According to one recent article, 72% of all internet users are active on social media, with 18-29 year olds having an 89% usage.
It is no wonder then that learning providers are following suit and adopting these forums in everyday practice. At the same time, colleges and universities need to recognise the various challenges this poses: getting consistency across the institution, regulating practice to provide clear boundaries for staff and minimising risks of legal and reputational damage due to misuse.
We have produced specific resources designed to help institutions manage the use of social media effectively. Our top tips are:
1. Have a clear strategy in place
Social media use may be driven by a range of different roles. A learning provider must make clear its approach to the use of social media depending on risk appetite. Addressing risk, control and authority issues head-on helps protect an institution from liability and prevents uncertainty and confusion for staff, leading to fewer mistakes.
2. Make someone responsible for social media use
It is necessary to have clear lines of responsibility for social media use within your college or university. Ideally this should be someone who not only has expertise in this area but who is also able to provide support and implement the strategy across the institution. One of their duties, for example, could be to carry out consultations and training with staff.
3. Write a social media policy that is fit for purpose
A policy will help mitigate risk. It should reflect an agreed strategy and provide the dos and don’ts of how social media are to be used in practice. The policy should, for example, clarify where professional responsibility ends and the private person begins.
It should also address areas of liability such as defamation, harassment, intellectual property, security, e-safety and use of personal information with clear and consistent procedures when dealing with an incident. Our policy template for staff (Word docx) is a useful starting point.
4. Share good practice
Providing opportunities for feedback and review, such as via a social media group, will inform practice and take account of emerging technologies and web-based resources. Put a planned programme of appropriate training and dissemination in place prior to adoption.
This article originally featured in issue 40 of Jisc Inform (via the Wayback Machine).