Social Media Policy

by Raymond Poon
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Introduction

Social media have become new ways we communicate with one another - both as an individual and as an institution.  As an individual, by using social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Blogger, Flickr, etc., anyone with an Internet connection now has the ability to create and maintain e-presence on the Internet via web browser or even mobile devices by sharing his/her content instantly with friends and followers around the world.  As an institution, the CityU can provide users and the public with the opportunity of using its social media sites to (i) share teaching/learning/research/administrative experiences among students, faculties, staff, parents, alumni, colleagues, fans and friends, and (ii) leverage their voluntary contributions through it.  While the use of social media can bring the forgoing positive outcome, the imprudent use of the same can also bring negative outcome online such as posting private contents and/or pictures, spreading rumor and threats, harassing and embarrassing others, etc.

Therefore, it is imperative that the CityU, as a public-facing community which is bound to principles like accountability, accessibility, fairness, transparency, etc, needs to establish a reasonable and defendable policy for social media that clearly articulates participants' responsibilities in order to (i) look after their well-being and to help them have a better online
Experience; (ii) ensure their social media engagement on the University’s managed social media sites are aligned with the University’s strategy and values, and (iii) mitigate respective risks that may arise from any of the forgoing negative outcome.  

Other Considerations in Formulating a Social Media Policy

While the content of a social media policy which normally tells the participants what to do and what not to do is important, the following, as part of the process life-cycle for establishing and maintaining an effective social media policy that will not be outpaced by the IT technologies, is equally important as the actual content itself:

  • What is our organization's strategy for social media? 
  • Who will write and revise the social media policy? 
  • How will we vet the social media policy? 
  • How will we inform participants about their responsibilities on social media engagement? 
  • Who will be responsible for guiding or advising employee and student activities on social media? 
  • How will we train managers to coach employees and students on social media use? 
  • What are the responsibilities of departments when setting up their social media sites or applications?
  • What are their responsibilities and liability when someone publishes contents that represent the University or a formal group of the University?
  • How will we use the negative outcome to refine our policy and our training? 

Also we need to consider establishing a process for social media to: 

  • Educate employees and students; 
  • Monitor employees' and students’ activities on social media sites; 
  • Take proper and timely action when social media are misused; 
  • Explain what steps were taken without advance notice and why, and 
  • Re-educate employees and students whenever there are changes in policy.

Progress on the Formulation of the Social Media Policy 

The first draft of the Social Media Handbook, comprising the proposed content of the Social Media Policy and the proposed related process life-cycle needed to be considered, has been forwarded to the members of the Committee of Information Services and Technology for their comments and discussion.  However, due to the complexities of the process life-cycle of the policy, it is expected that the complete Handbook will take quite some time to complete and thus either a concise Social Media Policy or a shortened version of the Handbook will likely be released first probably at the end of this year.