Guidelines for the Use of Social Media



The rapid growth of social media technologies combined with their ease of use and pervasiveness make them attractive channels of communication. However, these tools also hold the possibility of a host of unintended consequences. To help you identify and avoid potential issues we have compiled
these guidelines. They are examples of best practices from various institutions and are intended to help you understand, from a wide range of perspectives, the implications of participation in social media.

Things to Consider When Beginning to Use Social Media

Applications that allow you to interact with others online (e.g. Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Google+, etc.) require careful consideration to assess the implications of “friending,” “linking, ” “following” or accepting such a request from another person. For example, there is the potential for misinterpretation of the relationship or the potential of sharing protected information. Relationships such as faculty-student, doctor-patient, supervisor-subordinate and staff-student merit close consideration of the implications and the nature of the social interaction. The following are some guidelines to follow in these cases.

General Guidelines When Posting to Social Media Sites

Sharing UA news, events or promoting faculty and student work through social media tools is an excellent, low-cost way to engage the community and build our brand. Employees are encouraged to repost and share information with their family and friends that is available to the public (press releases, articles in the University news, Internet news, etc.). The best way to share university news is to link to the original source. When sharing information that is not a matter of public record, please follow the below guidelines:

Do not post confidential or proprietary information about the University of Alaska, its students, its alumni or your fellow employees. Use good ethical judgment and follow university policies and federal requirements, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Review the HIPAA website for HIPAA requirements and the FERPA website for FERPA.

Do not discuss a situation involving named or pictured individuals on a social media site without their permission. As a guideline, do not post anything that you would not present in any public forum.
It’s appropriate to post at work if your comments are directly related to accomplishing work goals, such as seeking sources for information or working with others to resolve a problem. You should participate in personal social media conversations on your own time and in accordance with the University of Alaska Board of Regents policy on Ethics. University employees are also bound by the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act, which  prohibits you from taking certain actions in conflict with the  university’s interests and from using certain information you developed or were exposed to as university employee that has not been disseminated to the public.
Let your Internet social networking do no harm to the University of Alaska or to yourself whenever navigating those networks.
UA staff and faculty are personally responsible for the content they publish on blogs, wikis or any other form of user-generated content. Be mindful that what you publish will be public for a long time— protect your privacy.
You are responsible for what you post on your own site and on the sites of others. Individual bloggers have been held liable for commentary deemed to be copyright infringement, defamatory, proprietary, libelous, or obscene (as defined by the courts). Increasingly, employers are conducting Web searches on job candidates before extending offers. Be sure that what you post today will not come back to haunt you.
The line between professional and personal business is sometimes blurred: Be thoughtful about your posting’s content and potential audiences. Be honest about your identity. In personal posts, you may identify yourself as a UA faculty or staff member. However, please be clear that you are sharing your views as an individual, not as a representative of the University of Alaska.
If you make a mistake, admit it. Be upfront and be quick with your correction. If you’re posting to a blog, you may choose to modify an earlier post—just make it clear that you have done so.
You are more likely to achieve your goals or sway others to your beliefs if you are constructive and respectful while discussing a bad experience or disagreeing with a concept or person.
If you join a social network, make sure you are contributing valuable insights. Don’t hijack the discussion and redirect by  posting self/organizational-promoting information. Self- promoting behavior is viewed negatively and can lead to you  being banned from Web sites or groups.
There’s no such thing as a “private” social media site. Search engines can turn up posts and pictures years after the publication date. Comments can be forwarded or copied. Archival systems save information even if you delete a post. If you feel angry or passionate about a subject, it’s wise to delay posting until you are calm and clear-headed. Post only pictures that you would be comfortable sharing with the general public, current and future peers, employers, etc.
  1. Personal Use*: Students, Staff, and Faculty are prohibited from using university-owned devices (i.e., laptops or other university computers, University cell phones) to access personal TikTok accounts and software for non-university-related activities.
    1. Personal use means accessing the TikTok website or mobile app to create or review non-University-related posts or content for non-University-related reasons.
    2. Avoid using your email address as the registered address for your personal TikTok account.
  2. Official Use: Current and future official uses of TikTok using university-owned or administered accounts and personal accounts remain subject to our existing policy and guidelines on official social media use [see below/link].  Official use of TikTok includes things like:
    1. Marketing, outreach, dissemination, and recruitment efforts in line with the existing social media policy on your personal or UA-owned device. Relevant employees responsible for marketing, advertising, or outreach efforts for your University or one of its units should ensure all current and future accounts align with current guidance and policies on official UA social media. Use an email address for registering accounts that are exclusively for such use.
    2. Academics and assignments, including viewing TikToks, grading coursework, research, or other activities conducted on your personal or UA-owned device. Faculty who choose to incorporate TikTok into their coursework may use their personal accounts to do so, and do not need to create accounts registered with an address for those purposes.
    3. Research and investigation for discipline, HR, or law enforcement purposes undertaken in line with current policy and guidelines on your personal or UA-owned device.
  3. The University will not block connectivity to TikTok via our wireless network(s). OIT continues to monitor developments and may adjust the response as needed; specific network blocks or access controls may be implemented and enforced as deemed necessary to protect sensitive or controlled information (i.e., information subject to security clearances, and sensitive research data).
  4. None of the above impacts personal use of TikTok on personal devices. As with all social media platforms, University community members are encouraged to take reasonable precautions to limit the amount of sensitive, personal information shared on TikTok and other social media platforms.

*Personal use of University information resources is governed by R02.07.053 of University Regulation.


Social Media Best Practices When Posting as an Individual

The University of Alaska (UA) uses social media to supplement traditional press and marketing efforts. Employees are encouraged to share university news and events, which are a matter of public record, with their family and friends. Linking straight to the information source is an effective way to help promote the mission of the University and build community. When you might be perceived online as an agent/expert of UA, you need to make sure it is clear to the audience that you are not representing the position of UA or UA policy. While the guidelines below apply only to those instances where there is the potential for confusion about your role as a UA agent/expert versus personal opinion, they are good to keep in mind for all social media interactions. When posting to a social media site you should:

Be honest about your identity. In personal posts, you may identify yourself as a UA faculty or staff member. However, please be clear that you are sharing your personal views and are not speaking as a formal representative of UA. If you identify yourself as a member of the UA community, ensure your profile and related content are consistent with how you wish to present yourself to colleagues.

A common practice among individuals who write about the industry in which they work is to include a disclaimer on their site, usually on their “About Me” page. If you discuss higher education on your own social media site, we suggest you include a sentence similar to this: “The views expressed on this [blog, Web site] are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Alaska.” This is particularly important if you could be perceived to be in a leadership role at UA.

If you publish content to any website outside of UA and it has something to do with the work you do or subjects associated with UA, use a disclaimer such as this: “The postings on this site are my own and do not represent UA’s positions, strategies or opinions.”
Do not use the UA block letters, athletic logo or any other UA marks or images on your personal online sites. Do not use the University’s name to promote or endorse any product, cause or political party or candidate. UA logo and trademark guidelines can be found at: UAF Logo page. For individual campus guidelines, see your local marketing department.
If you identify your affiliation with UA in your comments, readers may associate you with the university, even with the disclaimer that your views are your own. Remember that you’re most likely to build a high-quality following if you discuss ideas and situations civilly. Don’t pick fights online.
Never pretend to be someone else. Tracking tools enable supposedly anonymous posts to be traced back to their authors.
 While you should be honest about yourself, don’t provide personal information that scam artists or identity thieves could use. Don’t list your home address or telephone number. It is a good idea to create a separate e-mail address that is used only with social media sites.
If the content of your message would not be acceptable for face- to-face conversation, over the telephone, or in another medium, it  will not be acceptable for a social networking site. Ask yourself, would I want to see this published in the newspaper or posted on a billboard tomorrow or ten years from now?
Don’t use ethnic slurs, personal insults, obscenity, or engage in any conduct that could result in professional, civil or criminal discipline. You should also show proper consideration for others’ privacy and for topics that may be considered sensitive—such as politics and religion.
Most people who maintain social media sites welcome comments— it builds credibility and community. However, you may be able to set your site so that you can review and approve comments before they appear. This allows you to respond in a timely way to comments. It also allows you to delete spam comments and to block any individuals who repeatedly post offensive or frivolous comments.

Social Media Guidelines When Posting on Behalf of the University of Alaska

Online collaboration tools provide low-cost communication methods which foster open exchanges and learning. While social media tools are changing the way we work and how we connect with the public and other higher education institutions, the University of Alaska policies and practices for sharing information remain the same. In addition to the general guidelines discussed above, when you are creating or posting to a social media site on behalf of UA you need to:

Any messages that might act as the “voice” or position of the university or a school/college/unit must be approved by the university or the director of the school/college/unit or their delegate. If you are unsure, contact your local marketing department.
Make sure that you have all the facts before you post. It’s better to verify information with a source first than to have to post a correction or retraction later. Cite and link to your sources whenever possible - that’s how you build community.
 If you participate in or maintain a social media site on behalf of the university, clearly state your role and goals. Keep in mind that if you are posting with a university username, title or email, other users do not know you personally. They view what you post as coming from the university. Be careful and be respectful. What you say directly reflects on the university. Discuss with your supervisor the circumstances in which you are empowered to respond directly to users and when you may need approval.
 Assign an administrator who can regularly monitor postings and content. Aim for standard times for postings and updates. The recommended minimum frequency is once to twice a week. But be sure not to overload your updates. Followers will stop paying attention if you overload them with information.
 What you write is ultimately your responsibility. Participation in social computing on behalf of UA is not a right but an opportunity, so please treat it seriously  and with respect. If you want to participate on behalf of the university, be sure to abide by its standard practice guidelines.
 Users are free to discuss topics and disagree with one another, but please be respectful of others’ opinions. You are more likely to achieve your goals if you are constructive and respectful while discussing a bad experience or disagreeing with a concept or person.
 If you join a social network like a Facebook group or comment on someone’s blog, make sure you are contributing valuable insights. Post information about topics like UA events or a book you’ve authored only when you are sure it will be of interest to readers. In some forums, self-promoting behavior is viewed negatively and can lead to you being banned from websites or groups.
 If you have any questions about whether it is appropriate to write about certain kinds of material in your role as a UA employee, ask your supervisor before you post.
If you create a social media site on behalf of the university, use simple graphics that represent your University brand. The UA Office of Public Affairs can provide guidance with graphics and design as can your local campus marketing department. The identity guidelines website provides information on logo permissions and standards.


Sources: The best practices outlined above were compiled, with permission, from the University of Michigan, Office of the Vice President for Communications as well as referenced sources from within the University of Alaska.

Safety & Privacy Tips for Social Media Networking

 The Internet is open to a worldwide audience. When using social media channels, ask yourself:

  1. Did I set my privacy setting to help control who can look at my profile, personal information and photos? You can limit access somewhat but not completely, and you have no control over what someone else may share.
  2. How much information do I want strangers to know about me? If I give them my cell phone number, address, email, class schedule, a list of possessions (such as my CD collection) how might they use it? With whom will they share it? Not everyone will respect your personal or physical space. 
  3. Is the image I’m projecting by my materials and photos the one I want my current and future friends to know me by? What does my profile say to potential faculty members/advisors? Future graduate school/internship interviewers? Potential employers? Neighbors? Family? Parents? Which doors am I opening and which am I closing?
  4. What if I change my mind about what I post? For instance, what if I want to remove something I posted as a joke or to make a point? Have I read the social networking site’s privacy and caching statements? Removing material from network caches can be difficult. Posted material can remain accessible on the Internet until you’ve completed the prescribed process for removing information from the caching technology of one or multiple (potentially unknown) search engines.
  5. Have I asked permission to post someone else’s image or information? Am I infringing on their privacy? Could I be hurting someone? Could I be subject to libel suits? Am I violating network use policies, HIPAA or FERPA privacy rules?
  6. Does my equipment have spyware and virus protections installed? Some sites collect profile information to SPAM you. Others contain links that can infect your equipment with viruses that potentially can destroy data and infect others with whom you communicate. Remember to back up your work on an external source in case of destructive attacks.