Creating and posting content

When you use social media, it's important to observe general guidelines including accessibility and remember basic social media etiquette. Broadly speaking, there are three things you need to pay attention to in social media:

  • How you conduct yourself
  • How you interact with others
  • The content you provide

Conduct and interaction

Most social media environments are intended to be communities of equals. An important element of your credibility is your ability to communicate authentically and respectfully as a member of the community.

A healthy civic life supports a range of opinions. On your professional accounts, you are free to discuss and disagree with others regarding topics relevant to the purpose of the social media platform, but don’t use ethnic or racial slurs, hateful speech, personal attacks, abusive language, nudity or pornography. Avoid engaging with or commenting on inappropriate posts from others. Be mindful of the difference between positive and normative claims, both in your owns posts and in the posts you read.    

Engage followers and fans with questions, dialogue, invitations to comment, and useful information. Avoid being too focused on self-promotion. Think of yourself as a good host; you want to keep conversations going and promote the exchange of information and ideas. If you're always selling and promoting yourself, people will stop engaging. Sharing specific impact stories about your clientele promotes your work in a more powerful way than posts that are merely self-congratulatory. 

Monitor activity. Administrators for social media sites must be prepared to monitor comments and posts by others (including external visitors) for professionalism. At a minimum, site administrators should spend a couple of minutes at the beginning of each day monitoring social media activity. When someone posts a question, answer it promptly and publicly where others can see your response. Don't be discouraged if you don't receive responses to your questions initially. It may take time to build up some rapport with your followers.

If anyone posts something profane or inappropriate on your page, delete it without comment. Do not repost or retweet it, even to point out its errors. Doing so just spreads the negativity further and may even make it seem to have originated with you. If someone repeatedly posts inappropriate content, block that person from using the features available on the site. If you are unsure about whether a post “crosses the line,” consult with UC ANR Risk and Safety Services and/or Strategic Communications. As stated elsewhere in this policy, UC ANR reserves the right to block or remove the content of any post that violates UC policies including the Principles of Community.

Here is guidance on how to block people on several specific platforms:

Facebook

Twitter

LinkedIn

Instagram

YouTube

Users will post comments that are critical of UC ANR or the University of California. You should not remove them from the page. To simply remove all dissent removes the social from social media. Rather, respond to them in the same way you would respond to a person who visits or calls your office with a complaint or criticism. Address the individual's concerns professionally and courteously. If users are critical of others in your comment stream, the same idea applies about not removing the comments  because people are free to express their opinions. Reach out to the person(s) being criticized to make sure they are aware and encourage a response if appropriate.

Be aware that because of the University of California’s status as a public entity, creation of any public discussion forum may invoke free-speech issues, thereby limiting your ability to edit the content of comments made by the public. Threatening or obscene comments may be deleted, as may spam, posts promoting illegal activities or copyright infringements. However, complaints about the university, its employees, its facilities or practices may not be deleted without approval from UC legal counsel. Contact Robin Sanchez for assistance. If you see a post that you think needs an official UC ANR response, contact Strategic Communications.

Get consent

If you plan to post photos or videos, or other identifying information about people, you are responsible for obtaining appropriate authorization and consent forms from all such persons in the materials, including clients, volunteers, employees, faculty, staff, students and visitors. Never share identifying information about children that would enable a stranger to find them, such as their names or school locations, on public pages or posts to public pages. Social posts must never include sensitive financial or legal information, confidential information, or sensitive or personal medical information that would violate HIPPA regulations. Be sure to follow UC guidance on intellectual property.

Avoid accidental posts. Because personal accounts are often tied to professional account administration, staff should be aware of the unfortunate possibility of making “accidental” posts or tweets to an official account rather than their own. Be sure to always check which account you are actively logged in to before every post or tweet.

Share content created by others. The guiding principle in sharing/retweeting content created by others is to verify that the content creators are trusted, reliable sources of information. Sharing information is a core activity on social media, stimulating conversation and engagement in the exchange of ideas, but it requires responsible curation of reliable information and good digital citizenship. If you are unsure about the reliability of the source of information, don’t share it.

Trusted sources are usually academics, journalists, medical professionals, advocates or organizations that provide unbiased information. When sharing information on controversial topics, it’s especially important to trust your source.  

Provide context for why you think the information is worth sharing on behalf of UC ANR with your followers, rather than retweeting without a comment. The context can be something as simple as “Interesting take on this topic” or “Thought-provoking exploration of the issue.” Providing context for potentially controversial information helps your followers not assume that by sharing the information you are endorsing or promoting it. Making more specific retweet comments can help followers better understand your intent.

Quality matters. Take time when posting to check grammar, spelling and the accuracy of what you’re sharing. Some social media platforms — including Twitter — don’t allow you to edit once you’ve posted. If you post something that is erroneous, correct your mistake as soon as possible. The best practice is to delete the post and repost the correct information with an apology. If you catch the error immediately, it is not necessary to apologize to your followers.

Provide content regularly. To use social media professionally, you need to participate with consistency. If you don't have new content, consider posting a question that prompts others to participate and share information. But if you really do not have anything to say, do not post. If you find you are only posting once a week or less, social media may not be right for you/your unit.

Properly represent UC ANR. There are times when UC ANR representatives speaking for UC ANR will want to publish comments on others’ blogs, channels or posts in order to correct misstatements of facts about UC ANR or its programs, or comment on issues that are reported in the press concerning the University or UC ANR. These types of posts should be made only by, or in consultation with, Strategic Communications or other key UC ANR communicators. All postings of this type should clearly identify the poster as an employee of UC ANR who is speaking on behalf of UC ANR. If an emergency is unfolding, please do not post speculative information about the situation on your site. For proper emergency communications response, please contact Risk and Safety Services.

Counter cyber-security risks. Social networking is built upon mutual trust. Attackers seek to exploit this trust relationship to damage reputation, disrupt operations, or for financial gain. Their tactics include taking control of social media sites and posting links to websites controlled by them to distribute malware or exploit vulnerabilities in web browsers, web browser extensions or applications. Change your passwords often. Avoid re-using passphrases for other sites, and where available use two-factor authentication. Hover over links and look at where they go before clicking on them. Stay current on the cyber-security training that UC offers.

Next: Managing difficult conversations