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Guidelines for Social Media Managers

The following guidelines for administrators who represent Boston College through social media were developed by the Office of News & Public Affairs, which oversees the University's official presence on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Flickr, Pinterest, YouTube and Instagram, and chairs BC's Social Media Council.

The guidelines provide tips for creating successful social media channels and for representing Boston College in an appropriate, authentic, transparent and secure way. They also include cautions about potential pitfalls.

This page is an ongoing project; guidelines will be revised or updated as new social media platforms emerge, best practices evolve, or new concerns arise.

If you are a BC social media manager and you have a suggestion or question, please email social@bc.edu.

Use social media strategically.

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Social media should be part of a broader communication strategy. Consider the following questions, ideally before you launch a new channel, but even when it is already established.

    •    What do you hope to achieve?
    •    Who is your audience?
    •    What channels would reach them most effectively?
    •    Do you have the resources and commitment to run these channels well?
    •    Are other related departments already doing something similar?
    •    Do you need multiple channels? Would fewer, stronger channels be better?

Listen.

Monitor the conversation on your channels—and beyond—to learn about your audience's likes, dislikes, attitudes, social media behavior, et. al. Never "post and run"—leaving the ensuing conversation unattended. Regularly check your channels for:

    •    Comments or inquiries that require a response;
    •    Posts that could be shared;
    •    Objectionable posts, spam or advertisements that should be removed promptly;
    •    Fans or followers that should be blocked (e.g., for spam or violation of site rules).

Think before you post.

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How are others likely to react to the post? Remember that "delete" only goes so far on the Internet, so use good judgment before each post.

    •    Things can go viral very quickly, so if it's questionable, skip it. (Ask: Would I want to see this shared across the Web
          attributed to my channel?)
    •    If it touches on a controversial topic (e.g., politics), it can result in a heated discussion. Are you prepared for that?

Remember that audience members may have varying reactions to a post that appears to be completely positive.

Example: An award for a book may seem to be a perfect post, but if the book's premise deals with a hot-button issue, it is possible that audience members who hold a differing point of view will respond, sometimes forcefully, despite the fact that the author of the book is affiliated with the organization of which they are a fan or follower.

Example: A post about a positive change to an organization's operating policy or physical plant may draw cheers – or boos from those who prefer it to stay the same.

Example: Some audience members will use any post they can to bring the topic back to a grievance. If a city wins an award for transportation, the audience members may use it to respond with complaints about taxes or schools.

Example: Even seemingly benign topics can draw negative responses. The post "apples are the best" will draw a thumbs up from those who agree and thumbs down from those who prefer oranges. This can make for a lively, spirited discussion that makes your channel a vibrant one — or it can unexpectedly turn nasty.


This doesn't mean that no news or topic that might draw potential disagreement can be posted. Rather, it means posting should be a considered activity, and social media administrators should be aware that monitoring and moderating a discussion may be needed.

Bring value to the discussion.

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Keep the page fresh, ideally posting daily, but not so frequently that you will fill up users' timelines. A channel that lies dormant can be worse than no channel at all. Good sources of content include:

  • Helpful hints, information or reminders;
  • Links to pertinent or interesting campus sites;
  • Current or historical facts and tidbits related to your area;
  • Awards and achievements;
  • Congratulations and other good wishes;
  • Posts from other SM sites on campus;
  • Posts of interest from related sites off campus;
  • Comments on or shares of users' posts;
  • Campus-related photos.

Be social.

Respond to inquiries and comments directed toward you wherever possible. Engagement is more effective than pushing out information. Proactive ways to engage an audience include:

  • Asking questions;
  • Commenting on the information you're posting;
  • Soliciting photos or feedback (if appropriate);
  • Retweeting or commenting on other posts;
  • Developing a personality; avoiding robotic posts.

Understand what 'social' means.

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The decision to create a channel that includes conversation should be made with the understanding that members of your audience may have differing, sometimes opposing, views. A site that deletes every negative post is not a social site. Establish ground rules, such as the community guidelines for BC's official Facebook page, for courteous and appropriate behavior on the page and abide by them:

  • If a comment is incorrect, set the record straight.
  • If a post expresses a problem or a disappointment, and you can help, offer to do so.
  • If the comment is opinion, but is not in violation of page guidelines, let it stand.

Don't overdo it.

As a social media administrator, you are simultaneously the host of your site and a guest at a larger gathering, so observe the social etiquette. Make your audience feel welcome at your site, provide refreshments (information/personality), but don't try too hard. As noted above, limit the number of regular posts.

Be accurate.

Don't guess or speculate about the answer to a University-related question or share information related to BC from non-verified sources; if it is inaccurate, you risk starting or giving credence to a rumor.

  • If it's a question, either determine and relay the correct answer or refer the questioner to the appropriate website or department.
  • If someone posts something inaccurate to your site, correct it politely or remove it.
  • Proofread posts to avoid typos and errors.

Be transparent.

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No administrator should speak on behalf of Boston College on University-wide issues without authorization, nor should an employee of one BC department speak "for" another department. In addition, administrators should be clear about their affiliation with the University when answering questions or posting about BC, even on external platforms.

  • Social media administrators should not use University channels to express personal opinions represented as University, departmental or organizational views.
  • Attribute any post that does not contain content original to your department and that does not link back to the originator's site (e.g., include photo credits).

Respect confidentiality; safeguard privacy.

Sharing information on social media is public dissemination.

  • Do not release confidential or proprietary information related to Boston College, its staff, students, alumni or any member of the University community.
  • Do not allow fans or followers to reveal their private information during an exchange on an open channel. Take it offline if necessary.
  • Do not any release any campus news or information prematurely. If you're not sure, check first.
  • Cybercrime is real. Reset the default privacy settings on social accounts to control who can see what, how information can be searched, and which applications are enabled.
  • Create a strong password for each site and change it regularly.
  • More information on safeguarding privacy is available from BC Information Technology Services at bc.edu/security.

Be courteous and respectful.

Remember that all posts on channels run by BC departments reflect on the University. Ground rules for any site that hosts conversations should be clearly posted and followed. Even if a poster is being rude or annoying, the response on behalf of BC should be courteous. Avoid appearing to endorse flame posts by others through RTs or other shares.

Be helpful.

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Social media has created the expectation of a prompt response to inquiries or complaints.

  • Monitor comments and respond as quickly as possible.
  • Consider creating an FAQ site to which common inquiries may be referred.
  • Know when to take the discussion offline. After more than 1-2 exchanges, suggest that the poster contact you or someone else who can help via direct message (on Twitter), phone or e-mail. Again, discourage questioners from posting their private contact information.

Use good judgment.

Don't post or share anything that runs counter to or undermines the University's messages or integrity, or that could potentially hurt or embarrass BC staff, students, alumni, or individuals and organizations beyond BC. Adhere to all University policies, and refrain from using information or conducting activities that may violate local, state, or federal laws and regulations, including infringement of copyright or intellectual property rights.

--Office of News & Public Affairs