Dartmouth encourages personnel using social media on behalf of the College to follow these recommendations, which we believe, based on our research, represent best practices in this field. Any questions about these guidelines should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Effective use of social media requires constant attention. Before you embark on a social media initiative, establish a strategy.
1. Define Purpose and Goals
What are your goals? How does social media fit in with your other communication efforts? While starting a social media account is easy, it requires time and upkeep. Make sure you have a clear purpose before you begin. Think about how you are going to measure against your goals over time so you are able to determine the success of the venture.
2. Choose a Tool
What is the best vehicle? There are many different ways to participate in social media. Which will serve best to achieve your goals? Avoid committing to too many social media spaces. It’s better not to participate than to let a social media space lie fallow. The best approach is to focus on one or two mainstream tools, such as Facebook and Twitter, and engage actively.
3. Consider Existing Options
Is Dartmouth there already? If so, can you join forces with existing initiatives? For example, if you would like to initiate a discussion with prospective economics majors, would a discussion group on Dartmouth’s Facebook page serve your purposes? Joint efforts are easier to sustain and also are more influential: we are stronger together than separate.
4. Commit Resources
How much time can you commit to your social media space? How will you keep the dialogue active? And do you have the necessary resources to do the job properly? Assess the resource costs needed, and make sure you have the resources to commit to the initiative. It’s better to do nothing than to establish an ambitious social media presence and engage only half-heartedly. Also, think about how long you can commit to your social media space: will you leave the site up indefinitely, or is it a limited duration project? What is your exit strategy?
5. Assign Responsibilities
Who will “own” your social media presence? Who will perform regular updates, and who will act as contributors? Although you may have multiple contributors from your department or program, one person should own the initiative and one person should be responsible for day-to-day operations, monitoring interaction, responding to users, and adding new content. Assemble a team composed of a site owner, site editor, and contributors.
6. Track Usage
One advantage of social media is that you can track its use. How often will you gather usage metrics? Which metrics are most relevant? Who will gather the metrics, how will they be reported, and to whom? Establish a process to track usage, and use metrics to measure your success in achieving your goals.
Honesty is a key component of social media interactions. Do not adopt a false persona online. When engaging in a dialogue on behalf of Dartmouth, disclose your affiliation and role right up front. Be mindful that all your contributions are public, and participate as you would in any other public setting.
Many of us make personal use of social media, such as blogs, Facebook, and Twitter, as private individuals rather than as spokespersons of the College. However, we may be identifiable as belonging to the Dartmouth community: e.g., because of our “dartmouth.edu” email address or as members of the “Dartmouth” network on Facebook. While these guidelines are for those participating on social media sites on behalf of Dartmouth, the guidance is sound for the personal context as well.
Setting the right tone
The tone of discourse on social media websites varies, but overall it tends to be informal and conversational, personal rather than institutional. When engaging in discussions on behalf of Dartmouth, join into the flow of conversation and offer your viewpoint as one of many.
Social media websites allow users to post content on pages. As administrator of these sites, Dartmouth chooses not to block or remove posts unless they are:
Exceptions to freedom of speech. Remove posts that are defamatory or obscene, cause panic, use fighting or threatening words, or incite to crime.
Limited purpose violations. For sites with a limited purpose identified on the site, remove posts that are clearly unrelated to the subject of the page.
Responding to negativity
Inevitably there will be posts that are negative and even offensive, but do not warrant removal. In this case, respond as follows:
Respond immediately to correct misinformation and rumor;
Allow time for others to respond; and
When appropriate, decide who should respond and craft a correct response (with fact checking and Counsel involvement as needed).
Due to the informal, conversational mode of discourse, it is likely that you will make mistakes and potentially cause offense or misunderstanding. If you find yourself in a defense posture, post a retraction, correction, and/or apology as appropriate.
Make sure you have the necessary rights before uploading content to your social media website. For details about rights, consult the Guidelines for Publishing Dartmouth-Generated Media.
If you allow users to upload content to your social media website, you need to actively monitor uploads and respond to suitability and copyright concerns.
Tracking And Maintenance
In addition to offering opportunities to engage with users where they are, social media sites also provide opportunities to bring people to Dartmouth. Use links to drive up traffic to the Dartmouth website. For example, tweet about a news story or conference and link to the full description on the Dartmouth website.
Also, provide links to your social media websites on the Dartmouth site so that visitors know where to find and follow your social media presence.
Track traffic to Dartmouth from social media websites using website tracking tools, such as Urchin (contact Web Services) or Google Analytics. See what types of links get the most traffic and adjust your strategy accordingly.
Before you launch a site be sure you know the length of your commitment. For a limited duration site, note the limited duration clearly on the site. For other sites, the College official responsible for the site has the discretion to take down the site or remove features of the site. In some circumstances, take down could mean giving over control of the site to the users. In this case, check with College Counsel about removing the Dartmouth association from the site.
Prepared by the Social Media Taskforce: Rick Adams, James Burger, Sarah Horton, Diana Lawrence, Mary Liscinsky, Meg Maker, and Ben Schwartz