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Social Media Guidelines

What is social media?

Social media refers to Internet technologies, tools and services that allows a community of users to create, publish and repurpose content, including text, photos, video, images and links to other Web sites. Users of social media do so to extend the reach of their personal and professional networks, find others with similar interests, help them share information and collaborate on new ideas and projects.

How UT Arlington is using social media?

The University of Texas at Arlington strives to maintain clear and consistent messages to its many constituents through various communications channels and platforms, including social media. Social media is different from traditional forms of communication because it doesn’t just provide a mechanism for information dissemination but an opportunity to hear directly from and converse with constituents, such as students, faculty, staff, parents, fans and friends.

The primary platforms currently used by UT Arlington are:

Departments and programs across campus such as University Communications, Athletics, Campus Recreation, Undergraduate Recruitment and others are also successfully using social media to communicate with key audiences.

University of Texas at Arlington faculty, staff and students plus University departments, organizations and programs should choose whether to participate in social media based on the communication needs and appropriateness of the medium. These guidelines are designed to assist in the effective use of social media.

Policies and Laws

Social media usage at UT Arlington is governed by the same policies that govern all other forms of communication including:

Additionally, external vendor advertisements are prohibited on UT Arlington Web sites and social media sites (with the exception of Athletics, through their media rights provider ISP). Users of social media must also be knowledgeable of and abide by the policies of the social media provider.  Please refer to each social media site for their usage policies.

The policies, procedures and guidelines on this site will evolve over time as social media evolves.  Please refer back as needed for the most current information.

Branding of University social media

A picture’s worth a thousand words.  All UT Arlington social media sites should incorporate the University’s identity marks in its profile to communicate to fans, followers and viewers that the content found on the site is official and reliable. Contact the Office of Marketing Communications for assistance in creating customized icons for use on social media sites.

Be easily identifiable.  Create a profile or account name for your site that clearly and concisely identifies your program and its UT Arlington affiliation. Never create a persona, page, group or profile image named simply “The University of Texas at Arlington,” “UT Arlington,” “UTA,” etc., because that nomenclature implies you are speaking for the entire institution. Contact University Communications for assistance.

Make it official.  University-owned and managed social media sites should clearly denote the name of the university either in their name or description. Use either “The University of Texas at Arlington” or “UT Arlington”; never use “UTA,” periods or hyphens.  For instance:  “UT Arlington College of Science.” For more information, see Editorial Guidelines for Abbreviations.

Tips for creating a successful social media presence

Define your goals and strategies.  Determine up front what you hope to accomplish for your department, organization or program by engaging in social media. Understanding this will help you identify the best way to reach your target audience, select the appropriate social media platform(s), create relevant content and, in some cases, choose not to participate at all.

Don’t operate in a vacuum.  Before creating a social media page or profile on behalf of a University department or program, check first with University Communications to be sure a similar site doesn’t already exist.

Designate a content manager.  Decide who will be the primary person and back-up person responsible for site updating, monitoring and moderating. This is the person who will be responsible for ensuring appropriate content.  Provide contact names and e-mail addresses on your site. Do not use pseudonyms.

Be transparent.  Clearly state your goals on your site, and base all of your messaging strategies on those goals.

Practice first.  All social media platforms have their own unique standards and styles. Content managers should engage in a social media platform before launching a site to experience how the community works, what content is of most interest to users, what other users and groups discuss your topic, etc. Then build your Facebook page, Twitter stream, etc.  Before formally launching it, spend several weeks populating it with content.  Share it with a small group of colleagues, and ask them to help you with content and provide feedback.

Choose a simple URL.  Particularly in Facebook, create your fan page/group/persona URL in a way that is consistent with your page/group/persona name. For instance, create an account URL like this: www.facebook.com/blazemaverick instead of this: www.facebook.com/user.php?/#id?1984949.

Launch it.  Use traditional media, such as your Web site or e-newsletters, to notify potential audiences about your social media presence. In addition, be sure to use existing social media networks within the platform.

Stay flexible.  Once your site is launched, you’ll learn what content is the most – and least – successful in engaging new and existing users. Be prepared to respond and realign your strategy based on audience response.

Stay vigilant.  Successful social media sites do not need to take up much time, but they should be updated frequently, be responsive to users, and be adjusted as needed in response to opportunities and problems. The recommended minimum frequency for updates is 2-5 times a week.

Be community-minded.  If you join a social network other than your own, be sure you respect others’ rights to their opinions and that you are contributing valuable insights and information valued by that community. Frequent self-promotion is viewed negatively and can lead to you being banned from certain blogs, feeds or groups. 

Online is forever.  Search engines can turn up posts and images years after the publication date. Comments can be forwarded or copied. Archival systems save information even if you delete a post. Therefore, think before you type or upload images. When in doubt, check with your supervisor and/or fellow content managers. If you make a mistake, admit it and quickly make corrections.

When posting on behalf of UT Arlington

Understand the rules and protocol.  Know and abide by the University’s social networking guidelines and related policies.

Know your role as representative of UT Arlington.  Keep in mind your association with UT Arlington at all times when engaging in social media conversations. Ensure that your content is accurate, positive and consistent with how you wish to present yourself and the institution to peers, colleagues, students, alumni and other constituents.

Maintain Confidentiality.  Don’t post confidential or proprietary information about UT Arlington, its students, alumni, employees or any other constituent group. Avoid discussions of situations involving individuals on a social media site without their permission. As a guideline, do not post anything that you would not present in any public forum.

Avoid advertising and endorsements. You may not use the University’s name to promote or endorse any product, cause or political party or candidate. No University-owned social media sites can host advertising. Therefore, where possible, turn off any third-party advertisements on UT Arlington social media sites or pages.

Working with third parties. Entities associated with or working on behalf of The University of Texas at Arlington must also follow these guidelines, including disclosing their institutional affiliation.

When posting to personal social media accounts

When you participate in social media via personal (non-University) accounts, keep in mind:

You own your content.  Faculty, staff and students who choose to create personal social media accounts outside of the University domain are fully responsible for published content. Any information should not be attributed to the University or its policies. When in doubt, use a disclaimer. One example: “The postings on this site are my own and do not represent the positions, strategies or opinions of The University of Texas at Arlington.”

Check University policies.  Be mindful of the University’s social networking guidelines and related policies that are relevant to personal social networking accounts.  For instance, you may not use any official UT Arlington logos, marks or images, and you may not use the University’s name to promote or endorse any product, cause or political party or candidate.

Respect University time and property.  As outlined in UT Arlington’s Computer Usage policy, university computers and work time are to be used for university-related business. Employees should participate in non-incidental, personal social media conversations on their own time using non-University computers.

Be courteous.  Refrain from publishing content that contains slurs, personal insults or attacks, profanity or obscenity.

Be aware of liability.  You can be held legally responsible for what you post on your own site and on the sites of others. Individual bloggers, for instance, have been held liable in court for commentary deemed to be copyright infringement, defamatory, proprietary, libelous or obscene.

Internet safety and privacy

Social media is designed to be an open, transparent and world-wide mode of communication.  To ensure the level of privacy you desire, consider:

What information you post.  Thoughtfully consider how much information – such as phone number, address, photos, affiliations - you would share with a stranger, and apply that rule of thumb to your social networking accounts.  Keep in mind that once information is posted, it can be very difficult to remove from network caches or multiple (potentially unknown) search engines.

Who sees your information.  Personal friends are not the only viewers of your profile and posts.  Consider that colleagues, faculty members, future employers, neighbors, and strangers etc. also have access to view your information.  This means that others not only can see what you post about yourself but what you post about them.

Privacy settings.  Check each social networking medium for controls on who may look at your profile, information and images. Keep in mind that user access can be limited somewhat but not completely, and you have no control over what someone else may share.

University policies and standards.  All UT Arlington-owned social media sites should meet University standards. See policy library above.

Contacts and Resources

UT Arlington departments and programs utilizing social media are asked to work with University Communications to promote your efforts, engage in mutual information-sharing, and help you maximize your results.

For general information and assistance:

Hillary Green
Social Media Coordinator, University Communications

To request assistance in designing customized social media icons:

Marketing Communications

To report inappropriate behavior on any UT Arlington-managed social media sites:

Communications and Community Relations