"The keys to success in social media are being honest about who you are, being thoughtful before you post, and respecting the purpose of the community where you are posting."
McGill’s Communications & External Relations encourages all McGill faculties, departments to become involved in using social media in communications with stakeholders and audience.
The intention here is to provide guidance to McGill staff on how best to use social media toward communications goals, as the manager/moderator of an account for department or faculty.
These guidelines cover the appropriate use by individuals representing their faculty, department or unit. These guidelines do not supplant any University Policies, Procedures and Guidelines.
We recommend that before starting or continuing your social media activities that you review these guidelines to ensure consistent standards are upheld in the use of these vehicles. These guidelines are intended to be a living document that will continue to evolve with community feedback.
Please keep us informed of any new Facebook feeds or Twitter accounts as we (Communications & External Relations) keep an inventory. Let us know who administers the accounts so we know who to contact if needed.
Should I set up a Facebook page, Twitter account, LinkedIn group (etc.) for my department?
When considering social media, as part of your strategy ask yourself:
- What are my goals?
- Who is my audience?
- What do I want to communicate?
- What is the best way to reach my audience?
- What's the best platform for me?
- Do we have the resources?
Plan on who on your team will be responsible for your social media account before you get started. Always have more than one staff person administering the account to cover for the other when they are out of the office or if they leave your unit. If possible, use a university service email account when you set up the account and always change passwords when someone working on your social channels leaves.
- How will we measure our successes?
Ready to start?
Use common sense.
Be aware of privacy issues.
Play nice, and be honest.
What should you post?
Watch and follow other similar, successful pages. What types of things do they post?
- Interesting upcoming events (lectures, conferences, outings, etc);
- Great content is available from any of a number of McGill sources: Newsroom, The McGill Reporter, The McGill News, Headway Magazine/En tête, faculty newsletters, etc.
- Awards or kudos to people or groups in your faculty/department to celebrate your community;
- (Good) photography and videos are a big draw
- Avoid sensitive or controversial topics in the news (you may have strong feelings on a topic, but remember, you are representing your dept./faculty. Not sure about something? Ask us.)
ALWAYS be respectful. It's great to celebrate successes, not so great to be boastful, that's a turnoff in social media as elsewhere. Want to let journalists know about your upcoming event? Let the Media Relations Office know and we can use our channels to advise. Do not spam journalists by directly tweeting to them about your news or event, they usually won't appreciate it and it may reflect poorly on the university. On Facebook, do not delete or suppress comments just because they're negative. Correct misinformation but let valid criticisms stand. Don't get in a "bunfight" with your audience over an issue. On Facebook, feel free to delete spam, vulgar or irrelevent posts, or posts where an individual's privacy is threatened. Where possible, in the "About" section, post a statement on policy.
Is your post error free (both factually and grammatically)? Proof and fact-check before you post! It's easier to do it right the first time than to go back and undo. (For certain platforms, especially on Twitter where news travels quickly, it's better to clarify rather than deleting, replying to the original incorrect information. That way, others who have retweeted will see the clarification.)
Social media is a two-way conversation. Check often to see if anyone is asking questions or commenting. If so, don't leave them hanging! Be present and responsive and you will gain credibility. If you don't know the answer to a question, try to find someone who can help. Is there a valid complaint? Ask how you can help. Ignoring a situation may make things worse. (You'll soon learn the difference between a "rant" and a problem that can be resolved.)
“You are what you share.” ― Charles Leadbeater, We Think: The Power Of Mass Creativity
Your content does not always need to be original. See something from someone else that might be interesting to your audience? If so, remember to cite and link to sources. Remember to credit photographers. Follow other McGill groups on the various platforms to get ideas from them, but don't forget to "RT" or use the "share" buttons, crediting the original source.
Many units manage social media accounts at McGill. "Like" or follow their pages or accounts and posts and share them if they are appropriate for your audience. It's a great source of content and increases the visibility of everyone in the community. Bonus: Once you start to share, others will do the same with you. (See list of other McGill groups on our Directory page) Engage with the community to create buzz about your news or event. Having a big event? Consult with us to coordinate maximum exposure.
Feed your followers. A page or feed that's updated sporadically won't hold much interest nor gain you new followers. How much posting is enough? What is too much? Depends on the content or the platform you're using. Try it out. Are you getting responses? More followers? Losing followers?
Exercise good judgment
Do not post confidential information about the University, students, alumni or colleagues. You are representing the University but ultimately responsible for what you post. Use good ethical judgment and follow university policies. Do not post photographs of people without their signed consent. Consult McGill's Computing Code of Ethics. Don't post anything that you would not present publicly.
Choose the right person for the job
Success in social media requires the right personality. Select someone who enjoys interacting with others, has good writing skills and has some experience on the platforms. Each account should have at least two (+) staff members as administrators. (Ensure that the sign-on credentials are transferred when someone leaves a position and that the log-ins are reset). If assigning casual employees or interns to update social media accounts, pay strict attention to their work.
In an emergency situation
It’s understandable that University communicators want to provide timely responses to their unit’s followers in the case of an emergency, however, the best practice for Faculty/Department social media managers is to refer followers to the official response from Twitter via @mcgillu or McGill University Facebook page to ensure that only correct information is disseminated through the other University-affiliated accounts.
Tweets and posts should be used verbatim from the main account (retweeted or directly quoted).
• Stop tweeting regular news items and turn off any scheduled tweets.
• Don’t retweet or share information from unofficial or unverified sources.
Think before you...
Compose your posts carefully and thoughtfully. Could it in any way offend or harm the reputation of the university?
As a user, if you represent yourself as a member of the McGill community on your personal profile, indicate that views expressed are your own. Similarly, don't conceal your identity in order to promote the university.
Copyright - Permissions - Citations
When using material from others (text, photographs, graphics) make sure to credit sources and link to original if possible. If not, cite the title, author, publisher and date. Permission will be required on copyrighted works. For more info on copyright check here. When sharing other's social media links, credit the original source. If using stock-type photos use an image that is available under a Creative Commons licence (ie. Wikimedia). McGill insignia should NOT be used in social media channels without the University's consent.
Naming conventions / Cover photos
Account names should be as follows - if possible: "McGill" followed by the Faculty or Department (or group) name, ie. "McGill Faculty of Science" or "McGill Science"; "McGill Athletics" or "McGill OSS". As noted above, McGill's coat-of-Arms, shield, or signature should not be used as avatar for the account. Contact us if you'd like to use McGill photos for your cover pages.
Don't hesitate to info.communications [at] mcgill.ca (ask). If issues arise please contact us. We'd be happy to help! McGill social media editors subscribe to an email list to share tips and information. Contact us if you wish to subscribe.