Getting the most from Social Media whilst avoiding common pitfalls

Why engage in social media?

  • Social media allows you to communicate and engage directly with colleagues, students, customers and target audiences.

  • Social media is interactive and encourages discussion. This can be very useful for establishing communication and dialogue with your important audiences.

Aston encourages the use of social media for:

Research – to promote Aston’s research activities and to facilitate communication with colleagues within the University and with collaborative partners in the UK and overseas.

Teaching and Learning – to support and extend learning opportunities, and to provide opportunities for interaction and communication between staff and students and between students.

Collaboration –  to provide opportunities for people within Aston to work together with colleagues in other Schools and Departments.

Communications and External Relations – to provide the opportunity to communicate with prospective and existing students. Along with other customers through social media as part of an integrated marketing strategy.

Prospective and Current Students' Engagement - these users, along with others who have an interest in the University, are active in social media, e.g. setting up Facebook groups and blogging.

Alumni Engagement – to communicate with existing students and alumni through social media to develop an on-going relationship with them.

Students' Union Engagement – the Students' Union uses social media to maximise the exposure of its services and the associated societies to existing and prospective students.

Tips for successful use of social media

Be careful with the messages you post – remember that your reputation or that of your subject/School/University can be damaged very quickly by inappropriate social media posts, and that once you have posted the message there is almost no chance of taking it back.

Promote interaction – remember that you are talking with people rather that at them i.e. the point is not just to broadcast information and hope people find and read it; use social media to ask and answer questions and encourage discussion.

Build trust and relationships - people are much more likely to trust a recommendation from a colleague, friend, or reliable contact.

Maintain appropriate levels of contact – you need to maintain visibility and communication but do not overdo this.

Profile raising - social media provides excellent opportunities for giving away content in order to emphasise your own expertise and reputation. Passing on knowledge, information, informed opinions and best practice can help to build existing relationships and develop new ones. Many people appreciate being referred to things they might find interesting or useful, in both their personal and professional lives. Content often given away via social media include blogs, videos, lectures, research papers, and links to articles and websites. But do make sure that what you are sharing is worthwhile in terms of content and quality.

Finger on the pulse - social media can help you to find out what people are saying about you, your department, your discipline, or your University. Almost every social media platform is searchable, and various free third-party tools can be downloaded to make this easier.

Target the right networks - firstly identify your target audience and then find out which networks they are already using. There is little point in trying to cultivate relationships via networks that your target audience does not use.

Review progress – you periodically need to measure the success of your social media activity against clear objectives. For example, if you intend to use social media to attract traffic to a website, you can measure success via the number of page hits and whether referrals are directly from your social media activity. Likewise you may want to measure downloads of a specific document, list new contacts made via online networking, or some other definable metric.


Things to remember:

  • If you are representing the University, avoid engaging in contentious issues where you are not in a position to represent the University’s official view.

  • Ensure that your postings are appropriate to the media and the audience.

  • Before engaging with a particular social media on behalf of the University, do so personally to familiarise yourself and develop a good working knowledge.

  • Social media are public spaces. You should not say anything that you would not be happy to say in a public gathering and you should not publish information which you would not be happy for anyone in the world to see.

  • Social media requires an ongoing commitment. If you wish to create and manage a social media presence, you must ensure that you have the time and resources to support it.

  • The University has a unique and distinctive presence on social media so before you create a new university related account, please seek advice from the digital team (social@aston.ac.uk). 


Be safe

  • If you are using social media for University purposes it is important to ensure that any such use is as secure as possible, in order to protect the University's reputation.

  • Your personal and University social media accounts should be protected in exactly the same way you would protect any other important online service. Principally, this involves taking good care of the devices you use to access social media, and ensuring you have good password security.

  • Remember: use a strong password, use different passwords for different applications, never share your password, and log out when you have finished actively using a system

  • When, as a member of staff, you use social media, in the course of your employment or personally you should follow the Aston University Social Media Policy. Please make sure you are aware of the detail of this policy as it will be updated regularly and any breach of it may result in disciplinary action.

  • When using social media, please think about the potential consequences of your actions online and the effect it may have on your own and/or the University’s reputation. Most of the considerations in relation to social media in this context are common sense and included within the Social Media Policy.

  • When using closed user groups where only a limited number of people have access, do not assume information posted is private. 

  • Although the posting of social media content is easy and instant, think twice about what you are posting, especially if controversial.

  • Do not share your password with anyone and make sure it is secure at all times. 

 

Use of Social Media in your professional or working life

The University upholds the academic freedom of teaching and research staff. This entails freedom of teaching and discussion, freedom to carry out research and to disseminate and publish the results thereof, freedom from institutional censorship and freedom to participate in professional or representative academic bodies. The exercise of academic freedom carries with it special duties and responsibilities, including a requirement to respect the academic freedom of other members of the academic community and to ensure the fair discussion of contrary views. Aston University expects teaching, research and scholarship to be conducted in accordance with the highest ethical and professional standards.

Personal Use of Social Media

The University recognises that staff may occasionally need to work long hours and sometimes want to use social media for personal activities at the office or by means of University ICT systems. The University authorises such occasional use so long as it does not involve unprofessional or inappropriate content and does not interfere with their employment responsibilities or productivity.

Where you use social media for personal purposes, please make it clear that any comments are made on your own behalf and do not constitute the views of the University. However remember that even if you make clear any views are not shared by the University, some comments could still damage the University’s reputation.

Although any personal use of social media is not and cannot be monitored by the University, there are circumstances where it can impact negatively on you in an employment context, so be mindful of what you are posting.

Staff must use separate social media accounts for personal and work purposes. Staff must not use their Aston email account to log into social media sites if that usage is not for work purposes.

Remember that the University has the ability to read messages, emails, documents or other communications you make, produce or use its ICT systems and communications. The University reserves the right to monitor, intercept and review staff activities using its ICT resources and communications systems, including social media postings and activities to ensure compliance with University rules and policies. Do not use University ICT resources for any personal matters that you want to keep private or confidential.

Intellectual Property

Respect the intellectual property of the University and only use University trademarks, logos or brand names in accordance with Aston’s Branding Policy.

Do not assume you can copy information and consider whether the material you are using is actually your own or the University’s. If the material is not your own, you may be personally infringing someone else’s copyright, unless you have prior permission to use the material. If in doubt, don’t do it. 

Please be careful about disclosing intellectual ideas through social media, particularly in relation to inventions that might be patentable. Information on social media sites is unlikely to remain confidential and disclosure could result in the University’s inability to register certain intellectual property rights, namely patents.

Duty to speak up

Be alert to any social media content that disparages or reflects poorly on the University, its staff or students. If you think there has been a misuse of social media, please report it promptly to the Director of Governance (email   j.g.walter@aston.ac.uk or telephone 0121 204 4869).

Questions?

Please email social@aston.ac.uk if you need help, have any questions, or want to raise any issues or concerns.