Best Practices

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Guidelines: Policies, Laws & Terms of Service | University News & Media Engagement | Incident Management & Orange Alert | Athletics

Best Practices: General Best Practices Messaging | Planning | New Accounts | Branding | Security | Account Admins & Student Workers | Additional Resources


Guidelines

Policies, Laws & Terms of Service

The following provides guidance about existing policies, laws and regulations that extend to social media.

Abide by University policies. Follow all University policies, procedures, rules and regulations. You are responsible for what you post on University-affiliated accounts. If you’re unsure about a post, don’t post it.

All University policies can be accessed here: http://supolicies.syr.edu/.

Take extra precaution to comply with:

Follow all international, federal, state and local laws, rules and regulations. Take extra precaution to comply with:

Protect confidential and proprietary information. Be respectful of and do not share confidential, proprietary, financial, legal, private or personal information about the University or its students, alumni, employees, partners or affiliates. Be respectful of the rights and privacy of others. If you’re unsure about a post, don’t post it.

Be mindful of copyright. Be respectful of intellectual property and do not post copyrighted material. It’s good practice to link to content instead of reproducing it, or obtain permission before posting it.

Comply with the terms of service. Comply with the terms of service and applicable rules of social media platforms, websites and applications. Be mindful that many terms of service agreements of social platforms, websites and applications grant the service broad license to redistribute posted content.

Maintain active accounts. Social media accounts should be active, regularly monitored and integrated into existing strategies. Before launching an account, it’s a good practice to ensure it will be sustainable and value-adding over the long-term. Accounts that become inactive, ineffective or unsustainable should be considered for deletion. It’s a good practice to regularly evaluate each account.

Let the University know about new accounts. Discuss accounts with your supervisor and/or your unit’s communications staff, and let the University’s social media staff know about new accounts by completing the form at socialmedia.syr.edu/directory or by emailing meguse@syr.edu or socialmedia@syr.edu.

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University News & Media Engagement

The following provides guidance on University procedures.

Share University news from the University. The University’s official flagship channels should be the first to announce University news. News.syr.edu is the University’s official news source. The University’s official flagship channels are:

When sharing University news, it’s a good practice to link straight to information that is available on the University’s official websites – such as News.syr.edu – or repost from the University’s official flagship accounts. It’s the most effective and preferred way to help promote the University and ensure information is public, accurate and approved for dissemination. Support major announcements, but do not announce news that is not yours to announce.

Consult on media engagement. Units are encouraged to consult with News Services prior to responding to any media request and to consult with News Services and/or the associated school or college’s communications staff before proactively engaging with the media.

News.syr.edu is the University’s official news information source.

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Incident Management & Orange Alert

Support suspected or actual emergency communications – accurately. In the event of an incident or Orange Alert, only share messages on University-affiliated accounts that are directly from the University’s Flagship accounts or link to information on the University’s official websites, such as News.syr.edu or Status.syr.edu. Take extra precaution to ensure only accurate information is shared on University-affiliated accounts.

In such an event, account administrators should immediately suspend regular social media activity and remove any scheduled posts.

Take extra precaution to ensure only accurate information is shared on University-affiliated accounts. Do not share misinformation, rumor or speculation. Be mindful that other posts on social media may be misleading, inaccurate or false.

Escalate serious issues. If you see something, say something. Contact the appropriate resource immediately if you identify indications of health, safety or security issues or become aware an individual may present a danger to themselves or others in the University community.

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Athletics Content

Be mindful of Athletics content. To ensure NCAA regulations are not violated, it’s strongly recommended that any content (links, photos, graphics, videos, etc.) related to Athletics:

  • Comes directly from an official SU Athletics channel, such as Cuse.com or an official SU Athletics social media account (see the Athletics Social Media Directory).
  • Mentions/tags the main SU Athletics account of the platform, such as @Cuse on Twitter
  • Does not mention/tag student-athletes by handle/username
  • Shows good and positive sportsmanship
  • Does not mention/tag opposing teams or schools by handle/username

Do not interact with recruits or potential recruits. Do not show, mention/tag or interact with any recruits or potential recruits. Act in accordance with the SU Athletics Compliance policy and NCAA regulations, which pertains to all University accounts and all SU staff accounts, with exceptions only for Athletics staff. Violations may result in NCAA penalties.

Be mindful not to share posts from Athletics staff where they interact with any potential recruits.

If you’re unsure about a post, don’t post it. For questions or additional guidance, contact meguse@syr.edu.


Best Practices

General Best Practices for Participating on Social Media

The following best practices provide guidance for participating on social media with University-affiliated social media accounts.

When participating on social media, it’s important to follow a social media plan, always represent Syracuse University, and think twice before posting.

Be orange – represent SU. University-affiliated social media channels represent Syracuse University and should follow the voice and message of Syracuse University. Every touch point and interaction with the University should reflect the University’s personality and institutional vision and mission. We are bold, clear, connected and proud.

University-affiliated accounts are an extension of the University and should not be used to criticize, undermine or harm the University or its goals and mission.

Be a communicator. Be accurate and purposeful. When communicating on University-affiliated social media channels, use the same procedures and safeguards that you would use for other forms of public communications, such as checking for errors in accuracy and writing, ensuring approval to share publically and ensuring clear purpose and benefit.

Have a social media plan. Identify the goals and target audiences for your unit’s social media efforts, and select the platform(s) that best align with them. Develop a sustainable, long-term plan for content, engagement and monitoring for each account. Evaluate and update the plan at least twice a year. Alternatively, consider partnerships with other units and/or accounts. Refer to the Social Media Planning section for further best practices and considerations. (Contact Syracuse University’s social media staff for questions, guidance and resources.)

Be active. Update regularly. Quality over quantity. Social media accounts require attention and balance to be effective. Post regularly and be mindful that audiences will unfollow the account if they feel flooded with messages, particularly if messages seem irrelevant. It’s good practice to space posts out over the course of a day to avoid overwhelming followers. The quality of posted content is more important than frequency of posts.

Be social. Social media followers expect a two-way dialogue. Have a plan to engage your audiences. Consider tactics such as sharing photos, encouraging followers to share content with you, asking questions, holding contests and participating in conversations.

Consider content for your audience. What information is most engaging and relevant to them? What can you share that is unique to your unit? What types of articles, photos, videos and graphics will be interesting to your audience? Prioritize this content and eliminate superfluous information.

Consider campus and global contexts. Be mindful of campus happenings and world events. A poorly timed post can be seen as offensive or tasteless and may attract scrutiny.

Be thoughtful, mindful and respectful. Use good judgement. Consider how the post’s language and content will reflect on you, your unit and the University. Be clear in your writing – tone and meaning can easily be misinterpreted online. Consider your audiences’ possible reaction to the post and the comments it may generate. Do not use language or share content that is, or may be perceived as, offensive, discriminatory, inflammatory or biased. Act professionally, honestly, responsibly, respectfully, ethically, appropriately and consistent with University policies and laws. Remember the University’s institutional vision and mission.

Think twice before posting. If you wouldn’t feel comfortable making the same comment to the media on behalf of the University, it should not be posted on a University-affiliated account.

Use relevant hashtags, mindfully. Including relevant hashtags in posts can extend the reach of posts on some social media platforms. It’s good practice to use no more than 2-3 hashtags per post. Ensure you verify what the hashtag conversation is about before using it.

Avoid personal opinion and endorsements. Avoid sharing personal opinions or advocating for personal interests. Do not make endorsements, whether commercial, political or otherwise. Be mindful of unintentional endorsements and posts that may be perceived as endorsements.

Double check the account. Ensure you’re posting the intended content to the intended account. Posts are public and forever.

Schedule smartly. Don’t set it and forget it. Scheduling posts can be useful for spacing posts out over the course of a day. It’s good practice to only schedule one day at a time to remain aware of what is scheduled – especially if an event or incident arises – and remain actively engaged in monitoring the channels and conversations.

Respect privacy, including your own. Be mindful when exchanging personal or contact information. When necessary to exchange such information, it’s good practice to ask an individual to privately message you their information to avoid sharing yours publically.

Monitor comments. Monitor accounts regularly and actively. Monitoring accounts can provide insight for your social media plans, and alert you to opportunities to engage followers and build a community. Be mindful that users on different social media platforms have different expectations for timely responses.

  • Twitter: Users expect very prompt responses – at least three times a day, check mentions, direct messages, relevant search terms and relevant hashtags.
  • Facebook pages: Users expect timely responses – at least twice a day, check private messages, wall posts, post comments and comments on recent previous posts.
  • Facebook groups: At least once a day, check post comments, comments on recent previous posts, group members’ posts and requests to join.
  • Instagram: At least once a day, check post comments, comments on recent previous posts, tagged photos, direct messages, and relevant hashtags.
  • LinkedIn pages: At least once a day, check notifications, post comments, comments on recent previous posts, and followers’ posts and recommendations.
  • LinkedIn groups: At least once a day, check discussion posts, comments on new and previous discussions, submission queue, moderation queues, and requests to join.

Address negative comments. Have a plan for responding to questions, concerns, and negative comments. Be kind, cautious and avoid escalation. Recognize when comments do and don’t require a response. Be mindful of deleting relevant comments as it can be viewed as censorship. Delete posts that are clearly spam.

Get permission for images. Images found on the web and social media are not free to use – it is easy to violate copyright law. It’s good practice to link to content instead of reproducing it, or obtain permission before posting it. Ask the image creator, and any identifiable individuals in the image, for permission to use the image. Be transparent about where and how it will be used. Give photo credit. Avoid stock photos. (Example: asked, credited, and linked to.)

Make use of Collage for University images.

Correct mistakes. If a mistake occurs, correct it quickly. Be transparent about the mistake and any corrective measures.

Be mindful of NCAA regulations. Athletics is a significant part of our University culture. However, an improper post about Athletics or a student-athlete could violate NCAA regulations. It’s good practice to only share Athletic content that’s created by SU Athletics, such as from Cuse.com, and avoid other sources. If you’re uncertain if a post is appropriate, don’t post it.

Be supportive. We encourage you to work collaboratively and in common purpose. Together, we are greater than the sum of our parts – we are one University. We encourage you to share appropriate content from schools and colleges, and units and programs, across your unit’s social media channels to show our unity and solidarity, and to support each other’s efforts.

Do no harm. Let your social media activities do no harm to the University, yourself or others.

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Messaging & Content: Support the Mission and Vision

Each unit has different goals and will express different personalities on social media. The following best practices provide guidance for supporting the Syracuse University mission and vision on all University-affiliated social media channels.

Vision. Syracuse University aspires to be a pre-eminent and inclusive student-focused research university, preparing engaged citizens, scholars, and leaders for participation in a changing global society.

Mission. As a university with the capacity to attract and engage the best scholars from around the world, yet small enough to support a personalized and academically rigorous student experience, Syracuse University faculty and staff support student success by:

  • Encouraging global study, experiential learning, interdisciplinary scholarship, creativity, and entrepreneurial endeavors
  • Balancing professional studies with an intensive liberal arts education
  • Fostering a richly diverse and inclusive community of learning and opportunity
  • Promoting a culture of innovation and discovery
  • Supporting faculty, staff, and student collaboration in creative activity and research that address emerging opportunities and societal needs
  • Maintaining pride in our location and history as a place of access, engagement, innovation, and impact

Tell the Syracuse story – past, present, and future. We are bold, clear, connected and proud. We are defined not only by our history, but the direction we choose to follow. From its founding in 1870, Syracuse University has provided an environment in which students, faculty, and staff from diverse backgrounds come together to create, grow, and break boundaries. By offering a world-class mix of academic offerings, alumni activities, and immersion programs the University has become a point of intersection and opportunity.

Additional messaging and content themes. When developing content that goes beyond your unit’s unique messages, you can engage users and reinforce the Syracuse University message with supplemental content. In addition to the Vision and Mission, consider the following themes in your social media messaging and content:

  • Excellent student experience
  • Variety of programs, majors, and extracurricular opportunities
  • Research opportunities and achievements
  • Cross-disciplinary and collaborative initiatives
  • Community and opportunities for Veterans
  • Innovation and entrepreneurship
  • Student preparedness for careers and post-college life
  • Global presence, perspectives and impact
  • Study abroad and immersion programs
  • Pride, spirit, and storied history of excellence
  • Engaged alumni network and life-long relationships
  • Syracuse University as a community and support network
  • One Syracuse, we are the sum of our parts

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Social Media Planning

The following best practices provide guidance for developing or evaluating a plan for a social media account, campaign or effort.

Social media, like any other communications effort, requires thoughtful planning to be successful. Social media users are particularly selective about which accounts they will follow – it requires a long-term plan to cultivate an engaged community of followers.

Before launching a new account or effort, or when evaluating or updating an existing effort, it’s good practice to develop a plan to integrate the account(s) into your unit’s existing strategies and to sustain an active account over the long-term.

Social media changes rapidly, and what was successful in the past may not be as effective in the future. It’s recommended that social media plans are measured, evaluated and updated at least twice a year, such as at the start of a new semester.

Consider these questions as you plan and evaluate:

  1. What are your unit’s goals? What does success look like?
    1. How will social media help to reach those goals?
    2. How will social media be integrated into your existing strategies?
    3. How will you track and measure your efforts?
  2. Who is your target audience?
    1. What do you want them to do or to know?
    2. What are their interests, demographics and relationship with your unit?
  3. What is your content plan?
    1. What types of content will you share? (articles, photos, graphics, videos, etc.)
    2. What information is most relevant to your audiences and the unit? Prioritize this content and eliminate superfluous information.
    3. How will you make the account social? How will you generate interaction?
    4. How often will you post?
    5. How much time will be spent on content and social media?
    6. Who will do the work?
  4. How will you monitor the account(s) and engage your audience(s)?
    1. How often will you monitor the account?
    2. When and how often will you engage with followers?
    3. Who will do the work?
  5. Which social media platform(s) are the best choice(s)?
    1. Which platform(s) do your audiences already use?
    2. Which platform(s) will best showcase your content?
    3. Which platform(s) align with your unit’s goals?
    4. Will the account(s) duplicate other efforts or segment audiences?
    5. Is there another unit or account with similar goals, audiences and/or content that you could partner with? If so, consider partnerships with other units and/or accounts rather than a separate account. Refer to the New Accounts section of this document for guidance.
  6. Is your plan sustainable?
    1. Will your plan endure over the long-term? How?
    2. Will the plan be effective if the leader of this effort leaves the University?
    3. When and how often will you evaluate and measure your efforts?
    4. When and how often will you update the plan?

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New Accounts

The following best practices provide guidance for considering and launching a new social media account or effort.

Communicate. Before launching a new account, campaign or effort, discuss the plan with your supervisor and/or your unit’s communications staff. They should be part of the planning process and aware and supportive of the new effort.

Have a plan. Integrate and be active. Before launching a new account or effort, develop an integrated and sustainable social media plan. Inactive social media accounts reflect poorly on the unit and the University. Refer to the Social Media Planning section for additional best practices and considerations.

Plan for campaigns and events. Consider hashtags and exits. For campaigns and events, it may be more effective to use hashtags, integrate messaging on existing accounts, or temporarily take over an existing account, rather than launching a new account. If a new account is launched for a campaign or event, plan an exit strategy in advance – to eventually delete the account – as part of the planning process.

Avoid duplication. Consider campus partnerships rather than a new account. There are numerous social media accounts affiliated with Syracuse University – from academic units to student organizations to alumni clubs. Will your account cut through the noise?

Considering your unit’s goals, audiences, content and resources, you may find it’s more effective and efficient to partner with other units and accounts than it is to launch and sustain a new account targeting a similar audience.

The target audience may not mind if the information comes from another unit’s account, so long as it’s relevant to their interests and expectations.

For example, if your unit periodically host events that are open to all undergraduates, a few messages posted on the @SUCampus Twitter account (with over 8,000 followers) may be more effective at reaching the target audience than a new account.

The Social Media Planning section of may be useful when considering tactics. Contact Syracuse University’s social media staff for additional guidance and resources.

Let the University know about new accounts. Let the University know about new accounts so that they may be followed, considered for cross-promotions, and added to the Social Media Directory. Share new accounts completing the form or by emailing meguse@syr.edu or socialmedia@syr.edu

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Social Media Branding

Refer to the Syracuse University style guide for guidelines specific to social media account branding, including naming conventions, profile descriptions and images.

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Account Security

The following best practices provide guidance for maintaining secure University-affiliated accounts and protecting against unauthorized access, compromised accounts and mistakes.

Update access and information often. Update passwords, administrator access, profile information and any necessary branding at least twice a year and with any change in account administrators. With each update, it’s good practice to review University policies and your unit’s social media plan.

Use secure passwords. Use strong and different passwords for each account, which are not used anywhere else and are not an SU password. Follow ITS’ best practices for secure passwords: https://its.syr.edu/infosec/passwords.html.

Passwords for each account should be known by at least two current University employees.

Keep passwords safe and secure. Do not share them widely or publicly. Use caution when writing them down or saving them digitally.

Use an syr.edu address. University-affiliated accounts should be associated with the unit’s syr.edu email address, rather than an individual’s.

Maintain two employee account administrators and a plan for transitions. For each University-affiliated social media account, maintain at least two employee account administrators – ideally employees in communications roles – who have knowledge of the password(s) and/or administrator access. An account administrator should immediately change all relevant passwords, access codes and administrator access settings in the event an employee or student with knowledge of a password(s) and/or administrator access to an account(s) leaves the position or has relevant responsibilities withdrawn for any reason.

Do not link accounts. It’s strongly recommended that social media accounts are not linked to each other (such as for simultaneous posting to Facebook and Twitter). It is against best practices, poses security risks and increases the risk of error.

Use good access judgment. It’s good practice to only login to University-affiliated accounts on personal devices when necessary, and otherwise remain logged out, to mitigate the risk of mistakes. It only takes a quick click to post to the wrong account.

Student worker access. To maintain secure accounts, it’s a good practice for supervisors to login to accounts for students to use on an as needed basis, or use a social media management tool for students to login to an account indirectly. It’s recommend that student workers avoid accessing a unit’s social media accounts on their mobile devices to mitigate the risk of mistakes and accidental postings.

It’s strongly recommend that student workers do not sign in to University-affiliated accounts on personal or mobile devices to mitigate the risk of mistakes and accidental postings. In cases where this practice is used, student workers should be advised to immediately sign out of University-affiliated accounts once the task is complete.

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Account Administrators & Student Workers

Primary account administrators are responsible for the entirety of the account(s). One University employee should be designated as the primary account administrator for each account. This administrator is be responsible for the entirety of the account(s) including security, strategy, branding, daily activities, monitoring, addressing issues and questions appropriately, ensuring posts are appropriate and consistent with the University mission and policies, and providing guidance to any other contributors to the account(s).

University employees are responsible for the posts and activities of the account(s). University employees are responsible for verifying, editing and posting content and activities – including student contributions – to University-affiliated account(s).

Support student workers as contributors, rather than account administrators. Students are a valuable part of the social media ecosystem at Syracuse University and the University supports student contributions to social media efforts as learning and professional development experiences. Student workers have an understanding of social media and they can bring the student experience to life on a unit’s social media accounts, however, students are not communications professionals and may not have strong institutional knowledge to leverage in decision making.

Student workers should be supported as contributors, rather than account administrators – designate or acting – of any University-affiliated account. Supervisors of student workers should provide guidance, best practices and verify student work before it’s published.

It’s good practice for students to draft posts offline for review, and for University employees to do the work of editing and posting, which is the model the University’s social media team (#44Social) follows.

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Additional Resources & Related Documents

Contact the University’s social media staff or visit SocialMedia.syr.edu for questions, guidance and additional resources.

Related Policies & Documents:

  1. Syracuse University Style Guide: http://styleguide.syr.edu
    1. Social Media Branding: http://styleguide.syr.edu/web-and-email/social-media/
  2. All University policies http://supolicies.syr.edu/
  3. Partisan Political Activity http://supolicies.syr.edu/ethics/partisan_political.htm
  4. Computing and Electronic Communications Policy http://supolicies.syr.edu/it/computing.htm
  5. Best Practices for Secure Passwords https://its.syr.edu/infosec/passwords.html
  6. Athletic Compliance Policy http://supolicies.syr.edu/ethics/athletic_comply.htm
  7. National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) policies and regulations http://www.ncaapublications.com/s-13-Manuals.aspx
  8. Staff Employee Handbook http://humanresources.syr.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/SEH2008.pdf
  9. Staff Employee Workplace Standard http://supolicies.syr.edu/ethics/emp_standard.htm
  10. Faculty Manual http://provost.syr.edu/faculty-support/faculty-manual/
  11. Student Handbook http://syr.edu/currentstudents/studenthandbook/
  12. Code of Student Conduct http://supolicies.syr.edu/studs/std_code_conduct.htm
  13. Code of Ethical Conduct http://supolicies.syr.edu/ethics/code_conduct.htm
  14. Non-Discrimination and Equal Opportunity policy http://supolicies.syr.edu/ethics/nonD_equal_policy.htm
  15. Sexual Harassment, Abuse, and Assault Prevention http://supolicies.syr.edu/ethics/sexual_harass.htm
  16. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 http://supolicies.syr.edu/ethics/hipaa.htm
  17. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974 http://supolicies.syr.edu/ethics/ferpa.htm

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