The use of social media by Flinders University as a medium to connect and engage with its communities is increasing.
Its use is aligned with Flinders University's Vision, as outlined in Inspiring Flinders Future: Strategic Plan 2010 - 2014:
We are a leading international university distinguished by our boldness, vigour and imagination. We are environmentally astute, engaged with the communities we serve and dynamically connected to the wider world.
With our increasing use of social media comes an increasing need for guidelines for Flinders University staff to refer to. The following guidelines aim to ensure that participation in social media:
- is consistent with Flinders University policies and procedures
- protects the reputation of Flinders University and the professional reputation of staff
- is respectful of the views and privacy of individuals
- is in accordance with the generally accepted standards of use in social media communities.
These guidelines are authorised by the Director, Marketing and Communications.
The guidelines outlined in this document address the use of social media for Flinders University purposes, or where a staff member makes reference to Flinders University in social media environments.
It does not specifically cover the use of social media by individual staff members for personal purposes, but does include guidelines for staff to protect the University and themselves when engaging in social media for professional purposes.
It covers the use of social networking sites (eg Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare), video and photo sharing sites (eg YouTube), micro-blogging sites (eg Twitter), blogs (including those hosted by Flinders University, personal blogs and those hosted by traditional media publications), forums and discussion groups, and other websites that allow individual users and organisations to use simple publishing tools.
The guidelines are based on considerations relating to:
Refer to existing processes, stakeholders and policy
Always refer to and consider existing processes, stakeholders, and Flinders University policy when setting up and managing a social media initiative and before posting, if you are unsure of the appropriateness of the post you are considering making.
Always think before acting and remember that everything you post is in the public domain (and will remain in the public domain) and that all social media initiatives should be integrated with existing strategies, processes and policies.
Ensure your use is authorised
If you are considering creating a social media page or profile for your area, secure the approval of your Executive Dean or Division Head and submit your proposal, with this approval, to the Director, Marketing and Communications via the Head, Online Communications. Use this online form to submit your proposal.
If the primary purpose of the initiative is for teaching and learning purposes contact the Director, Centre for Educational ICT.
Related policy: Flinders University Brand Responsibilities.
Protect the University's reputation
When posting always think about your role in the University and consider whether it is appropriate for you to post certain kinds of material about Flinders University.
Do not post information about Flinders University that is not already publicly available and for which you do not have authority to release. Always consider any impact on the reputation of Flinders University and remember that all official statements in the name of the University must be authorised by the Council, the Chancellor or Vice-Chancellor.
If you are unsure, check with the Head, News and Media.
Respect confidentiality and privacy
Ensure that you protect Flinders University's confidential information and that you protect the privacy of the Flinders University community (staff, students, alumni, business and community partners).
Related policy: Acceptable use of ICT Services
Keep your personal views separate
If you are posting on behalf of the University, keep your personal views separate.
If you are making a post on a subject that relates directly to your University appointment, you may, in order to establish your credentials, use the University's address and give the title of your University appointment.
All staff have the right to express their views publicly on any matter of public interest as private citizens. In any personal posts you undertake, you should not include the name and address of the University (or any part of it, eg University Hall), or your University title and you should never use the Flinders University logo.
If, however, you mention Flinders University in any personal posts you undertake, you should be honest with the community with who you are engaging and identify yourself as a Flinders University staff member. Be clear that you are sharing such views as an individual member, not as a representative of Flinders University and never use the Flinders University logo in these circumstances.
Related policy: University Policy on Public Statements
Use for University purposes
The use of University time and ICT services for social media activity should be confined to its use for University purposes. University time and ICT services should not be used to engage in social media activity for personal or non-University related purposes.
Related policy:Acceptable use of ICT Services
Monitor comments and posts
The use of comments and posts is a key element of engagement in the use of social media.
When setting up a new initiative, investigate what options, if any, are available to you for monitoring comments and then ensure that you monitor comments and posts regularly (at least once a day) and respond accordingly.
Do not delete negative or critical comments as this diminishes the credibility of the community you have created. Rather, consider responding appropriately and refer to existing processes that are in place should it be a complaint.
You should, however, delete any comments or posts that are defamatory, based on unsubstantiated claims, infringe on another member's privacy, are based on unsolicited advertising or are of an abusive nature. Sometimes comments deleted may need to be dealt with outside of the social media environment. Check with your supervisor in the first instance.
It is a good idea to publish a disclaimer that outlines what posts you will remove. For an example, refer to the statement used on the Flinders University Facebook page.
- Grievance Procedures and Complaints of Unlawful Discrimination and Harassment
- Sexual Harassment Policy and Grievance Procedures
- Student Conduct
Check your facts and be accurate
Always check the facts and accuracy of the content you are posting on behalf of Flinders University. If you do make a mistake, correct it and admit to it.
Only offer advice, support and comment on a topic that falls within your area of responsibility at Flinders University. Otherwise refer to the relevant area of expertise.
Know the rules
Be respectful to the individuals and communities with whom you are engaging. Be polite and respect people's views and copyright. Use the standard behaviour and social norms that would always be expected of you when engaging with the Flinders University community and as a Flinders University staff member.
Post regularly, add value and be timely
If you have established a community in the social media space commit to maintaining and building that community by posting regularly, adding value by providing relevant insights and information and responding in a timely fashion to any posts seeking information. The use of social media is not totally free. Resources and time need to be allocated to the management and maintenance of any initiative.
Protect your privacy
Whether you are engaging in social media for professional or personal reasons avoid posting your personal contact details. In addition, always check what mechanisms are available to you in each space you operate in that allow you to manage your desired level of privacy. Use these mechanisms.
Protect the line between your professional life and personal life
The use of social media can blur the line between your professional and personal life. Consider where you want to maintain that line and take actions to address it. For teaching staff this may mean deciding on whether, for example, to accept students as Facebook friends or not. If you decide to decline a friend request from a student, explain why.
Consider each medium you use and its role in your professional and personal life and then act accordingly. As a general guideline, LinkedIn is a medium for professional networking, Facebook is more of a personal social networking medium and Twitter can be either.
Think before you post and be aware of your liability and reputation
Remember that anything you post in the social media space is in the public domain. It can be searched and shared. Consider what impact a post (this includes a photo, video or link) may have if it was found by a current or future employer, colleague, student or research partner before posting it. Remember you are personally responsible for the content of your posts.
Regarding these guidelines, setting up a new social media initiative, related branding considerations
Head, Online Communications
Phone: 8201 5940
Regarding the use of social media for teaching and learning purposes
Director, Centre for Educational ICT
Phone: 8201 3096
For advice on public statements
Head, News and Media
Phone: 8201 2092
Acknowledgements and references
The following references were used in the development of these guidelines, in particular De Paul University's Social Media Guidelines and Telstra's 3R's of Social Engagement.
DePaul University, Social Media Guidelines
University of Michigan, Voices of the Staff (PDF)