Advice and guidance for using social media at work
Should SLU use social media? Of course we should. It is a means to reach and engage our target groups, both new and old. Here are platforms that enable dialogue and two-way communication, and as a bonus speed up communication efforts.
Use of social media is consistent with the responsibility of the authority and desirable. In its guidelines, the E-delegation has focused on the wording in the Administrative Procedure Act regarding civic service and writes as follow:
“Dialogue, participation and collaboration must be the catchwords of the state administration”.
Social media can be the tool that makes the university more accessible, which helps us to fulfil our joint task and to involve all stakeholders in a dialogue on research findings and new knowledge. Social media are also an excellent platform for marketing and, for example, to attract prospective students and employees.
Yet they are channels that should be used with discretion. A golden rule is that no matter what channels we use to communicate through, SLU is an authority with responsibility both for our own information and, if the information is published in a forum we run, for what our counterpart in the dialogue publishes.
SLU's vision is to be a world-class university in life and environmental sciences. The use of social media, as with all the other activities at the University, must contribute to this vision and to satisfying the operative objectives.
Checklist before you start
- Do you have your immediate manager's permission to use social media when working?
- What is your target group? Who do you wish to meet – other researchers, students and interested members of the public? A defined target group makes it easier to adapt the content.
- Do you have the time and resources to maintain a presence on social media and to reply to comments?
- Make an inventory of what has already being done in SLU's name. Maybe you can collaborate with someone who already has a social media presence?
Personal but not private
When using social media many expect a more personal form of address than in ordinary governmental or academic communication. Studies have also shown that maintaining a personal style is a success factor. However, it is rarely suitable to be private when using social media while at work.
Specific advice for individual social media
Many of the social media available today can be interconnected. For example, all your photos on Instagram can appear on Facebook (if you so wish). Remember, however, that writing specifically for each channel's unique updates always has the best effect. A Facebook page with only automatic postings of your press releases will not be a success. Irrespective of where you choose to be active, making your presence known requires work.
- A blog is a website where you publish posts in chronological order. Others can then comment on your posts and you reply to the comments.
- Expect to spend half of your blogging time reading other blogs, linking to them and responding to comments.
- If you are contemplating preventing comments on your blog, it is recommended that you publish your texts as chronicles on another part of slu.se or as a newsletter.
- SLU has its own blog portal available at http://blogg.slu.se. Please use this instead of commercial options.
- The portal is powered by the blog tool WordPress.
- Instructions how to order a blog and links to valuable tips about science blogging can be found here.
- Facebook is a service for keeping in touch with people you already know.
- If you create a Facebook page for work purposes, do not create a personal profile. Creating a personal profile for a business violates the user regulations and such a profile and your own may be deleted. A page gives you access to statistics and you do not need to use your personal profile to update.
- Always check first whether there is a Facebook page from SLU addressing your topic.
- Remember to give your page an easily found name, but avoid abbreviations.
- Make sure you switch user accounts when commenting and updating so you do not use your private account as the sender.
- Publish unique content on Facebook. Just posting press releases does not usually give as much added value as genuine updates.
- Twitter is a microblog service where you communicate using only 140 characters. Twitter is completely open and you can follow anyone and anyone can follow you. There are a number of other services related to Twitter from other providers.
- Ideally, use SLU's logotype on your profile page if you create an official SLU profile. However, contact the graphic studio in the Division of Communication first.
- Instagram is a service used to distribute any pictures you take with your cell phone. Choose Instagram if you have a message or topic that is particularly suited to pictures.
- Instagram is used by means of an app on your cell phone.
How should you behave on social media?
Naturally, as a SLU employee you must always follow the relevant laws, policies and guidelines that apply to your position, even when you are active online.
Furthermore, in conversations on social media at work there are a number of basic rules that you should follow, irrespective of the service you are currently using:
- Be transparent and clear.
- Contribute your expertise.
- Be honest and responsible.
- Be accommodating and show good judgment.
- Respect the way others express themselves.
- Protect confidential internal data.
- Respect copyright.
- Be cautious with SLU's resources.
- Collaborate with IT and security experts.
1. Be transparent and clear
If you express yourself in the capacity of a SLU employee, you must always clearly state who you are, where you work, and in addition, consider whether it is part of your role to express yourself on the subject. Always make known your own special interest related to the topic. Even if you comment on issues that concern SLU, yet state your personal views, it is important that you are open about where you work. In such instances, supplement your post with a text that says: “The views presented here are my own and not necessarily those of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences”.
Always try to provide as complete information as possible in the profile descriptions for social media. Official accounts must always include a slu.se address for contact purposes.
2. Contribute with your expertise
Post and contribute to the dialogue within your own specialist fields. The level of knowledge in different forums can vary a great deal and it is important that you are familiar with the forums where you express your opinion. If you feel that a post should be answered, but have misgivings about the forum, or your expertise in this field, you should notify the press officer about the post instead, so they can find a competent person to respond.
3. Be honest and responsible
Do not withhold information, but do not promise more than you can deliver. If you make a mistake and provided incorrect information, admit it and correct it immediately and with a clear reference. Social media give you almost endless possibilities to express your views. Yet these opportunities are always accompanied by a responsibility for what is said. Honesty and accountability create trust, both for yourself and for SLU.
4. Express yourself correctly and show good judgment
Always be polite and friendly. Views expressed concisely, which is often the case on social media, can sometimes be perceived as much stronger by the recipient than the sender intended. This is particularly true in discussions where the parties have different opinions. Even if you perceive a post as negative and incorrect – stay calm, explain your position objectively and avoid heated exchanges. Use a refined language, and avoid profanity and other jargon that may offend. Never use a condescending tone toward or about others. Also remember that your answer, even if directed to a particular person, will be read by many others. Think twice before you post and use common sense, this will help you to give a sober and robust impression.
5. Respect the right of others to express themselves
Freedom of expression is a fundamental right in a democratic society. In this case, it means that everyone is within his/her rights to express both positive and negative views about your favourite subjects.
That others speak about SLU’s subjects is a reality and something that ultimately benefits the university. We cannot control this communication, but we can participate, express our views and correct direct errors.
6. Protect confidential internal data
Never give out confidential information about individuals, unpublished research, procurements, employees or the like. In the event of speculation about confidential internal information, it is usually best not to respond at all. Should you deny claims on one occasion and not respond on another, readers will draw the conclusion that the speculation is true in the second instance.
Always ask others for permission before writing anything about them.
7. Respect copyright
SLU's official logotype may be used only for authorised purposes. It is not permitted to use SLU's logotype as a private profile picture or on a blog that you administer privately. Never use other people's material without permission and exercise care when identifying sources and follow copyright rules that apply for different publications.
Ideally, use external links to point out your sources, but be sure to check who you link to and show clearly that it is an external link. Be aware that a link can be perceived as if SLU recommends a particular supplier. There is also the risk that the site you link to changes its content to something that SLU does not want to be associated with. Therefore, be source critical, and only link to sites operated by reputable owners.
8. Be cautious with SLU's resources
The ability to be constantly online means that the boundary between private life and work are becoming increasingly blurred. Many employees check their work email from home, and sometimes receive private email at work. Some people also take the chance to check their Facebook or Twitter accounts at work.
Parts of the newsfeed on these services may be private, while others are of professional interest. Consequently, for many it is not possible to draw a distinct line between private and professional use of social media. Nevertheless, private use of social media during work hours should be kept to a minimum.
9. Collaborate with IT and security experts
Social media is a quick and efficient tool to distribute information. Unfortunately, it is also a quick and effective way to distribute undesirable information as Trojans, viruses and other malicious software. SLU deploys a number of different technical solutions such as firewalls, virus protection etc. to reduce these types of risks. In some cases, these limit the ability to use social media. Never try to circumvent these limitations, but contact IT support so they can investigate the possibility of safely creating access to the resources you need to reach.