The Texas A&M University System recognizes the importance and benefits of communicating through social media. Social media is a powerful vehicle through which the A&M System and its entities may disseminate relevant news, listen to voices and connect with our audiences online.
These are official guidelines for participating and engaging in social media on behalf of or as a representative of The Texas A&M University System and any of its entities. They apply to A&M System employees and contractors creating or contributing to blogs, wikis, social networks, virtual worlds or any other externally facing (public internet) social media community as part of their work for the A&M System. These guidelines do not cover faculty use of social media for instructional purposes.
The A&M System requires those who participate in social media on its behalf to (1) understand the technology they are using and (2) abide by the following principles and engagement guidelines. Failure to do so may damage the A&M System’s reputation and standing and may result in consequences for the responsible employee or contractor. A&M System social media participants also have an obligation to stay abreast of changes to official guidelines as new technologies and social networking tools emerge, these guidelines may evolve in response.
SUMMARY OF BASIC PRINCIPLES
- Have clear plans, strategies, goals and clearly defined social media responsibilities before engaging on social media.
- Be responsible for continuous monitoring, maintenance and timely response.
- Add value with unique, strategic information and commentary about the A&M System and its entities.
- Be transparent, and avoid misrepresentation.
- Write about what you know, and stick to your area of expertise when commenting.
- Be a team player in reporting developments and sharing findings internally across units.
- Post meaningful, respectful comments — no spam, off-topic or unprofessional remarks.
- Always pause and think before posting, and consult with a manager or expert if unsure.
- If you make a mistake, admit it — and be upfront and quick with your correction.
- Respect confidentiality of all participants, and never disclose student information.
- Respect copyright laws and give credit to sources of written content, images and ideas you reference or use.
- Handle negative comments and developments quickly, professionally and strategically. Keep the conversation brief and don’t engage in an argument.
- Always use proper grammar and write clearly. Follow the writing style guidelines of your university or agency.
- Know and follow A&M System and your institutional policies on computing, information, conduct and technology.
I. Plan to ensure strategic and sustainable engagement. The decision to use Social Media Tools is a business decision based on an institution or agency’s specific needs and the appropriate scope of its use. Before starting a social media program, consult with your Marketing and Communications Office on strategy to ensure that the proposed program not only supports your institutional and departmental or unit strategic plans and objectives, but that it is also sustainable. Some colleges or departments may also require authorization from the college or department level communications department. Before starting a social media program on behalf of any A&M System entity, an employee must have authorization from his or her unit or division supervisor. Institutional-issued email accounts must be used for account setup, not solely the personal email accounts of employees. Each social media account must have more than one administrator with access to the social media account.
II. Be clear and professional. Employees that are designated to represent the A&M System and its members and agencies on social media sites must maintain a high level of ethical conduct and professional decorum. Individuals authorized to post on A&M System social media sites shall present information that is accurate, relevant and factual. It should also follow professional standards for grammar, spelling and clarity.
III. Actively maintain social media programs and constituent engagement. The A&M System expects employees and contractors engaging in social media on its behalf to ensure that content is kept current, posts are made consistently and responses are timely. Any A&M System-affiliated social media sites with no activity for 90 days or more should be inactivated. Inactivation includes making the account private or noting the inactive status in the bio or about section of the account. Methodical monitoring and assessment, together with active management, is a requirement for engaging in social media successfully and productively on behalf of the A&M System or any of its entities.
IV. Act judiciously to protect privacy, confidentiality, and reputation. A&M System employees must recognize that content and messages posted on social media are public and are official communications. Employees may not use either institutional social media accounts or their own personal social media accounts to reveal confidential information obtained through their official responsibilities as an employee of the A&M System.
Individuals authorized by the agency to post official A&M System information on social media sites shall not
• post information directly related to ongoing investigations, negotiations and/or matters that are confidential or privileged by law;
• lobby or post politically partisan comments;
• imply or post information that would give an ordinary member of the public the impression that the communication represents the views or positions of the A&M System or its members and agencies unless expressly authorized to do so;
• impede the general performance and operation of the A&M System or its members and agencies or affects working relationships necessary to the proper functioning of the A&M System and/or its members and agencies;
• endorse any product, vendor or site unless given permission to do so
Note: Do not disclose student information. Abide by Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). This is especially important in dealing with students who post questions online about their educational circumstances (e.g. “Did my credits transfer?”). Ask the student for a private conversation.
V. Be transparent, and avoid inadvertent misrepresentation. Employees or contactors blogging on behalf of the A&M System or its entities must use real names, identify their affiliation, be clear about their role and relationship to the University and comply with all disclosure laws. When commenting on social media on behalf of any System entity, the Federal Trade Commission requires disclosure of an employee’s affiliation. When interacting with people online, an employee or contactor of the A&M System should clearly state his or her role in the account’s bio. Have clear responsibilities outlined for when employees are empowered to respond directly to users and when prior approval is necessary. This is the ethical thing to do, and there may be personal liability consequences under Federal Trade Commission regulations if the employee doesn’t comply.
Note to System employees using their own personal social media sites: Make it clear that the views expressed are yours. Recognize that effective social engagement depends upon transparency. Your honesty —or dishonesty — will be quickly noticed in the social media environment, and your credibility — and that of the A&M System and or University — will be at stake. If you have a vested interest in something you are discussing, be the first to point it out. Write in the first person, and if you maintain a personal blog or website and write opinion pieces about the A&M System or its entities, use a disclaimer, such as “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent the positions, strategies or opinions of The Texas A&M University System or its entities.”
VI. Follow your institution’s editorial and brand style. All departments, programs and individuals using social media should abide by official University standards for branding, graphics and written communications. Use of your institution’s official logo is not permissible as a profile photo or on a blog unless express permission is granted by the Office of Marketing and Communications to which the unit or department reports.
VII. Respect copyright law. Obtain permission from the copyright owner before using copyrighted material such as original works of authorship including videos and images or literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works. Provide a link to the original material if possible.
VIII. Abide by all applicable System and institutional policies, and respect University time and property. A&M System employees must follow A&M System policies and the policies of their institution related to ethics, privacy and employee behavior when posting to the social media sites of the A&M System or its members or agencies. University computers and individual work time are to be used only for University-related business, which may include social media management as related to individual or unit work goals. Comply with all applicable institutional policies including Acceptable Computing Usage and Information Security, and stay abreast of emerging new policies governing faculty & staff profiles and personal websites.
IX. When in doubt, ask. If you have any questions about what is appropriate, check with a member of your institution’s Marketing and Communications team or direct questions to firstname.lastname@example.org before posting.