The following guidelines are recommended for UCL staff managing online social content in internal and external websites.
- Get in touch with us! Let us know what you've set up: we'll add you to the list of UCL social media users on this site, and also try to keep you up to date with central social media developments. Email digital-comms [at] ucl.ac.uk.
- Check before you use others’ branding on your website. If you’re intending to use a social media website's icons, or other content on your site, always check that you have permission to do so (e.g. see Twitter's guidelines for use of the Twitter trademark).
- Don't rely too heavily on one social media site. How will it affect your work if a site closes, begins charging, or changes significantly over time? Make sure you’ve thought about an exit strategy for any work that does depend on social media.
- Where appropriate, add a disclaimer. For some platforms you may wish to make it very clear that content posted is not necessarily representative of your department (for instance in a discussion forum or blog that you've set up). You can see an example of a disclaimer at http://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/events/about-this-blog/
If you plan to organise a competition or promotion using social media, check both legal and platform-specific guidelines.
- As ever, abide by UCL's computing regulations in all social media use.
- Think about who you’re posting as. If you already use social media personally, it may be worth creating a new profile just for UCL use. Make it clear whether you are writing for UCL, or writing personally.
- Consider your style. In some cases, you may need to write in a purely informational style (e.g. when posting important departmental news via a blog). However, don’t let that put you off writing in a personal, informal way when appropriate (e.g. http://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/web-services/2010/09/02/silva-at-400/). Also, always write in the first person (e.g. ‘We are conducting a survey’ rather than ‘University College London is conducting a survey’).
- Respect others’ privacy. Don't post private information about individuals.
- Be accurate, and when appropriate, give references as to where information came from. If you make a mistake, don’t hide it, but update the page explaining what the error was (for example, this blog post contains an explanatory note below the main image)
- Similarly, always check the validity and truth of statements that you publish or even repost (e.g. via a retweet or Facebook share). Legally speaking, reposting is still seen as publishing, so care does need to be taken.
- Always be courteous, even when you don’t feel like it. Remember that in most cases, content that you post will be public, and it may not be possible to remove it at a later date. Think twice about how you post content if you’re feeling angry about something.
- If you have a complaint with a UCL department, consider whether it may be best just to send an email directly to them, rather than posting your concerns or frustration on your social media channels. Just because you've posted on social media doesn't guarantee the relevant department will see your post. Additionally, this could have negative consequences: it could obviously affect relationships with colleagues, and it could also affect social media followers' perceptions of UCL as a whole.
- Don’t spam others to promote UCL. Be careful how you communicate with others on the platform - will your communications be of interest or irritation?
- Be honest. If you’re posting about anything to do with UCL on another website or social media platform, do identify yourself as a UCL staff member. Don’t hide your identity if you're promoting anything to do with UCL - if others find out who you are, UCL’s reputation on that site will probably be damaged.
Most social media platforms allow visitors to comment and discuss videos, pages, blog posts, etc. We recommend that you:
- Encourage comments, and be responsive. The more interaction between yourself and visitors will hopefully build up a community, and help gain trust from others.
- Deal with negative feedback. If users post complaints, or have other problems, follow them up positively and quickly (before many others join in!).
Monitor all comments. If there is an option to be emailed whenever a user comments, use it. In social media platforms where this isn't possible, ensure that this is checked reasonably regularly. Use your discretion to remove advertisements, spam, and comments that are hateful, obscene, or defamatory.
- If no-one in your team is able to monitor comments for a short period (due to e.g. Christmas or Easter closures), do notify your followers of this. Otherwise users may become frustrated if their queries are not being answered after a few days.
- If visitors have queries, where possible refer them to information on your website rather than directly answering their questions within the social media channel. If details (entry requirements, application deadlines etc) then change they will be updated on your website and there is less risk that people will find out of date information on social media channels.
- Don’t infringe copyrights. Don’t put others’ content online without their permission. If you’re posting UCL images onto an external site, do check that you have permission to do so (the images may only be licensed to be used on the UCL domain). In cases where you cannot find the owner of the original content, you should not use it.
- If using Creative Commons-licensed content, ensure that you follow the license guidelines (e.g. crediting the author, linking to the license, etc.)
- If you are posting an image of a logo or trademark, always check that you have permission to use this. You may have the photographer or designer’s permission, but not necessarily that of the owner of the logo/trademark.
- Be careful about using screenshots of social media, particularly when it involves other users’ details or content. Screenshots of social media platforms may also use platforms’ own intellectual property, which they may not permit to be used.
For more information, see the Intellectual Property Office’s guide to types of IP.
We recommend that, in general, private communications between staff and other individuals are made using UCL email, Moodle, or other UCL based systems. This is for two reasons:
- the social media site used may not guarantee how long it will archive records of communication, which may be needed at a later date
- using a social media platform for this may increase the risk of a confidentiality breach (as websites, or account holders, may change privacy settings over time).
However we do recognise that using email to contact social media users isn’t always possible. For instance a prospective student may get in touch via social media to discuss personal details in an application. Depending on the platform, they may not be contactable using email, and have to be contacted using the platform’s own private communication system. In such cases, we would recommend contacting individuals using a non-personal social media account, like your department’s account. Again, there are two reasons for this:
- if you are away or unavailable, someone else can check the account
- using your personal account can sometimes reveal personal details, depending on your platform privacy settings
If this isn’t possible, you should ask the individual to send an email to your UCL address.
- Do not use UCL branding
- If you mention that you are a UCL staff member, ensure that it is clear (e.g. in your site's profile) that your views are not necessarily reflected by UCL.
If you have any suggestions about these guidelines, please email digital-comms [at] ucl.ac.uk