Best Practices for a Successful Social Media Presence
Be respectful. Anything you post in your role as a Vanderbilt employee reflects on the institution. Be professional and respectful at all times on your social media site. Do not engage in arguments or extensive debates with naysayers on your site.
Be transparent. Make it clear that you are Tweeting / Facebooking, etc. in your role as a staff member for Vanderbilt. One of the great benefits of social media is that the individuals maintaining social media sites personalize large and complex institutions such as Vanderbilt. Use your own “voice.” Do not ghostwrite posts for supervisors.
Listen. Being a consumer of social media is essential to your ability to be a successful producer of social media content. “Listen” to online conversations on your preferred tools – be they blogs, Twitter, Facebook or anything else – to maintain a clear and current understanding of what is relevant and of interest to the community.
Be active. Social media presences require diligent care and feeding. If you do not have the time or resources to check in on these sites at least a few minutes each day, and to post fresh content several times a week, reconsider jumping in to social media at this time. Your site is only as interesting as your last post – if that post is several months old, visitors will consider it mothballed.
Be timely. One of the great benefits of social media is the ability to share information almost instantly with a global audience. This timeliness is also one of the expectations of that audience. Be prepared to move quickly in response to new developments, announcements, or emergencies with relevant information on your site. A short amount of accurate information delivered at the time of need can sometimes be more valuable than a full report delivered well after the issue has passed.
Be aware of the world around you. Do not tweet or post during times that would make your brand, and hence the Vanderbilt brand, appear to be out of touch with what’s going on in the world. For example, do not tweet a fun, cheery graphic in the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack; likewise, don’t share a serious or sad story in the middle of the Super Bowl. If you have tweets or posts scheduled and something occurs in the world to impact those posts, reschedule them immediately.
Have a full-time faculty or staff member run your account. It can be tempting to hand over responsibility for your social media channels to a student worker, and students can certainly be important members of your communications team, but ultimately the content, strategy, execution - and passwords! - for your social media channels are the responsibility of full-time Vanderbilt employees. We recommend more than one full-time faculty or staff member have access to your accounts.
Remember, everything you do online can and will live forever. Think before you post, remembering that anything you share within social media, even within a closed network, is not private. It can and will be shared, stored and spread globally. Don’t post anything online you wouldn’t feel comfortable seeing on the front page of the newspaper, or on CNN.
Have clear goals. Don't just tweet or post for the fun of it - save that for your personal accounts. A successful social media strategy requires research, clearly outlined goals and objectives, smart tactics and dedicated effort. All of these should be in support of your area's larger communications goals and the university's mission. We have some thought-provoking questions in this handbook to help you think through why you're doing what you're doing and how best to do it.
Comment. As a consumer as well as a producer of social media, offer comments on interesting posts and share the good work of others using your sites. Social media is not (only) about sharing your news and success, it’s about sharing information that is of interest to your readers and viewers. When commenting as part of your job, be sure to indicate who you are and your affiliation with Vanderbilt. If you see a post that you think requires or would benefit from an official Vanderbilt response, please contact the Stragic Communications (university) at (615) 322-2706 or News and Communications (Medical Center) at (615) 322-4747.
Accept and monitor comments. A social media site without comments isn’t very social. Be prepared to accept and respond to comments. Understand that not all comments will be positive, and respond to negative comments professionally and by providing any additional information that may help resolve the issue. Post a disclaimer on your site stating you reserve the right to remove inappropriate comments. Remove those comments containing vulgar language, those that attack any one group or individual and those that are obviously spam.
Separate personal from professional. Balancing your professional and personal social media presences can be tricky, particularly if you are an avid user in both arenas. Content that is appropriate and of interest to your personal friends is most likely not appropriate or of interest to your department’s followers. Keep these two presences as separate as possible by keeping content about your non-work life on your personal page; and make clear that your personal accounts do not represent the university.
Be a valued community member. Don’t just talk about your program or department – share the best information you find from trusted sources outside of Vanderbilt. This will increase the value of your site and also will ensure you are a valued member of the community and are not just tooting your own horn.
Don’t cyberslack. Endless amounts of time can be spent, and wasted, on social media sites. Limit the amount of time you spend attending to your department’s social media presence to what is needed to post content, evaluate traffic data, review related sites, and monitor comments. Limit your personal use of these sites while at work as directed by your department’s guidelines.
Promote your accounts. If you tweet, but no one reads it, did you really tweet at all? Make it easy for people to find you on social media. Have links and icons on your website. Include your accounts on everything you send out (think: flyers, post cards, calendar entries, posters, email signatures – you cannot oversaturate promoting your accounts). Make sure you’re listed on the official Vanderbilt social media directory (if you’re not, we can fix that).
Best Practices for Specific Platforms
- If your department or group is affiliated with one of our schools, check to see if that school has a LinkedIn presence first. If they do, talk to the school's social media team in order to be set up as a Showcase Page with the school.
- If it does not make sense for your page to be set up under one of the schools, set it up as a small, non-profit business.
- Monitor comments on your LinkedIn page daily and respond to those that warrant it. Encourage two-way communication. Delete those comments that include personal attacks, vulgarity or racial / other slurs, but be prepared for critical comments. Do not delete comments simply because they are critical – rather, respond in the comments or directly to the individual with additional information. In your About section, include or link to a comments policy.
- Do not use the black and gold V as your profile picture. This is reserved for the official VU LinkedIn Page. The university has official social media icons for schools and departments; please contact the university Social Media Team to request one.
- LinkedIn has a set of official requirements that can help you in creating your cover image. These dimensions and requirements change often, so the official LinkedIn help page is your best resource for keeping your page up to date. Looking for campus images to use? You can use the photos from our Flickr page.
- Similarly to Facebook, in order to create a LinkedIn page you must have a personal LinkedIn account. No one will be able to see which personal accounts are affiliated with your departmental account.
- At least two full-time faculty or staff members should be admins of the page.
- As opposed to some of the other social media platforms, LinkedIn’s tone is very professional. When crafting posts it is best to keep your language as succinct as possible.
- LinkedIn is a great way to form micro connections to people who could be interested in your specific division. Share articles from leaders in your roster, post thoughts on industry news, and share relevant articles from news.vanderbilt.edu.
- When mentioning Vanderbilt schools, staff, or faculty in a post, tag them as appropriate.
- Vanderbilt has three official channels: for the University, Health and Athletics.
- Schools, departments, student groups, etc. should use the official Vanderbilt University YouTube channel.
- Do not set up your own channel. The benefit to the schools is accessing a much larger audience than they would on their own channel, and the benefit to the viewer is they are then linked to all of the content VU has to offer on YouTube.
- Within the University channel, there are over 100 playlists. These can be embedded into your website or used as you see fit. These take the place of having your own channel.
- For information about VUMC’s YouTube presence, please see their Social Media Toolkit.
Getting your videos on the University YouTube channel: