While there are a lot of options when it comes to what type of social media platform you can engage in, the same rules of behavior apply to all of them. Here is a code of conduct to help focus your interactions with other users of social media across all platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and beyond.
One of the most important things to remember is that once information is posted and distributed, it is impossible take it back. Which means that anything you say is likely to remain said forever.
Bearing that in mind, below are the major principles of behavior that you are expected to follow as a representative of Southeast Missouri State (and constituent departments) on the Web.
Representing the University
While using social media, you have two identities. You are acting as both yourself and as a representative of whatever organization you belong to. If you manage a social media presence for any unit associated with Southeast Missouri State University, you are accountable for whatever you say when managing that presence.
Make sure that when posting to a University-related social media presence your statements and attitude always represent the University well. If an employee of Southeast is using a University-affiliated Social Media presence to criticize or discredit the University, the employee will be asked to edit the offending material.
When referring to Southeast and matters, people and places related to the university, remember to consult the University's style guide. Remember that it is inappropriate to refer to the University as 'SEMO' except in limited cases. For more information, consult the style guide section on acronyms here: http://www.semo.edu/news/style/index_acronyms.htm. We also have a style guide for University Web sites here.
In all things be open and honest about who you are and who you represent. Especially when discussing matters related to the University, make sure that the first thing you mention is that you work for the University and your position here. If the topic you are discussing represents something that you or your department has a special or vested interest in, mention that interest explicitly.
The people you interact with will appreciate your honesty and will often be receptive of your point of view. On the other hand, social media users are very savvy and tend to detect dishonesty very quickly. This can damage not just the reputation of the University, but your reputation as well.
Privacy and Intellectual Property
Be careful that whatever information you share is public information. If you are discussing the work that a professor is doing, make sure that you ask them exactly what they feel comfortable sharing with the rest of the world and work with them to help preserve their intellectual property. Remember that if it's on a blog or a Web site, anyone can see it.
If you need to discuss another staff or faculty member personally make sure you have their permission. If you intend to discuss what individual students are doing make sure they understand that their activities might be communicated through social media channels and offer them the option to decline participation. Keep a signed record of such requests in case a student feels that their privacy has been violated.
Consider any legal or disciplinary issues off-limits. If you are going to discuss other Universities or external entities make sure that your statements are respectful, professional, and impeccably accurate.
Stick to your Expertise
Make sure you that you are focusing on subjects that you are passionate and knowledgeable about. If you want to talk about something on the edge of your expertise, let people know that you might be out of your depth. Social media users fact check, so it's important to be up front with what you do and do not know.
It's also important to distinguish explicitly when you are and when you are not acting as a representative of your department, and by extension, the University. Always write in the first person and always add a disclaimer when you are speaking from your own opinion and not as a representative of Southeast. Remember, you are accountable for any content that you create.
Respect Other People
The beauty of social media is that it is a dialogue. It is about creating and engaging in a conversation with other people, and the tools of social media make that easy to do. It is important to remember that with everything you say you are interacting with others. It is also important to remember that people will observe how you treat them as an extension of how the institution you represent regards them. So, as a representative of the University you must always be courteous, respectful and open-minded.
Having said that, don't be afraid to show your personality or post open-ended comments and ask other people questions. Embrace the nature of conversation while managing its tone to be positive and engaging.
From time to time there can be incidents of conflict that arise through social media discussions. Occasionally a user might even post something mean-spirited in an attempt to derail the conversation and provoke you or the University into a course of action that will later appear embarrassing. The most important thing to remember when dealing with conflicts in the social media environment is to be civil and courteous at all times.
If someone is trying to engage in an honest discussion with a legitimate point of view and seems interested in hearing the University's side of the story, feel free to carry a dialogue with them under the guidelines listed in this Code of Conduct. Remember to be transparent about who you are and who you work for, how the issue impacts you and your department, and be painstakingly accurate in your comments.
It is very important for you to let us know if you feel that the issue under discussion will have an impact on the University's reputation at large. If you feel that the conversation has merit but are unsure how to proceed, you can also contact the News Bureau and they can help you with the discussion.
If someone appears to be baiting you with malicious or slanderous comments, it is best not to respond to them at all. All social media platforms give an account manager the option to delete or block offensive posts, and if a user is intentionally being provocative it is within your rights to delete their comment or block their account from accessing yours. Consider this option carefully. There is a fine line between a sarcastic but harmless comment that should be ignored and an offensive comment that should be deleted. Please contact us and inform us of the situation before you take action against another user.