Social media policy for employees

The University of Exeter recognises and embraces the benefits and opportunities that social media can bring as a tool.  For the purposes of this policy, social media is defined as a type of interactive online media or app that allows parties to communicate instantly with each other or to share data in a public forum.  This includes online social forums, anonymous apps, blogs, video-and image-sharing apps and websites and similar facilities.  It can be used to share news, information and successes, keep staff and students up to date with important developments and promote healthy academic debate about controversial subjects and areas of research.

There is, however, an inherent risk involved in using social media, in that, it is an instantaneous and far reaching form of communication and inappropriate use can impact upon staff, students and the reputation of the University.

The University encourages employees to engage, collaborate and innovate through social media; however, wherever and whenever the employee does this, they must be aware of the potential impact on both themselves and the University.

Purpose of policy

This policy is intended to minimise the risks of social media which can impact on the wellbeing of students and staff and the reputation of the University, so that students and staff can enjoy the benefits of social networking whilst understanding the standards of conduct expected by the University.

Who does this apply to?

This policy relates to all employees who create or contribute to blogs, wikis, social networks, apps, forums, virtual worlds, or any other kind of social media. It should be applied to all use and all forms of social media where there is potential impact on the University, whether for work-related or personal use, whether during working hours or otherwise, whether social media is accessed using the University’s IT facilities and equipment, or equipment belongs to members of staff or any other third party.

Principles

  • Employees should comment within their own area of expertise to provide unique, individual perspectives on non-confidential activities at the University.
  • Employees should never represent themselves or the University in a false or misleading way. All statements must be true and not misleading; all claims must be substantiated.
  • Use common sense and common courtesy. Employees should ask permission to publish or report conversations that are meant to be private or internal to the University. The University’s privacy, confidentiality and legal guidelines for external communication should not be violated by an employee’s efforts to be transparent.
  • Where employees access social media for work-related purposes or personal use using the University’s IT facilities and equipment, the University’s IT regulations will apply.
  • Employees should seek guidance before participating in social media when the topic being discussed may be considered sensitive (e.g. a crisis situation, intellectual property, issues which may impact on the University’s reputation, commercially sensitive material). Social media activity around sensitive topics should be referred to the Social Media Manager, Communications and Marketing.
  • If an employee’s use of social media is considered to be derogatory, discriminatory, bullying, threatening, defamatory, offensive, intimidating, harassing, creating legal liability for the University, bringing the University into disrepute or breaching the Dignity and Respect policy or any other University policy or procedure (this may include comments, videos, or photographs, which have been posted on social media sites about the University, students, work colleagues or managers) then the University may take action under the staff disciplinary procedure.
  • An employee should not engage in illegal activity through social media or engage in any activity that promotes terrorism.  The very fact of possessing or disseminating terrorist material may be sufficient to warrant an investigation by the police and an employee would be put in the position of having to advance a credible defence.  Further information can be found in The Code of Conduct for downloading materials relating to Terrorism (IT regulations below).
  • The University’s response to any misuse of social media in a personal capacity will be reasonable and proportionate to the perceived offence; the nature of the postings/comments made and the impact or potential impact on the University.
  • Social networking sites may be referred to when investigating possible misconduct/gross misconduct.
  • The University may require employees to remove social media postings which are deemed to constitute a breach of these standards and failure to comply with such a request may, in itself, result in disciplinary action.

Responsibilities

Employees should be transparent and state that they work for the University of Exeter if they are posting about the University. If you are writing about the University or a competitor, use your real name, identify that you work for the University, and be clear about your role. The University discourages employees from posting online or via apps anonymously or using pseudonyms. You should never impersonate another individual.

Line managers are responsible for addressing any concerns and/or questions arising out of the use of social media.

Employees are responsible for their words and actions in an online environment or via apps and are therefore advised to consider whether any comment, photograph or video they are about to post on a social networking site or app, is something that they would want students, colleagues and other employees of the University, their manager or people outside the University to read.

Communications and Marketing are responsible for giving specialist advice on the use of social media for University business.

Further guidance and advice

Further guidance for managers and employees can be found at:

Speak to the Social Media Manager, Communications and Marketing for specific advice and guidance.