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Whitworth University Social Media Guide

  1. Introduction:
  2. Acknowledging that social media use is widespread among its faculty, staff and students, Whitworth has created the following social media guide to help direct our community in how best to participate in these platforms. Social media are powerful communication tools that often blur the lines between professional and personal interests, so this guide seeks to clarify best practices to ensure that Whitworth's interests and those of individual community members are reflected respectfully and appropriately.

    For this guide, "best practices" refers primarily to the widely used platforms of Facebook and Twitter. However, be aware that the term also applies to other types of social media, like blogs, photo- and video-sharing sites, Wikis, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, Tumblr, discussion forums, and other applications.

    Social media is ever-changing, and these policies will continue to evolve with the changing landscape. If you have any questions or suggestions for best practices, please contact the university communications office.

  3. How Whitworth Uses Social Media
    Whitworth welcomes the use of social media to promote our mission and the work of students, faculty and staff. Our official presence on social media allows us to hear from students, parents, donors, prospective students, staff and faculty in direct and immediate ways, and similarly allows the university to respond to campus-related news and concerns.

    The university communications office handles the primary university accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram, WordPress, Flickr and YouTube.

    University-endorsed pages and accounts have been approved by the university communications office and are managed by members of the Whitworth community. Refer to our social media index for a list of these accounts (or apply for a university-endorsed account here). However, many non-university-endorsed pages and accounts are managed by students, faculty and staff, including personal profiles, all of which reflect the varied voices and perspectives of the Whitworth community. We ask that all users will consider this as a guide to best practices.

  4. General University Policies for Social Media and Personal Sites
    Employees and students are expected to follow applicable university codes of conduct and are responsible for anything they post online. 

    1. Protect confidential and proprietary information: Do not post confidential or proprietary information about students, alumni, employees or the university. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and other federal requirements apply to social media, and the same disciplinary action will be taken for violations of these laws.

    2. Copyright and fair use: Be certain that what you're posting does not violate the copyright and intellectual property rights of others or the university. Detailed information about these laws can be found here.

    3. Use of Whitworth's logo and photos: Use of the Whitworth logo and copyrighted photos is reserved for use on university-endorsed sites and must comply with the university's visual identity standards.

    4. Advertising and endorsements: Do not use Whitworth's name or logo to promote a product, cause, or political party or candidate.

    5. Respect university time and property: Though social media can be endlessly entertaining and engaging, please be aware that users are expected to follow Whitworth's Computer Policy regarding appropriate use of technology. Faculty and staff should determine with their supervisors or department heads what is appropriate for time spent tending to the department's social media presence, and should limit personal use while at work as directed by departmental guidelines.  This also applies to student employees who are assigned to work on social media. (Refer to section XI. Appropriate Use of Technology in the Whitworth Computer Policy for more details.)

    6. Handling questionable or potentially damaging social media comments: Before jumping to respond to a comment, take a moment to determine the best course of action in handling it. Refer to our comment flowchart.

  5. University-Endorsed Social Media
    In addition to best practices listed above, the following guidelines apply to those posting on behalf of the university on university-endorsed sites.

    1. Determine whether your site should be endorsed by the university. The two main types of university-endorsed accounts:
      1. Accounts that represent academic departments (e.g., the English department)
      2. Accounts that promote specific programs (e.g., the Costa Rica Center, Whitworth Athletics)

    2. Notify the university communications office: Please complete a brief application that indicates the social media platform to be used, the primary contact person, the requesting department, and the intended audience and purpose. This allows our communications efforts to remain centralized and helps build campus awareness of how Whitworth is promoted across various channels.

    3. Name guidelines: for consistency, we ask that all university-endorsed accounts list "Whitworth" first in their titles, e.g., Whitworth Career Services, @whitworthserves.

    4. Transparency: Acknowledge who you are when posting or responding on behalf of the university.

    5. Promote the Whitworth website: Particularly in the cases of campus events and news, link back to the appropriate Whitworth webpage. Do not set up campus events via social media.

    6. Have a plan: It is important to keep your social media presence active. Departments should have a shared understanding of messages, audience, purpose and goals, and should formulate a plan to keep their posts up-to-date. Refer to our social media checklist when setting up accounts, and contact the university communications office with any questions.

  6. Student-Specific Policies
    Behavioral policies outlined in the student handbook apply to social media venues as well. As stated in the handbook, students need to be responsible with postings to their personal sites, understanding that anything posted that breaks university policy or civil law could be considered a violation of the university's behavioral expectations.

    1. Protect your own privacy: For safety and security reasons, students should not post any specific identifying information about themselves, such as personal phone numbers or university e-mail addresses, on such websites. Privacy policies on social media sites change regularly. It is your responsibility to know the policy of the platform you choose to use and to understand how to protect your information.

    2. Know when to involve help: Sometimes, situations arise in which an online conversation or interaction escalates to a point of discomfort for students. In these cases, students should seek the help of their RAs or other administrative leaders. The university communications office is available to serve as a resource in this area.

    3. Comply with university policies and identity standards: Student club/organization webpages are not subject to Whitworth's visual identity standards but must be consistent with Whitworth's mission, university computer-user policy, computer-use agreement, FERPA, and the student handbook.

  7. Best Practices for All Users
    1. Respect: Practice professionalism and respect through your presence online.

    2. Transparency: Social media provides a unique opportunity to personalize the Whitworth community. Be clear about who you are when tweeting, Facebooking, blogging, etc., particularly in the cases of staff and faculty. Use your own voice and do not ghostwrite. And be clear that the views expressed are not necessarily those of the institution.

    3. Be active: If you have a Facebook or Twitter account, blog, etc., use it! If you find you don't have time for it, you probably should reconsider it. If it helps, set up a schedule each day or week to update and keep your content fresh. Consider options that allow you to schedule posts ahead of time to help your page remain active.

    4. Comment and listen: Let people know you're listening by responding to questions and comments on your site and theirs. Refrain from heated arguments and respect differences of opinion. (Refer to our comment flowchart.)

    5. Think before you post: Be aware that social media is public. Before posting consider your students, professors, colleagues, prospective students and others who could come across your page; be sure that content will not alienate, harm or provoke these groups. If you wouldn't say it at a conference or to the media, reconsider posting it online.

    6. Separate personal from professional: If you are an avid user of social media in both arenas, keep these two presences separate by limiting content about your non-work life to your personal page. In all cases, refer to the previous point.

    7. Be a valued community member: Share the best information you've found from trusted sources outside Whitworth as it relates to your work, department or the university. This can help build your audience and add value to your site.

  8. Resources
    1. Application for university-endorsed social media account

    2. Social media index (a list of university-endorsed blogs, FB fan pages, etc.)

    3. Social media checklist (PDF)

    4. Social media worksheet (PDF)

    5. Comment flowchart (PDF)

    6. Contact info for university communications office

Approved by Whitworth University Cabinet, March 2013