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Best practices for UC Davis social media administrators

These best practices were developed to help community members who use social media for university purposes. Inevitably, personal and institutional voices will intermingle because that is the nature of social media. Here are ideas on how to navigate those waters with integrity and professionalism.

Have a plan

Have a plan for your social media site that addresses your unit’s communication goals and how you will staff the work.

  • What do you want to accomplish?
  • How will you measure your success after six months or a year?
  • How much time will you give to it?
  • Have a backup administrator or two so the site can be maintained during vacations or unexpected absences.
  • Do not launch a site and ignore it. An unmaintained site known for spam, aggressive members, profanity and ongoing solicitation may do long-term damage your office’s — and UC Davis’ — reputation.

Select appropriate profile images

  • Choose profile images that convey your office/organization and ties to UC Davis. Please do not use the official UC or UC Davis seal for your profile image. This is reserved for official campus publications that represent UC Davis as a whole.
  • Horizontal format logos can be problematic for Facebook. Be sure that the entire image (preferably including the UC Davis logo) fits into a square shape without cutting off any part or wording. But also don’t make the image so small as to be unreadable. Choose a simple image that will fit the square format and be readable at very small sizes.
  • Your profile image should be consistent with UC Davis' graphic standards.

Naming protocols

  • When naming your social media accounts, use “UC Davis” not “UCD.”  It distinguishes us from other colleges and universities with the initials UCD. For example, with Twitter, start with “UCDavis,” e.g., “UCDavisNews.”
  • Please avoid using abbreviations in your title. Some UC Davis’ abbreviations (e.g., VMTH, RMI)  are well known internally, but don’t expect your broader social media audience to be as knowledgeable about, or patient with, terms that may seem to be undecipherable alphabet soup.
  • If your department or unit name is too long to use in its full form, abbreviate as necessary, but be sure to use the full name and UC Davis in your bio or description.

How to build a community

Remember, social media is not a monologue about getting out your unit’s marketing messages.

  • People care about people and want to read relevant and interesting content that connects to them.
  • Keep track of which topics elicit a lot of interest and which don’t. You will learn what engages your audience and how to keep it interested in coming back to your site.
  • Create content based on what readers know, want and need.
  • Don’t ignore requests for information.
  • Develop a list of “quick” answers for frequently asked questions. You might develop the list into an FAQ on a website that you can link to in your social media.
  • Link back to the university’s and your group’s websites as much as possible to further engage your followers. Use a web address shortening service that tracks clicks to determine which types of content are popular with your audience.

Posting frequency

Understand how frequently you should post.

  • If you post too frequently or infrequently, you will lose followers.
  • The accepted frequency varies by channel and audience, but, in general, aim for at least three to five posts per week. Posting more frequently is becoming an accepted practice as social media matures. You will have to judge by the reaction of your audience.

Be transparent and honest

  • For blogs and microblogs (Twitter), identify yourself as a person affiliated with UC Davis if you are communicating on behalf of the university. If you are using a campus Twitter address, for instance, indicate in the “profile” the person behind the tweets.
  • If you are stating your own opinion, be sure to clarify that it is your own, and not that of the university.  
  • To express political opinions, use your personal social media accounts, not a UC Davis account.

Respect and courtesy

In keeping with the Principles of Community, use social media to “promote open expression of our individuality and our diversity within the bounds of courtesy, sensitivity and respect.” Do not engage in or condone discriminatory, defamatory or other detrimental conversations.

Moderating comments

Negative comments are a part of social media.

  • Get to know the UC Davis Principles of Community.
  • Do not delete negative comments that do not violate the Principles of Community or your page will lose its authenticity.
  • Deal with criticism fairly and personably. Taking extra time to ask how you can help with a stated problem can have two important benefits: You are hearing how others perceive the university and you may be able to change problematic practices. By being a good listener, you can turn critics into valuable advocates.
  • Sometimes it's best to let a negative comment alone and allow your social media community to moderate.
  • Do not allow yourself to get into arguments with individuals online. On rare occasions, however, when arguments continue, you may need to remind people to be civil and agree to disagree.
  • Do not allow profanity. A good rule of thumb is to see whether you would let a child or grandparent read the page or post.

Please contact socialmedia@ucdavis.edu for information on how to handle questionable or threatening comments.

Understand your online communities

  • Each social network has its own understood set of norms covering everything from frequency of posting to language used. Get to know the community you are joining and learn accepted uses of the site.

Understand privacy, safety and copyright

  • Be aware that content posted on social media is available to the public, including the media.
  • Do not post any personal identifying information about university community members or other sensitive facts and figures.
  • Please remember that you are responsible for complying with federal copyright law for any material that you post on the Internet, including social networking sites. Read more about copyright issues.

 About advertising and soliciting

  • Social media platforms are not owned by the university but by companies who often use advertising to support their efforts. That means our social media users will see outside ads in and about UC Davis pages that we do not control. (For instance, ads are placed inside YouTube videos.) If you can find advertising-free social media — such with certain blog platforms — it would be preferable to use them — but often it is just part of the social media environment.
  • For the advertising being placed on your pages as posts, however, you do have control. The issue is whether companies are posting as part of the community or are simply trying to make a sale. Administrators will have to make that judgment.