Social Media Guidelines & Policy
Social network sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are exciting new forums to share knowledge, express creativity and connect with others who share similar interests.
The following "best practice" guidelines from respected online and industry sources are offered as a resource. The goal of providing this information is to help employees who post on behalf of Lehigh University to use these forums effectively, protect professional reputations and the Lehigh brand, and adhere to university policies.
There are many upsides to cultivating a community online. But, there are also risks to your reputation and that of the university. Overall, use policy and use good judgment in posting and responding to information. Remember: If it gives you pause, pause. It’s best to respond appropriately than to react inappropriately.
- Respect university time and property. As stated in the Computer Use Policy, university computers and employee work time are to be used for university-related business. Personal sites should be maintained on your own time using non-Lehigh computers and should not use the Lehigh University name or logo.
- Maintain confidentiality. Do not post confidential or proprietary information about Lehigh, its students, its alumni or your fellow employees. Use good ethical judgment, respect copyright and fair use, and follow Lehigh University policies and federal requirements, such as The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). As a guideline, don’t post anything that you would not present at a conference.
- Administrative ownership. "Lehigh University" appears prominently in the front of the account's name, and more than one university employee must maintain administrative access to each social media account created on behalf of Lehigh University. Account access must be linked to an office's or department's administrative e-mail account and not a personal e-mail account.
The keys to success in social media are being honest about who you are, being thoughtful before you post and respecting the purpose of the community where you are posting.
- Be accurate. Make sure that you have all the facts before you post. It’s better to verify information with a source first than to have to post a correction or retraction later. Cite and link to your sources whenever possible; after all, that’s how you build community. If you make an error, correct it quickly and visibly. This will earn you respect in the online community.
- Be respectful. You are more likely to achieve your goals or sway others to your beliefs if you are constructive and respectful while discussing a negative experience or disagreeing with a concept or person.
- Think before you post. There’s no such thing as a “private” social media site. 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. If you feel angry or passionate about a subject, it’s wise to delay posting until you are calm and clearheaded.
- Be aware of your audience. Identify your target audience and post news, events and items that are relevant to them. Your readers will be quick to ignore or delete you if your information is not helpful to them.
- Keep it current. Online news is instant, so readers are looking for the most up-to-date information they can find.
The University's Office of Communications and Public Affairs should be notified when you have established—or plan to establish—a social media presence, particularly for individuals or offices posting on behalf of an official university unit. This is to ensure that all institutional social media sites coordinate with other Lehigh University sites and their content, as well as to keep the listing of Lehigh social media accounts accurate.
To notify the Office of Communications and Public Affairs, e-mail Lindsay Lebresco. Any changes in the designated administrator(s) also should be promptly communicated to the Office of Communications and Public Affairs.
Take advantage of the viral nature of Facebook and spread the word about Lehigh to students, potential students, alumni and interested community members through the most dominant social network.
- Monitor often. Make sure to monitor your page for offensive or frivolous posts, and respond to comments in a timely manner. Remember this is an open forum. Use discretion and good judgment in monitoring feedback and comments from your fans.
- Be judicious. Post during high-traffic times (8 a.m., 11 a.m., 3 p.m., 8 p.m. and weekends). For content, follow the 80-20 rule of social media: 80 percent of content should be what people want to see (i.e., not shameless promotion) and 20 percent what we want them to see (i.e., shameless promotion). Posts should be concise and engaging.
- Be flexible and timely. Not all posts can be scheduled. If there is breaking news, or an immediate need to communicate via Facebook, planned posts may need to be delayed.
- Be conversational and create excitement. One of the biggest benefits to Facebook is giving people another means of asking questions and sharing feedback. When appropriate, ask for fans’ opinions or thoughts, or encourage them to share experiences.
- Provide timely feedback, and react appropriately. In terms of responding to comments, it is best to try to respond within 24 hours. If you can’t provide answers immediately, share that you will get back to them soon. Respond or react appropriately (and publicly) to any comments in which Lehigh is described inaccurately or cast in a negative light.
- Be consistent. It’s important to express “one voice” through Facebook postings. When sharing posts, videos, etc., be consistent in terms of how they're formatted, etc. Post regularly, as fans will expect it.
- Posting rules. Set guidelines for visitors to the site. It is up to the discretion of the person or persons identified as administrators to remove content that does not fit into the guidelines. Content that is questionable will be handled on a case-by-case basis.
Twitter is the predominant micro-blogging service. From a business point of view, it’s a newswire in 280 characters or less. Use Twitter to release brief news, to inform your followers of upcoming events and to provide links to additional information.
- Establish the right voice. Twitter users tend to prefer a direct, genuine and, of course, likable tone from your business, but think about your voice as you Tweet.
- Share. Share images of developing projects and events at the university.
- Listen. Regularly monitor for comments about the university, brand and people.
- Ask. Ask questions of your followers to glean valuable insights and show that you are listening.
- Respond. Respond to compliments and feedback in real time.
- Reward. Tweet time-sensitive information and updates about special offers.
- Demonstrate wider leadership and know-how. Reference articles and links about the bigger picture as it relates to the university.
- Champion your stakeholders. Retweet and reply publicly to great tweets posted by your followers and those you follow. Adding a comment when retweeting is a good way to keep the conversation going.
Video is a highly engaging format, and YouTube provides an important platform for dialogue. Online video should feature simple, easy-to-understand content.
- Variety of formats accepted. YouTube enables videos to be uploaded that come in a wide variety of formats and are high definition, up to 2 GB in size, and up to 15 minutes in length.
- Create engaging content. The key to building an audience is to provide content that is useful, entertaining and relevant. Particularly relevant content for the university might feature: student or faculty work, class projects, university events or expert advice. Avoid “talking heads.”
- Keep it short. While YouTube allows videos up to 15 minutes in length, most viewers don't have that long of an attention span. Try to keep your videos to about two minutes unless the content is compelling enough to run longer.
- Use as many keyword tags as appropriate. Give your videos meaningful and searchable titles and tags.
- Credit notable speakers and partners in your video description and include your website URL. Secure written releases from people appearing in the video.
- Encourage embedding. When someone embeds your video on their site, it counts as an inbound link and boosts that video’s rating in search engine results.
- Integrate with other efforts. Post your video to Facebook and incorporate it into your tweets. Include a shortened URL or incorporate quick response codes (QR codes) in your printed material to connect viewers to online content.
- Monitor comments. Welcoming comments on a social media site builds credibility and community. On YouTube, you can set your site preferences so that you can review and approve comments before they appear publicly. This allows you to respond in a timely way to comments. It also allows you to delete spam comments and to block any individuals who repeatedly post offensive or frivolous comments. If you don’t have time to monitor and respond to comments, be sure to turn comments off.
- Upload relevant video to Lehigh’s YouTube Channel. In addition to creating and publishing content on behalf of the university, Communications and Public Affairs also accepts video submissions from the Lehigh community that strive to add value to our academic mission and present the university in a positive and authentic way. Contact us for additional information.