Best Practices for a Successful Social Media Presence

1. Be respectful and honest.

Anything you post in your role as a UTC faculty or staff member reflects directly on the institution. Be professional and respectful at all times on your social media site. Do not engage in arguments or debates with naysayers on your site, but feel free to correct inaccurate information where needed.

2. Be transparent and authentic.

Make it clear that you are blogging /tweeting/Facebooking, etc. in your role as a faculty or staff member at UTC. One of the great benefits of social media is that the individuals maintaining social media sites personalize large and complex institutions such as UTC. We have the ability to give people a real glimpse of life here. Use your own voice, and encourage others in your department to do the same. Nothing hurts the authenticity of site so much as “ghostwritten” posts for higher level administrators.

3. Listen.

Being a consumer of social media is essential to your ability to be a successful producer of social media content. "Listen" to online conversations on your preferred tools—be they blogs, Twitter, Facebook or anything else—to maintain a clear and current understanding of what is relevant and of interest to the community. If people tell you they don't like a particular feature, learn from that. Online culture is built on openness and (sometimes blunt) criticism.

4. Start active and stay active.

Social media presences require diligent care and maintenance. If you do not have the time or resources to check in on these sites at least a few minutes each day, and to post fresh content several times a week, reconsider using social media at this time. Your site is only as interesting as your last post—if that post is several months old, visitors will consider it outdated and quickly lose interest.

5. Be first.

One of the great benefits of social media is the ability to share information almost instantly with a global audience. This timeliness is also one of the expectations of that audience. Be prepared to move quickly in response to new developments and announcements with relevant information on your site. You may even consider releasing new information first on your social media site to help users understand its value as a place to learn about your office or department. A short amount of accurate information delivered at the time of need can sometimes be more valuable than a full report delivered well after the issue has passed.

6. Think before you post

Remember, everything you do online can and will live forever. Think before you post, remembering that anything you share within social media, even within a closed network, is not private. It can and will be shared, stored and spread globally. Don't post anything online you wouldn't feel comfortable seeing on the front page of the newspaper. Many local and regional media outlets rely as much on social media outlets as they do traditional forms of press outreach for stories.

7. Comment and share beyond campus.

As a consumer, as well as a producer of social media, offer comments on interesting posts and share the good work of others using your sites. Social media is not (only) about sharing your news and success; it's about sharing information that is of interest to your readers and viewers. That may mean interesting research from colleagues at another university, an insightful news story or a fascinating link. When you share externally, it makes your social media outlet a more valuable resource for all of your users.

8. Accept and monitor comments as part of a two-way conversation.

A social media site without comments isn't very social. Be prepared to accept and respond to comments. Understand that not all comments will be positive, and respond to negative comments professionally and by providing any additional information that may help resolve the issue in keeping with the guidelines above.

Post a disclaimer on your site stating you reserve the right to remove inappropriate comments—you can see a sample of UTC's commenting policy for our Facebook page in Appendix F. Remove those comments containing vulgar language, those that attack any one group or individual, and those that are obviously spam.

9. Separate the personal from professional.

Balancing your professional and personal social media presences can be tricky, particularly if you are an avid user in both arenas. Content that is appropriate and of interest to your personal friends is most likely not appropriate or of interest to your department's or office’s "friends." Keep these two presences as separate as possible by keeping content about your non-work life on your personal page.