Guidelines and Policy - Social Media at Your University

What your digital rules reveal

May 4, 2017

When you do an advanced Google search for social media policy and/or social media guidelines on either .edu or .ac.uk domains, a lot of results* appear.

The .ac.uk domain is used for university websites in the United Kingdom. Whilst the .edu domain is used for university websites in the United States.

Throughout the search results, you'll find that there are social media policy or guideline documents for top level or overall university use as well as rules/regulations for individual departments or areas.

For example, Oxford University has a comprehensive set of social media guidelines on their personnel services website. In this particular section on Oxford's website, there is a useful section on personal and professional use of social media and the mix of both that may take place during the workday.

An excellent example of an overall university guideline resource is the UCLA Social Media Guidelines website. According to the site, these guidelines "are intended to provide support and guidance for UCLA departments and organizations in the management of their UCLA social media channels and activity online."

Interestingly, the University of Exeter's "social media policy for employees" shows up (at least in my UK browser) as the top result for "social media policy" in the UK. And, they even get one of the coveted featured snippets:

The University of Exeter recognises and embraces the benefits and opportunities that social media can bring as a tool. For the purposes of this policy, social media is defined as a type of interactive online media or app that allows parties to communicate instantly with each other or to share data in a public forum.

Whilst I don't know if these are still current (Google will always find your ancient policy or guideline docs), my search generated a social media policy for students and a different social media policy for staff at the University of Nottingham.

I've always said that the social media policy or guidelines at a university can tell you quite a bit about the organizational culture or "vibe" of an institution.

For example, if your social media policy website is titled "Acceptable use of Social Media Policy" that might just raise an eyebrow or two.

Contrast that last example with the social media guidelines page at the Open University: "The University is aware that many of its staff and students are participating in social media in ways that are linked to University activity or teaching. There are no formal standards for social media activity."

And then there's Stanford University's "Guidelines for all types of engagement on social media on behalf of Stanford" list that reads like a "thou shalt not really use social media" set of rules.

What do you think? Do the social media guidelines at your university reflect the culture, tone, or spirit of your institution?

*Depending on how Google decides to override URLs for your web search, the top results may depend on whether or not you're browsing in incognito mode and/or the country from where you are accessing the web. In any case, it's fascinating to take a spin through some of the social media policy/guideline sites for universities.

For additional resources on social media policy docs / guidelines, I would highly recommend the UCISA Social Media Toolkit (previously mentioned in a post on IHE).


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