Social Media Guidelines

Getting Started | Social Interaction Guidelines

Getting Started

Step 1: Do you need your own accounts?

Determine whether your communication needs can be met through the established, central Mizzou social media channels. These include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube (theMizzouTube) and Instagram.

Using these tools, we can instantly share your message with about a quarter of a million people who are interested in Mizzou. Building an audience for a new social media page takes time. And work. And lots of planning. If you want to announce major news and events of interest to a large number of Tigers without committing to a new social media presence, please contact us.

Step 2: Work out the logistics

If you’ve determined that you’d like to develop and maintain your own social media presence for a Mizzou unit, the next step is to figure out the process. Ask yourself and your colleagues:

  • What will you post?
  • How often will you post?
  • Who will maintain and update the site?
  • Who will answer questions posed by followers?
  • What guidelines will you establish for interacting with followers?
  • How will you maintain the enthusiasm you have at the beginning of the process?

Think about the big picture. Maybe you’re planning, for example, to start a Facebook page for your organization with the goal of staying connected, generating interest, taking part in a popular media trend and keeping followers up to date. You want to make a good impression. You want to seem vibrant. But what impression will visitors have if they go to your page and see that it hasn’t been updated in months? Your organization might be chock-full of excitement, but if your Facebook page doesn’t reflect any energy or activity, visitors might perceive the unit as dull, out of touch or even unprofessional. Once you have committed to developing a social media presence, also develop a clear plan for staying relevant. And stick to that plan.

Step 3: Choosing imagery and content

The policies governing use of University of Missouri logos and icons, as well as other copyrighted materials, apply to social media as much as to other communications media. Review them. Follow them. Remember that every time you have an interaction on a Mizzou social media page, you are representing the University of Missouri. Choose a profile picture that’s attractive, professional and appropriate.

Post links
If the item you want to promote exists on a website, link to it. Maintain your website and use social media to drive people to it. Housing your content on one designated Web page ensures readers will get thorough information. Updates and corrections can be made efficiently and consistently.

Post photos
A simple, colorful photo depicting a person, an animal or a beloved campus icon goes a long way toward grabbing attention. Check out some of ours. Better yet, post links containing photos.

Be concise
Verbosity has no place in social media. If you’re accustomed to academic writing, understand that communicating through social media is dramatically different. Formality is replaced with friendliness. Elaborate arguments are replaced by snappy one-liners. Brevity is the soul of wit.

Step 4: Use Mizzou’s social media interaction guidelines

Before you post content to any social-media outlet affiliated with the University of Missouri, please take a moment to review our official guidelines.

If you’re an MU employee or a contractor hired by MU and you’re creating or contributing to any MU social media, these guidelines are for you.

We expect everyone who participates in social media on behalf of MU to understand and to follow these guidelines. They will evolve as new technologies and tools emerge, so please check them regularly.

Interaction Guidelines

With so many social-media tools at our fingertips, interacting with alumni, current students, prospective students and the general public is easier than ever before. When we connect with the public on behalf of the university, we must keep certain standards and goals in mind.

  • We encourage you to use Mizzou-branded social media accounts to share information about your work at Mizzou. However, any advertising, solicitation or overtly favorable acknowledgements or endorsements of political parties, candidates, third-party products and services is not permitted, except with express written permission of the university.
  • Provide expertise and positive insight about the university to help create a bond and build a rapport with users.
  • If leaving a comment, post something meaningful, encouraging, informative or respectful. Comments should always follow the established posting policy.
  • Before posting, re-read your comment to make sure it can’t be misconstrued as negative or inappropriate. If you have any doubt, ask someone else read it before you post it.
  • Respond to questions or inquiries in a timely fashion. Since timestamps often are published with posts, other users will know just how quickly you respond to them with accurate and relevant information.
  • Disagreement should not be squelched. If you respond to a disagreement, do so in a professional and respectful manner. Respect proprietary information, content and confidentiality.

Participation protocol

  • Be transparent. If you’re discussing an MU-related topic, use your real name and title. Keep in mind that what you say officially represents the university and should be absolutely accurate.
  • Respect student privacy. FERPA and HIPAA laws and NCAA guidelines restrict discussion of Mizzou students, prospective students and patients on websites and in social media. NCAA rules prohibit comments about possible recruits on any university-affiliated social media pages. Before communicating to or about any prospective student-athlete, seek the approval of MU’s athletics compliance office at 573-882-2076. Learn more.
  • In online social networks, the lines between public and private, personal and professional, are blurred. Be sure that content is consistent with your professional role and with the university’s standards.
  • Make sure your efforts to be transparent don’t violate the university’s privacy, confidentiality or legal guidelines for external communications. All statements must be true, accurate and not misleading. Never comment on any legal matters, litigation or parties with whom the university is in litigation without appropriate approval. Do not comment on other institutions; instead, focus on MU.
  • Do your homework, and get help. If a different person or department is better suited than you to post a reply or comment, invite that representative to participate. Mizzou is teeming with experts. Find them.
  • Engage in conversation. Talk to your users like you would talk to people face to face in professional situations. Avoid composed, stilted and institutional language. Be friendly.
  • Provide quality. Scads of sites on the Internet focus on MU. The best way to ensure yours is the one they turn to is to provide interesting, accurate and up-to-date information.
  • Be responsible. Participation in MU social media is an opportunity, not a right. Treat it as seriously and professionally as you would any other aspect of your job. If you make a mistake, admit it. People will notice if earlier posts change, so if you decide to make an edit, make it clear to all users.
  • Lead the discussion. Point users in the right direction, and provide them with an example of how social-networking sites operate. Show your Tiger pride.
  • Respect protected material. Follow all policies and guidelines regarding the use of official MU marks.

Moderation guidelines

In most social media, the university is unable to pre-approve public posts to its pages or sites. The following steps should be taken to ensure the best experience for users.

  • Clearly state in your site’s posting policy that you are unable to pre-approve content. Assure users that the site is regularly monitored (and actually monitor the site) and that content violating the posting policy will be removed.
  • If a user posts a constructive criticism or a negative comment that does not violate the posting policy, don’t delete it. Instead, engage the user in conversation. Perhaps you can help solve a problem, winning over a disgruntled member of your audience. Always use facts in supporting your statements, and, when possible, include links. Not every barb warrants a response.
  • Correct misinformation. If a user posts a false accusation or an inaccurate statement, don’t delete it. Instead, respond — in a respectful and friendly manner — with the accurate information. If a user posts an ignorant and/or offensive remark, you can use the opportunity to help educate the person without being condescending, pointing him or her to reliable resources and correcting false impressions. After all, Mizzou is in the business of public education. Educate the public.
  • Where warranted, when removing a post, leave a reminder of your policies so users will better understand why the post was removed. Contact the individual who posted the deleted item, and remind him or her about the policies. Also thank the user for following Mizzou, and encourage future appropriate participation.
  • One of the most important things to remember when moderating social media is that these conversations take place somewhere on the Internet. Providing a forum for them gives the university a chance to monitor what is being said, to correct any misconceptions and to provide accurate information to all users. Removing a discussion from your site doesn’t eliminate the discussion. If you allow it to take place, users will stick around.