appropriate, contact University Communications for consultation before publishing. (ucomm@appstate.edu or 828-262-6156)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the benefits of having a registered Appalachian State social media site?
  • It will be listed on the Appalachian State social media directory, which is aimed at driving users to your account.
  • It will be connected to Appalachian State University’s main profiles on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
  • You will have access to university created and approved icons and social media designs that can be used and adapted for individual schools, colleges and programs.
  • You will have access to time-sensitive information in the event that community-wide communications is required, such as emergency information.
Who should apply to register?

Any Appalachian State college, department, group or program wanting to maintain a social media presence with a university affiliation. At least one Appalachian State employee must be registered as the account administrator for the purpose of identifying the accounts’ point person and to provide continuity.

As a best-practices suggestion, University Communications (UComm) recommends two staff members have access to the social media account(s). It is recommended that the AppState employee who intends to serve as one of the account’s administrators complete and submit the online application.

Should existing social media accounts be registered with the university?

Yes. In order to be officially recognized by the university and included in the social media directory, your account must be registered by emailing ucomm@appstate.edu.

Does Appalachian State’s social media guidelines apply to my personal accounts on Facebook, Twitter, etc.?

No. The guidelines only apply to accounts that represent the university in an official capacity. As with any public forum, university employees are responsible for their statements.

As protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and by the N.C. Constitution, Sec. 14, Freedom of Speech and Press, each member of the university community has the right to freely express his/her views on any subject. However, in exercising these rights, the resources of the university cannot be used. Engagement in personal social media activities by university employees should be conducted independently of their university employment and at times when such activity does not interfere with employment obligations to the university.

What's the difference between a profile image and an avatar?

None. They are the same, however they are displayed differently. A profile image is displayed on the actual profile page. An avatar is a smaller version of the profile image shown on comment threads.

Once my account is active, how can I best maintain it?

Make sure you have a clear strategy and are committed to maintaining your social media site(s).

  • Do NOT simply put a student worker in charge of it and then let become inactive once the student leaves the unit.
  • Cross promote like crazy.
  • Be sure to give people a reason to keep coming back.
  • The more frequently you update your site, the better so people visiting it will have something new for them when they get there.
  • Link from icons on your website.
  • Customize your Facebook URL and put it on printed materials.

Resources

Definition and Types of University Accounts

For the purpose of these guidelines, social media means any facility for online publication and commentary, including without limitation:

  • Social networking sites (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Google+)
  • Micro-blogging sites (e.g. Twitter)
  • Video and photo sharing sites (e.g. Flickr, YouTube, Pinterest)
  • Blogs and wikis (e.g. Wikipedia)
  • RSS feeds, and
  • Forums and discussion boards (e.g. Reddit)
Related Policies

Social media users acting on behalf of the University must adhere to all applicable policies and procedures, including:

Terms of Service of the most common social media accounts

Become familiar with the terms of service and policies of social media sites and networks in which you participate. Included but not limited to: