Best Practices for Running a Social Media Campaign

Congratulations. You’ve done your research and decided to start a social media campaign. There are many ways to go about the process. We recommend the following best practices:

Establish a Plan
Create a system for posting and monitoring content through all of your channels. That system should address what kind of content will be distributed, a general timeframe for distribution, and a schedule for monitoring and responding to feedback. It’s essential to put those guidelines in writing so everyone on your social media team can see it.

You may want to mix up the type of content you post on a daily basis, posting a video one day and a story the next day. Follow other accounts at Rutgers so you can share items that might be of interest to your audience. You may also want to experiment with timing of posts to see what time of day generates the most feedback. Do not overwhelm or underwhelm your audience. Monitor other successful accounts to evaluate how often you should post through each tool. Putting up one or two posts each day may satisfy your audience on Facebook, but it may be useful to post more frequently on Twitter. At a minimum, posting at least two items per week is recommended so as not to lose the interest of your audience.

It’s not necessary to plan out the exact postings in advance although some units may find that beneficial, especially when promoting large-scale events. However, it’s helpful to have an overall plan in place. Keep your audience in mind and see what generates the strongest responses. Be flexible if you need to change the plan because of “breaking news.” Most important, do not make social media the last thing an administrator thinks about each day. It should always be part of your comprehensive promotion plan.

Create a Statement of Use
You set the tone for your social media sites with a statement of use. This statement should reflect your overall approach and let your audience know what kind of content and feedback is acceptable. If possible, it should be displayed in a prominent location on all of your social media sites. This statement will serve as a guide for administrators when determining how to respond to feedback and what user content should be removed (where applicable). Be sure to follow your own policy to ensure consistency and remove all inappropriate content promptly. Make sure all administrators, including any student administrators, understand the policy and are comfortable using it. Rutgers’ central social media team developed this statement based on experience and several units have adopted versions of it.

“We want you to share information, ideas, and opinions. But we reserve the right to remove posts containing profanity, personal attacks, commercial promotions, political campaign materials, irrelevant information, or posts otherwise deemed to be inappropriate. The comments posted by fans on this page reflect the opinions of individual posters and do not reflect the views of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.”

Be Prepared for Feedback and Comments
Keep in mind that the vast majority of comments and feedback that you will receive using social media will be positive and constructive. However, you may receive negative feedback that does not violate your statement of use. That is the nature of social media. In order for your page to build a sense of community, it’s important that posters feel their voices are heard. When in doubt, do not remove these comments. You may choose to respond to negative remarks depending on the circumstances. Oftentimes, an administrator can correct misperceptions by posting accurate information that addresses a commenter’s concerns. Do not get into a “back and forth” with difficult users. If a follower continues to violate your terms of use, he or she should be removed from your site when possible, such as on Facebook. Consider creating a feedback email to which you can direct posters who can pursue their concerns outside of social media. It’s often helpful to talk to other social media administrators about a particular post or user to get additional viewpoints. You can also contact the Office of University News and Media Relations with any related questions.

NOTE: If you come upon a social media posting that raises concerns about a student’s personal safety or a threat to the campus, immediately contact the appropriate authorities, including but not limited to the Rutgers Police Department.

Be Interactive
Social media is about talking with people, rather than talking to people. Don’t be afraid to engage your audience. That is what sets social media apart from traditional communication. That means asking people’s opinions and responding to their questions. Sometimes it’s as simple as asking a question when publishing information.

Example: Are you a coffee lover? Meet two Rutgers alums who started their own coffee business and find out where you can taste their brews on campus:

It’s essential that those who participate in your social media community feel that their voices are heard. That means tracking down answers to questions on a timely basis. If you don’t know the answer, track it down or direct the user to someone who can help. Get the facts before you respond. Don’t allow the urge to respond quickly to overshadow the need to be accurate. Inaccurate information can spread like wildfire via social media and may be difficult to correct. If an answer isn’t yet available, let your audience know that you will respond when you have more information. Be sure to follow up. In a crisis situation, post the university’s official statement to keep your audience informed. Post links whenever possible to provide additional resources.

Set a Constructive Tone
Have a conversation with your users. Be respectful of their viewpoints and encourage their feedback. When you make a mistake, quickly correct it and apologize. That is likely to foster more feedback and a sense of community. It’s important to remember that your voice represents your school or unit, as well as the university as a whole. Keep your personal opinions out of the conversation. Slurs, insults, or otherwise offensive content should never be posted from a university account.

Be Honest
Do not attempt to manipulate feedback by posing as someone else. Likewise, do not respond to your own postings, such as “liking” an item you posted on Facebook. It is inappropriate to create a fake social media account for the purpose of posting or monitoring content. It undermines the credibility of all of the Rutgers social media sites.

Maintain Professional Standards
Think before you post. If you wouldn’t say it in a public setting, don’t say it via social media. As stated in the introduction, social media administrators must follow all university policies when publishing digital content. Do not post any confidential, copyrighted, or proprietary information about Rutgers faculty, staff, students, or others. Protect student and patient privacy. Review the Rutgers Visual Identity System when determining appropriate marks or logos to use for your social media sites. Follow the Rutgers Editorial Style Guide for naming conventions of our schools and units. When it comes to posting photos and videos, model release and HIPAA Authorization forms must be obtained from people or groups. Model release forms are required for you to use their image in any medium. HIPAA authorization is required from patients and/or patient legal representatives who disclose health information in any form. For public events, releases are not required, but they are encouraged. If someone asks to have his or her photo removed from a social media site, grant the request unless there are overriding circumstances.

Promote Your Social Media
Help the community find your social media sites. Post the sites and their icons on your websites and print materials, such as posters, business cards, and newsletters, to spread the word. Make social media part of a unit’s standard email signature. Don’t forget to put hyperlinks on all of the listings. Encourage members of your audience to share the site with their own friends and followers. Consider using paid advertising to spread the message. (Refer to the Ad Review website for details on Rutgers advertising policy.) Contact the Office of University News and Media Relations to ensure that your unit’s sites are listed in the university’s Social Media Directory, which promotes social media sites from units across the university.

Set Benchmarks
Put your goals for your social media program in writing. Reflect and re-evaluate frequently. Establish benchmarks for acquiring followers and increasing engagement and then review those goals on a regular basis to determine how your strategy is working. Make changes to what isn’t working. If you don’t know where to start, look at more established social media sites for similar units at Rutgers. Talk to the administrators about how they created a fan base and the timeframe for doing so. Remember that the sheer number of followers is not the only way to measure success. Analyze who is following you and how they are engaging with your content.

Ask for Help
The Rutgers Social Media Users Group is a forum for social media practitioners across the university to come together and talk about best practices or troubleshoot problems with various tools. If you would like to be included in this group, email Karen Smith, senior director of University News and Media Relations. Please feel free to contact members when building your social media presence or pondering any changes.

Conduct on Personal Social Media Accounts

These guidelines are designed to highlight best practices for those administering Rutgers social media accounts and do not address conduct on any personal accounts. That said, social media is a public medium. Faculty, staff, and students should always be aware of how they identify and present themselves to the public via their own accounts as they may be seen as de facto Rutgers authorities.

If you distribute or comment on information related to Rutgers via personal accounts, it’s important for you to clarify whether you are doing so in an official capacity or as a private individual. Make it clear that your personal comments represent your own viewpoints and not those of the university or its administrators. Keep in mind that any of your social media conduct may be copied or distributed by others long after you post it. You may be held liable for published information or find that it is used against you in an employment situation. Faculty and staff should also be sure to follow all applicable university policies, including but not limited to those addressing student and patient privacy, when conducting their own activities on social media.