Social Media Guidelines

Questions? Contact David Gonnerman, associate director of Marketing and Communications for digital media:
gonnermd, x3315

These guidelines are intended for St. Olaf employees and students who administer social networking sites on behalf of the college.

Social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, etc.) offers new avenues for communicating with and engaging alumni, students, parents, prospective students, employees, and friends of the college. When college employees and students administer social media on behalf of the institution, these online communications reflect upon the college and the greater St. Olaf community. Because of this, we want to help you make sure social media is right for your needs and, if so, help you to use the medium effectively.

The goal of social networking sites is to foster virtual St. Olaf communities. Although St. Olaf’s website remains the central communications vehicle for many of its audiences, social media platforms are quickly becoming a primary means for learning about and communicating with the college. These new platforms should be used to supplement — not replace — existing Marketing and Communications efforts to enhance communications with the college’s target audiences.

How is St. Olaf using social media?

The Office of Marketing and Communications currently operates official St. Olaf and St. Olaf Parents Facebook pages, a Pinterest page, and tweets via @StOlaf. The college also has a presence on LinkedIn and operates a YouTube channel.

Before establishing a new presence in one of these areas, consider the possibility of providing content that can be fed to one of our existing social media networks. Work with the associate director of marketing and communications for digital media to determine what the possibilities might be for adding your material to the social media calendar for timely posting to a social media outlet.

Also note that if a St. Olaf office or department wants to post material to YouTube, that video must be reviewed for standards, quality, and copyright compliance by the associate director of marketing and communications for digital media before being added to the St. Olaf YouTube channel. If your office or department has generated video in an official capacity and you want it to appear on YouTube, that video must reside on the St. Olaf YouTube channel.

Is social media your best approach?

We ask that departments considering the use of social media make sure they are fully committed to maintaining the endeavor at a level of quality that reflects the high standards we aspire to at St. Olaf.

Before creating a separate social media presence, the following questions can help you determine if — instead of creating new social media outlets — your needs might be best addressed using current St. Olaf social media channels, or if a more robust departmental website might be a better option:

  • Is social media the best medium for what you want to accomplish? Too often, people think they must have a social media presence in the same way they have a Web page. If you simply want to take a traditional Web page and translate it into Facebook, for example, you are not using the medium correctly. Facebook is a place for interaction and dialogue — not simply presenting information.
  • Is the “conversation” you wish to initiate sustainable over time? Is it of enough interest to engage more than a few viewers? Will your site be relevant six or 12 months from now? You don’t have to look hard to find Facebook pages and Twitter accounts that were created with the best intentions but have since become dormant …
  • Do you have the time and energy to keep content current and fresh? Social media needs constant attention. How often will you be able to post new content, and how might you deal with absences (seasonal and otherwise) by employees who work with such content?
  • What “added value” is being created? Could a more robust departmental Web page suffice? What might Facebooking, tweeting, or blogging accomplish that isn’t already being done?
  • Can you accept that you might not always be in control? Social media — like the Internet that enabled it — is inherently democratic. If you are the least bit concerned about appearances or discussions you cannot control, don’t go there.

How to proceed

If you are not deterred by the cautionary notes above and decide to forge ahead, social media administrators should adhere to the following “best practices”:

  • Consult with the associate director of marketing and communications for digital media on the naming conventions for Facebook pages and other sites. Do not use the St. Olaf logo (as on the official St. Olaf Facebook page and Twitter account, for example) or college seal in your profile photo. General images of the college are better suited for such purposes (see the notes below regarding photos).
  • Make clear who is sponsoring the page, what the ties to the college are, and what the goal or purpose of the site is.
  • At least two people in your office or department should have administrative access to your St. Olaf-related social media site. In addition, administrative privileges should be granted to the associate director of marketing and communications for digital media.
  • Actively monitor your site to ensure that nothing violates confidentiality, college policies, or civil discussion.

When posting messages, notes, links, and graphics …

  • Think twice before you post — everything has the potential to be distributed to a wider audience than you might have intended.
  • Do not share confidential or proprietary information about St. Olaf College or its students, employees, or alumni without express permission. All postings must comply with applicable college policies plus federal regulations (such as FERPA).
  • Obtain appropriate written permission before posting copyrighted information or protected intellectual property (music that accompanies a video, for example).
  • Verify the accuracy of all information that is posted. But if an error shows up, correct it.
  • Keep content related to the subject or purpose of the site.
  • Respond to comments or questions in a timely, respectful manner.

Because of social media’s reliance on imagery, some notes about photos:

  • The Office of Marketing and Communications has a photo database that can meet many online needs. Stop by our office to browse through it.
  • If you’re not sure whether a photo is appropriate . . . it probably isn’t.
  • Avoid posting photos that include children.
  • Do not credit photos to the photographer.

Problems with privacy issues or material that reflects adversely on St. Olaf will be addressed by the college.