Student Activities Center

Best Practices for Social Media Use

Social Media: Getting Started

Form a strategy. Which platforms do you want to use: Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? Snapchat? Identify your purpose, audience, types of content you intend to share and your organization's overarching goals. Think about which social media platforms students are using today.

Conduct research. Before starting a social media campaign, research other organizations on social media networks for ideas on what works and what doesn't.

Set your goals. Are you trying to communicate a campaign; promote your student organization/department/program; connect with alumni; create a community for fans; or increase overall awareness of your group? Your goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely. Common social media goals include: increased traffic to website, reputation management, brand awareness, and search engine rankings.

Make the time. Don't start a social media effort unless you have the dedicated time and resources to maintain new content on a regular basis. New content is critical to thrive in social media communities.

Update your content. Be an active user. Listen to conversations, engage with comments, answer questions, and keep your account fresh with regular posts.

Measure success. Determine what success means for your purpose and goals. Increased traffic to your website? Better communication with students? Number of fans, followers, comments?

Things to Consider when using Social Media

Be authentic. Social media is all about people connecting with people. Remember to humanize your social media interactions. On social networks it is okay to use an exclamation point and phrases such as "check it out" rather than "read more."

Be accurate. Make sure you have all of the facts before you post. Cite and link to sources whenever possible to help build a community. It also doesn’t hurt to spell-check your content before posting. If you make an error, correct it quickly and visibly. This will earn you respect in the online community.

Be respectful. Respect for the dignity of others and to the civil and thoughtful discussion of opposing ideas is critical. Feel free to respectfully disagree with a position but do not propagate online confrontation as it reflects poorly on both the individual and the university.

Be positive. A good rule of thumb: if you would not say it in person, don’t say it online. Remember, you are representing your entire organization online.

Encourage open conversation. Listen to people and respond to as many comments as possible with constructive feedback. Allow negative comments, delete the spam, and seek to respond rather than censor.

Allow comments. A good philosophy for comments is to encourage thoughtful discussion, debate and differing viewpoints, with the understanding that all comments made must be civil, respectful, and appropriate for your audience. If comments are lewd, libelous, incite violence or are otherwise hurtful or hateful speech directed at either individuals or groups, ISU employees who serve as account administrators reserve the right to delete such comments.

Form a strategy. Identify purpose, who you want to reach (audience), types of content you intend to share and overarching goals. From there start with one social media outlet, such as creating a fan page on Facebook, and develop a presence

Establishing a Social Media Presence. Social media is an online community of sharing, with many different platforms. Finding commonalities and similarities with others strengthens your social media presence, but so does serving as a valuable and reliable information source. Interaction is key, and finding content that generates interest and sharing is essential for growth and success.

Developing a social media plan. Plan out who will be responsible for posting and monitoring social media pages. Discuss a purpose for having and using social media for the organization. Find a unified voice that speaks to your target audiences. Establish basic policies for posting and monitoring social media to remain consistent with messages. Consider the name and title for each account as that will add consistency and clarity for users. Also, don’t forget to become familiar with rules/policies governing the social media pages the organization decides to utilize.

Keep Content Up To Date. Regular updates are a must. Do not let the account sit dormant and unattended. Find what is comfortable for you and determine a minimum number of updates/interactions per week. Use compelling content so followers keep coming back to your page and share the information. Keep your audience in mind and adapt your content to fit with what is in and what is not for social media posts.

Think before you post. Consider privacy and liability of what you are putting out there. Can the post be negatively interpreted? Is everything spelled and formatted correctly? Are the posts angry in nature, biased, too emotional? Does this have potential to become bad publicity for the organization?

Personal vs. professional.  Resist inserting personal views on professional accounts (ex: politics, religion, social issues). Separate your personal and professional time on social media platforms. It will help keep you professionally focused and minimize the room for error (ex: posting something on your professional account that you meant to post on your personal account). If you have a personal account that affiliates you with Iowa State University, or you talk about your affiliation with ISU openly on that account, readers WILL associate your content with the university (despite any disclaimers that your views are your own).

Determine who owns the material you want to post.

Typical examples of copyright 'owners' include:

  • Author of a written work

  • Photographer who took the picture

  • Composer of a song or melody

  • Videographer of a video

  • Journal/publisher of a published work

  • Creator of artwork

  • Programmer of software

  • Employer of any of these people if the work was done in connection with their employment

How do you get permission to post copyrighted material?

Could posting of the material be considered a 'fair use' under the Copyright Act?

Use is likely fair if:

  • Character of the use is nonprofit, educational, or personal

  • Nature of the material used is factual published material

  • Only a small amount of the material will be posted or

  • Impact on the market for the material is very small

Use is likely not fair if:

  • Character of the use is commercial (promoting a product or service, charging to access the copyrighted material, advertisements)

  • Nature of the material used is imaginative and/or unpublished

  • The majority of the material will be posted (i.e. an entire book vs. a quoted sentence)

  • Use detrimentally impacts the market for the original

  • Use was 'fair' at one time, but has been repeatedly reused or more widely distributed, or the copyright owner has requested that the use be limited or discontinued. For example, use of a portion of a journal article or a photo may have been Fair Use one time, but used annually for the same event or purpose, loses its Fair Use character. 

What are the penalties for infringing someone's copyright?

  • Typically, a copyright holder's first response to an act of infringement is to send you a "cease and desist" letter demanding that you stop infringement. The copyright holder can go to court to get an injunction or a court order requiring you to remove the infringing material from your account, Web page, or profile. Additionally, a copyright holder can file a claim for actual damages suffered by the copyright holder as a result of your infringement.

  • If the copyright has been registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, the copyright holder can file a claim for 'statutory damages' without proving that the copyright holder was actually harmed by the infringement. An award of statutory damages can be as little as $750 or as much as $30,000. If the copyright holder can prove that you knew the work was protected under the law, an award of damages can be as much as $150,000.

What are the implications of posting copyrighted material on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube?

When you post copyrighted materials on these social media websites, such as Facebook, they automatically obtain a license to use those materials, commonly known as an Intellectual Property, or "IP" license. They can use this IP license to share the materials all over the world without your further permission and without paying you any royalties. Some websites also reserve the right to change, commercialize and publicly perform or display the materials. This IP license ends when you delete the materials or terminate your account unless the materials have been shared with others and they have not deleted it. This could mean that the social media website effectively owns a license to use the materials you posted, for whatever purpose it desires, forever.

What about copyright?

  • For copyright, fair use and faculty/staff ownership of works at ISU, contact ISU's Trademark Licensing Office or University Counsel.

  • For tips on maximizing the benefit of your Facebook, Twitter, or other ISU-recognized social media account; problems with content or use of social media; change of account administrator; reporting misuse of an account; establishing a new account; use of ISU logos, graphics or trademarks, contact University Counsel

  • For online or written license agreements or 'clickwrap' terms, contact the ISU Purchasing Department or University Counsel

Information in the social media section was originally created by Colorado State University and modified for student organizations by ISU Media Relations.

Best Practices

  • Instead of jumping into every social media platform that comes along, invest quality time and effort in those that most benefit your needs. Test drive the social media platforms individually before launching an official account to make sure this new platform will be manageable and appropriate for your organization.

  • Cross-pollinate with other ISU programs (ex: Use their twitter handles, tag others, etc., in your posts; or re-tweet/share content from other ISU programs) to work smarter and not harder with getting the word out about updates and events.

  •  Be transparent. Don't pretend to be someone you're not, but prepare for criticism that may come with it.

  • Eliminate posts only if there is profanity, personal attacks, spam -- not user posts that disagree or argue with your content

Important University Policies to Consider:

Code of Computer Ethics and Acceptable Use

Email, University Communications

Privacy- FERPA

Privacy- HIPAA

Student Code of Conduct

Discrimination and Harassment

Faculty Conduct Policy

Related Pages to Consider:

Marketing Resources

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