Social media planning and policies: the view from the ground

corporate social media policy-resized-600Sometimes when creating policies, it’s easy to forget about the real needs of people who are supposed to follow those policies. I’m sure I’m not the only higher ed administrator who has gotten tangled up in a rule created by HR, legal or some other department that sounds good on paper, but doesn’t quite fit the situation I’m dealing with. As you probably do, I scratch my head and wonder what the geniuses who created this policy were thinking.

I don’t want to be one of those geniuses. Do you?

Creators of policies sometimes get so hung up on viewing everything from 30,000 feet that they forget about the people on the ground. For those of us charged with creating social media policies or guidelines for our institutions, it’s important to remember the practical needs of people who are supposed to abide by or carry out our rules.

This point was brought home to me recently when I co-delivered a talk about social media policies and planning to a group of intramural and recreation staff last week at the NIRSA National Marketing Institute. My co-presenter, Teresa Parrot, and I interacted with staff who work with hundreds of students — intramural participants as well as student-employees — and face a variety of social media challenges.

What do you do about students who take photos and videos of intramural games and post the content on YouTube or Flickr?

What happens when a student gets hurt in a game, and before the campus administration even knows about the incident, other students are tweeting about it or posting it on their Facebook pages?

Chances are great that the communications and marketing staffers who are creating a campus social media policy, with counsel from HR and legal, haven’t given much thought to those types of circumstances, or many others.

It’s important to keep in mind the needs of those staff members, students and administrators who are supposed to benefit from our social media policies or guidelines. Let’s make sure we’re creating documents that are a benefit, rather than a restriction. Let’s make sure our guidelines are practical.

[shameless plug]If you’d like to learn more about developing a social media policy, join Teresa and me as we co-deliver an Academic Impressions webinar on that topic on Dec. 7. Registration for Crafting an Effective Institutional Social Media Policy is now open.[/shameless plug]

In the meantime, here are a few other resources to help you along in developing or tweaking a social media policy:

  • .eduGuru’s Social Media Policy Resource Guide for Higher Ed offers links to several college an university policies. A hat tip to .eduGuru contributor Mike Petroff, who pulled together the examples.
  • Social media policies was the topic of discussion for much of Episode 7 of Higher Ed Live, a weekly webcast hosted by Seth Odell. Seth interviews Mike Petroff about the importance of developing practical social media guidelines. Although there were some technical issues with this webcast, it’s worth tuning in to. The social media policies discussion starts at around the 12:30 mark.
  • Last June’s Academic Impressions interview with Teresa and me about social media policies might be worth another look. The money quote comes from Teresa: “We need to focus not on how we can control the message, but on how we can provide resources and guidance for those who are communicating.”
  • So you need a social media policy… by Jennifer Doak, CASE’s online communications specialist, on the CASE Social Media blog. (Hat tip to Michael Stoner for pointing out this post.)

Photo via Red Shoes PR (

Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

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