Social Media Guidelines & Best Practices

Social Media Guidelines & Best Practices

Social Media Guidelines & Best Practices

Adapted in part from Tufts University and other sources

The Smith community—students, parents, alumnae, faculty and staff—are joined by a shared passion for ideas and dialogue. Social media is one of the few places where these groups come together, united by an interest in the college and its mission. By supporting conversation, we have the opportunity to create even stronger connections and engagement across all areas of our community, from alumnae to incoming students.

We developed guidelines to provide everyone at the college—from communications professionals to department administrators—with basic guidance on how to best use social media toward communication and engagement goals, both as the owner of an account and as a user or contributor on behalf of your department, program or graduating class. We also hope that these guidelines spark conversations among social media practitioners on campus to learn from each other as we explore these emerging platforms. As the landscape of social media changes, these guidelines may also need to be updated.

Social networks for the Smith community


As a member of the Smith community, it is imperative that you engage in thoughtful and respectful dialogue. Living, studying and working successfully in this community depends on balancing freedom of speech with a sensitivity to and respect for the rights of others.

Be mindful of all Smith College polices regarding privacy, personnel, records

Do not post confidential or proprietary information about Smith students, prospective students, faculty, staff or alumnae. Employees using social media on behalf of the college must follow all applicable federal requirements such as the Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which protects the privacy of student records.

Determine whether information is the “right fit” for social media

While an occasional events-related posting is certainly fine, social media platforms are not intended to be a calendar. Your audience accesses that information elsewhere and will quickly tire of postings of upcoming events or all of the news that they can read on another Web page.  When writing a post, think about whether or not it will generate a dialogue. How often should you post? There is a shared wisdom about how frequently to post to the two current most popular social media platforms. The advice is several times a week to Facebook, and several times a day to Twitter. However, the content of the message is clearly more important than the number of messages you post.

Even seemingly benign posts can inspire negative feedback

Once you publish something through social media, you lose a degree of control of your message. Inviting a conversation means that you may receive critical feedback. If you encounter criticism or allegations, look into them. Feel free to correct misinformation. If you don’t want to respond in a way that will be apparent to all of your followers, invite the person to have a conversation with you offline. You may be able to address issues and clear up misunderstandings that would otherwise perpetuate.

Adhere to social media’s terms of service and respect copyright and fair use

Smith is a non-profit institution. We discourage commercial promotion via college social media channels, e.g. a promotion for roses at commencement time from a local florist. If a business posts an irrelevant advertisement or solicitation on your Facebook wall, for instance, feel free to delete it. Similarly, do not use Smith’s name to promote or endorse any product, cause or political party or candidate. Avoid conflicts of interest and maintain a distinction between your personal identity and the identity you represent on behalf of the university.

Assume that social media posts and comments are permanent

Remember that there is no such thing as a “private” social media site. Search engines can turn up posts years after the publication date, comments can be forwarded or copied and archival systems save information even if you delete a post. A photo that you upload should not be one that you don’t want the world to see. If you are representing the college as an administrator of a social media page, try to maintain a high level of quality that reflects good grammar, punctuation and spelling. If you have questions about whether or not a post is appropriate, College Relations can provide direction.

Learn how to measure effectiveness

The number of “followers” is not the only measure of effectiveness. Robust discussion through comments or responses, retweets and “likes” are also ways to determine whether you are engaging your audience. Also many no-cost tools exist to track the effectiveness of posts and shape content discussions.