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Social Media Guidelines

Communication Production Services

MIT’s social media guidelines provide guidance to staff, faculty, and students who use social media to promote MIT activities, groups, or initiatives. These guidelines do not replace existing MIT policies or procedures, including the MIT Policy on the Use of Information Technology Resources or the MITnet Rules of Use. We invite you to share your ideas to enrich this guide.

Before You Begin | Popular Networks | MIT Branding | How To Respond | Best Practices | Measuring Success | Keep Learning

What is social media?

“Social media” is a term defining websites, applications, or other types of media that are used for social networking. A medium is social if it enables people to interact with each other. This interaction is called social networking, and social media provide a medium in which social networking occurs. Individuals connect with each other in social networks by creating and sharing content, information, and ideas.

Before You Begin

Once you make the decision to integrate social media into your communications plan, we suggest that you answer the following questions before jumping right in:

  1. What are your department’s goals? What does success look like?
  2. Who is your target audience? What do you want them to do?
  3. How much time will you dedicate? Who will do the work? How frequently will you publish, and is your plan sustainable? Don’t start using social media without a plan.
  4. What social networks will be the best choice, considering your responses to questions 1-3?
  5. What type of content will you share?
  6. How will you engage with your audience and promote their interactions? In short, how will you go beyond broadcasting to make your media social? Read Does Your Department Take the ‛Social’ Out of Social Media?

If you need help determining which social networks are best for your department, contact Communication Production Services (CPS). Also consider the following before you start:

  1. Talk to CPS. CPS offers free social media strategy advising. Whether you consider yourself a novice or an advanced social media user, talking with a professional outside your department can give you the perspective you need.
  2. Name. Always identify your account as part of MIT. This will allow users to search for you. “Department of Physics” could belong to any school in the world; there is only one MIT Department of Physics.
  3. Username, handle, and vanity URL. Your username should be very short and should contain “MIT” if possible. For example, the School of Architecture and Planning (SA+P) is known on Twitter as @MITSAP. Try to avoid underscores “_”.
  4. Profile image. Use your department’s logo with a file that is at least 300x300 pixels. If your department does not have a logo, use an iconic image that represents the department. See the Social Media section of MIT’s Graphic Identity website for guidance. If you would like to have a social media profile image created for you free of charge, contact CPS.
  5. Background image. On some social networks, you will need a background image. Do not use any of the default backgrounds provided by the social network.
  6. Privacy and visibility settings. On many social networks, your privacy settings will be set to “public” so anyone can view your content, much like a website. If you are creating a community for one target audience (like alumni), you might choose to set the privacy to “members-only” to preserve the authenticity of the group. Read about visibility choices for Facebook and for LinkedIn.

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Popular Networks

You may choose to register an account for your department on the following social media networks. The networks listed below are commonly used by universities and their departments. There are many other networks that cater to niche audiences; depending on the nature of your department, lab, or center, you may have more success in a niche audience apart from those listed below.

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MIT Branding

Representing the MIT brand

When you post to third-party social media outlets on behalf of MIT, you are representing the MIT brand. Here are some simple guidelines to help you put your best foot forward. If you have specific questions on branding, please contact CPS.

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How To Respond

“The good thing about social media is it gives everyone a voice. The bad thing is … it gives everyone a voice.”Brian Solis

Responding to questionable comments

Social media is characterized by its community-generated content. These conversations often add value. However, on a rare occasion you may need to respond to questionable comments. Creating and posting response guidelines can help you navigate these occasions.

Some considerations:

Respond publicly, but take the discussion to a private space as quickly as possible (e.g.,“We are so sorry you've had a negative experience. Please send your email address so we can help you resolve the issue.”)

You may consider posting a comments policy in the community you’ve created. Here is an example:

Comments policy

For a Facebook page, you could add:

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Best Practices

Be transparent.

MIT promotes transparency. We recommend that you do not blog anonymously or use pseudonyms or false screen names when posting or creating a page on behalf of MIT.

Think carefully when you “friend,” “like,” or “follow.”

Is it an appropriate relationship? Is there a chance for misinterpretation from your audience?

Don’t be in a rush—think before you post.

Consider the content carefully and be cautious about disclosing personal details or making statements that you may regret later.

Encourage conversation.

Do not turn into a one-way broadcaster; this defeats the purpose of social media. Read Does Your Department Take the ‘Social’ Out of Social Media? It is not always advisable to block comments just because they are negative. Use negative comments as an opportunity for discussion. Read more about the Do Not Delete Rule.

Don’t tell secrets.

It is perfectly acceptable to talk about your work and have a dialogue with the community. However, it is not okay to disclose personal, confidential, or proprietary information concerning the Institute or any faculty, staff, or student in any form of media. Sharing this type of information, even unintentionally or in good faith, can result in legal action against you and/or the Institute. Be careful about disclosing information about research in your department. If you are unsure if you may share the details of ongoing research, ask before posting.

Respect the privacy of others.

Respect the privacy of your fellow faculty, staff, and students. Before sharing a comment, post, picture, or video about faculty, staff, or students through any type of social media or network, it is usually best to get their consent. Keep in mind that certain information about individuals is protected by MIT’s privacy policy, and student information is subject to special treatment under FERPA and MIT’s Student Information Policy.

Respect the intellectual property of others.

It is critical that you show proper respect for the laws governing intellectual property, including patent, copyright, trademark, and fair use. MIT has specific policies regarding the use and ownership of intellectual property. Read more about intellectual property, copyright, and Athena rules of use.

When quoting someone else’s work, it is best to only use short excerpts and credit the original author/source. It is good practice to link to others’ work rather than reproduce it. Don't take a screenshot of a tweet and post it on your blog, for example. Instead, embed the tweet.

We live in an electronic age that makes it easy to share and download content, such as music and photos. Remember that laws of the physical world still apply to the electronic world. Just because it’s on the Internet and easy to grab doesn’t mean it’s yours for the taking.

Respect your audience, MIT, and your coworkers.

Members of the MIT community reflect a diverse set of customs, values, and points of view. When speaking on behalf of MIT, don’t be afraid to be yourself, but do so respectfully and with good judgment. When posting on behalf of MIT, it may be best to avoid controversial issues and inflammatory topics. When representing yourself in social media, be clear that the views and opinions expressed are yours alone and do not represent the official views of MIT. Still, your audience may attribute your comments to MIT, so be mindful of how they will reflect on MIT and its reputation. Make sure you understand MIT’s policies on personal conduct, racism, and harassment.

Be the first to respond to your own mistakes.

If you make an error, be up front about your mistake and correct it quickly. If you choose to modify an earlier post, make it clear that you have done so. If someone accuses you of posting something improper, such as their copyrighted material or a defamatory comment about them, deal with it quickly—better to remove it immediately to lessen the possibility of a legal action.

Comply with terms of service of third-party entities.

Most social networking sites have their own rules, policies, and procedures, and you will likely be required to accept their terms of service before you can begin to use them. It’s always good to familiarize yourself with these rules so that you can be sure you are able to comply with them.

Follow MIT’s policies and procedures.

MIT’s Policies and Procedures provide advice to MIT staff, faculty, and students who use social media to promote an MIT event, initiative, or academic program. They are not intended to replace any of MIT’s existing policies and procedures, which prevail over these guidelines.

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Measuring Success

There are no numbers or metrics that are universally more important than others. It totally depends on your goals. To measure success, you must first know your goals and have a vision for what success means to your department. This will be a mix of qualitative and quantitative goals.

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Keep Learning

The future of social media is being redefined every day. You can stay current by keeping informed of broad trends and how they could impact higher education. Consider a few practical tips for keeping informed: