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:
- What are your department’s goals? What does success look like?
- Who is your target audience? What do you want them to do?
- 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.
- What social networks will be the best choice, considering your responses to questions 1-3?
- What type of content will you share?
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 “_”.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- Facebook. Facebook is effective for connecting groups with common backgrounds or interests, such as alumni groups. To keep your community engaged, make your pages active through wall posts, photos, and multimedia.
- Google+. Organize your friends into Circles, participate in group video chats called Google Hangouts, and post or repost content.
- Instagram. This increasingly popular social network allows users to post photos and video. Often this content is reposted to other social networks as well, especially to Facebook, which acquired Instagram.
- LinkedIn. Users join LinkedIn to feature their resumes, join alumni and interest groups, connect with others on a professional level, and follow thought leaders and participate in discussions.
- Twitter. Posts on Twitter are limited to 140 characters each. This allows users to share short, relevant updates, retweet others, and link to longer content on websites.
- YouTube. Post 60-second clips or longer lectures as video content on YouTube. YouTube videos can be embedded on websites and shared via other social networks.
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.
- Always begin with MIT when creating a name for your Facebook page, Twitter page, or blog: MIT School of Science, MIT Media Lab.
- Use of the MIT logo is reserved for MIT’s institutional pages. Departments should not use the MIT logo as their profile image. They may, however, overlay the MIT logo on the corner of cover photos and backgrounds. Departments, schools, or labs should use their official logo or an iconic photo or image that is representative of the organization. See the Social Media section of MIT’s Graphic Identity website for guidance.
- Follow all MIT identity guidelines. If you have questions, contact CPS.
- Follow MIT’s policies and procedures regarding copyright, privacy, and sharing of information.
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.
- Do you moderate comments?
- Do you respond to every mention or just those that suit certain criteria?
- What will your response time be?
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:
- MIT ‹your organization name› has created this page to provide a format for discussion about news and events related to ‹subject matter›.
- MIT ‹your organization name> reserves the right to remove any content that is deemed, in our sole view, commercial, harmful, inappropriate, erroneous, harassing, libelous, threatening, discriminatory, or wildly off-topic.
- MIT ‹your organization name› reserves the right to remove you from the community/block you from posting after the second offense.
- MIT ‹your organization name› is not responsible for the content posted by others on this page; please note that community-contributed content is the opinion of the specific author and does not necessarily represent the opinions of MIT ‹your organization name›.
- Thank you for your presence and comments and for your role in creating a safe and dynamic environment for our online community.
For a Facebook page, you could add:
- MIT ‹your organization name› abides by Facebook’s Terms and Conditions and asks you to do the same while in this community.
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.
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 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.
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.
- First, review your general communications strategy and focus on the end results you want.
- Be specific. Quantitative goals may include:
- 75 more participants in annual giving this year
- 20% more applicants
- 150 people at our next five events
- Qualitative goals may include:
- Better-quality applicants
- Increased number of international applicants
- Program seen as a thought leader in the field
- Alumni feel more positive about the department
- Be specific. Quantitative goals may include:
- Determine the social media metrics that reflect your goals. For example, do you want more people to apply to your program? If so, the number of followers won’t matter as much as how many clicks you got on your application page URL that was shared on a series of posts.
- Use tools to help you aggregate and analyze your data. Some social networks provide data for download, like Facebook Insights. Other networks can be analyzed more easily with third-party tools.
- Evaluate and adjust your tactics.
- Is your social media activity focused on improving the metrics that matter?
- Does your content promote engagement? What types of content are working best?
- What types of content are the least successful?
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:
- Learn of trends and innovative approaches by following social media blogs, joining interest groups, and sharing information with peers.
- Read the MIT Connect Ideas blog.
- Peruse the websites and mobile apps of other universities. If something interests you, contact that department to inquire about their approach.
- Schedule a meeting with Stephanie Hatch Leishman, MIT’s social media specialist. This is a free service for MIT staff and faculty.
- As you gain new insights, consider how to incorporate them into your social media strategy. At a minimum, note trends and technologies you should follow.
- Change is inevitable—learn to be agile. Be willing to consider how new approaches fit into your overall strategy.
- If you want to explore a particular approach but have reservations, consider testing concepts and tools on a small scale and refine your overall strategy based on the outcome.