Why Have a Social Media Policy?

I knew this was coming. An assignment to create a social media policy. I’ve danced around this topic before – not in a grad class but when I worked in a marketing and communications department not so long ago. And the topic has followed me to my new position as an instructional designer. Why should an ID be concerned with social media policy? Because the technology cuts through so many parts of a community college and what goes on in and out of the classroom. Plus I teach online marketing and social media, I use social media in my courses and I am fairly active on social media myself – mostly professionally. So I should know what I can and cannot do as an employee at my institution, as an instructor in my classes and as a student in my graduate program. I get to see all sides of this.

We do have a social media policy at the college- or more like a set of guidelines (like a pirate’s code?), but after reading and discussing some of the resources I’ve seen this week, well… we need something more definitive in my opinion. Our current guidelines come from our marketing department and they are a good set of things to do to be successful in your social media attempts, and how to stay safe and polite, and ways not to get the college into trouble. But they don’t carry much context and really don’t cover student use of social media. For a very long time, the college didn’t have a handle on what departments were posting in the name of the college, and didn’t think much about social media until they started using Facebook and Twitter themselves as a recruiting and engagement strategy for students.

I did some research a few years ago to help the marketing department put together the original guidelines – they have really stayed at the level of guidelines with no one group stepping up to take on the making of true policy. But it might be time to revisit and revise the standards of social media use at the college. Of the several community college sites I visited, I found some common themes among their stated policies:

  • they had clear definitions of what social media was
  • they had policies for student use as well as institutional use
  • policies equally addressed student and employee conduct as well as compliance with state regulations on posting and sharing of sensitive information
  • helpful guidelines were in place not to discourage use of social media, but to encourage responsible use of it. There was a general recognition that social media was a powerful communication tool that could be used in many contexts within a college environment.

If this were to be presented formally, I would first talk to the Marketing and Communications department. That is where the original guidelines came from and are the likely candidates to  eventually take a more formal proposal to the college community as a whole. We have a shared governance, council structure in place at the college for the creation of policies and procedures so the next step would likely be with the college Cabinet Council.  That group meets regularly to review and update institutional level policies such as this so I’m confident they would be involved in the review and revision of a social media policy.

You can follow this link to read it my shared Google doc:

Proposed Social Media Policy for a Community College