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General Best Practices

Maintain transparency—Disclose your identity or that of the institutional unit. Use real names of people and official names of institutional units. For the latter, indicate that the social media site or presence is maintained by the unit as the sole official account in the community.

On personal sites, identify your views as your own—If you identify yourself as a Ball State faculty or staff member online, it should be clear that the views expressed are not necessarily those of the institution.

For official sites, have a plan—Consider your messages, audiences, and goals, as well as a strategy for staffing (including during vacations) and keeping information on social media sites up-to-date, before launching an official social media presence for your Ball State unit. This could include a content plan for the types of posts you will make in the first weeks or months after the site is launched. Best practices vary depending on the social media environment in question, but typically a volume of 4-8 posts per month is sufficient to maintain interest, but avoids overwhelming "fans" or "followers."

Consider carefully who you will "friend" or "follow" in social media to avoid creating the impression that the university endorses a particular individual, cause, or organization. Plan in advance to what extent you will allow comments from other users on your site (this will depend on the goals you have set for your social media efforts) and how you will respond if users make critical or objectionable posts or comments.

Because of the transparency needed to build credibility in social media, UMC suggests that posts which are critical but not offensive should generally not be censored. However, comments that are libelous or offensive by the standards of our community, such as posts that are racist or obscene, or that consist of a "spam" advertisement or otherwise violate the Information Technology Users’ Privileges and Responsibilities document's guidelines for commercial use of university platforms, should be removed.

Respect copyright and fair use—Be mindful of the copyright and intellectual property rights of others and of the university. For guidance, consult the Guidelines for Copyright Compliance. Remember that content posted to social media sites in some cases becomes the property of the platform operator. For this reason, a social media site should never replace a university unit's Web site as its official online presence.

Be vigilant—Exercise caution to avoid "phishing" attempts, which aim to gain control of a personal or institutional social media site by deceiving a user into revealing the account's user name and password. Monitor your social media sites to ensure you notice quickly if an unauthorized person gains access—the larger your audience, the more tempting your site becomes as a target.

Terms of service—Be careful to obey the Terms of Service of any social media platform employed. In the case of campus units or organizations on Facebook, this includes creating "public profiles" of which users can become fans, not personal profiles which users can "friend." If you have questions about this distinction, contact UMC for assistance.

Privacy—For personal social media, use privacy settings to restrict personal information on otherwise public accounts, but be aware of the limited protection this provides. Even "private" messages can be accidentally released through errors or changes in practice on the part of the social media platform provider. In the case of a Facebook fan page, administrators cannot see the individual fans’ profile information unless there is another separate connection/friendship that would allow this access to personal information.

Measure for results—To evaluate post activity and interaction with a community, make use of analytics and tracking tools. Facebook has built-in analytics for fan pages. When posting links on any social media site, we recommend using a link tracking service such as bit.ly. Some Twitter applications have this feature built into their software interface for convenience. These tools can help to refine your strategy and better understand you audience’s preferences and behaviors.

Promotions—Adhere to the promotion policies of the social media platform in question and applicable law.

University Marketing and Communications
Arts and Communications Building, Room 224
Ball State University
Muncie, Indiana 47306

Hours: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. EST Monday - Friday. For after-hours calls, dial the number below and you will be directed to an on-call staff person.
Phone: 765-285-1560
Fax: 765-285-5442
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