Most institutions of higher education have several social media sites that are associated with their college or university brand — Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, a blog, a website with many thousands of active pages and usually several administrators who all have their own ideas about the best way to moderate them all. When the posts are like the YouTube clip above — a great piece about some students who won a campus film competition and were able to show their film at both the Hollywood Film Festival and the Festival de Cannes (Cannes!!), life is good and comments are usually all really positive. People are just piling on to congratulate the students and wish them well. It is days that like when no social media policy is really needed (HA!) and the comments can almost flow freely … right?
Wrong. It is days like that will get a social media person in more trouble quicker than you can say, “Tweet what?” Because it is ALWAYS the innocuous posts that get you in trouble or are the ones that lead you down the path of trouble quickest. Because you let down your guard and don’t pay attention. After all, who is going to say anything nasty about a bunch of students who are bringing only glory to the university? Oh, you would be surprised. In this instance, no one has said anything yet and hopefully, they won’t. There isn’t really anything nasty TO say. These were hard-working students who really did a great job and represented the university well both on the west coast and in Cannes. I am sure if we left the commentary open long enough, someone would find something awful to say, but we probably won’t give them the opportunity. We are fairly vigilant on our social media sites and we have a very strict policy. We state it up front, we state it often and if someone steps over the line, our moderators remind them of the policy. If they step over the line too far, the comment is pulled quickly and the commentator gets a warning and a detailed explanation (if we have the opportunity to do so). We don’t just pull something without trying to let the person know why — we really try to help him or her understand the reasoning. But our policy is pretty clear.
Every administrator of every official social media site is trained and works with the public relations staff to make sure that they adhere to the standards and policies. They have to understand and agree to the policies before a site can go up under the auspices of the institution. And the sites are all pretty carefully monitored by the PR staff. We want to make sure that the institution is being well represented on social media and in the commentary. We care. And we want people who comment to feel safe. It matters to us.
And when there is a crisis or a situation that warrants bad news being delivered, we are hyper vigilant. We want to make sure that not only is the message being received, but that those people receiving it can ask questions of us and can give us feedback through the comments. Usually, we have a few staff members watching the comments on social media to make sure that nothing inflammatory or hurtful is posted so that questions can be asked and answered, or that official information can be updated quickly and without intrusion. Again, all of this is posted in our official policies so no one is really surprised when it happens. And, of course, we are polite and well-mannered when working with our stakeholder groups on social media so that they can rely on us to give them up-to-date information and news, even if we have to be firm at times in an effort to be transparent.