Social Media is one of the primary tools the Office of Public Affairs uses to tell the university’s story. Use of social media is beneficial to inform and engage the University of Southern Maine’s internal and external audiences, including students, faculty and staff, in addition to reporters and other media representatives, community and corporate partners, legislators and more.
In accordance with the policies of each varying social media platform (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.), the Social Media Compliance Policy was drafted to inform USM social media communicators and followers of the proper use of the university’s social media channels. It is designed to protect the integrity of the university’s social media communications and ensure healthy and respectful dialogue among all users.
All University of Southern Maine (USM) employees designated as social media communicators must read the Social Media Compliance Policy in full. However, key takeaways from the policy are listed below:
- All officially-branded university social media accounts must be approved by the Office of Public Affairs, and all potential administrators must meet with the Office of Public Affairs prior to creating an account (Section III).
- The university’s social media manager and director of communications must be added as administrators on all approved social media pages (Section III).
- All accounts must adhere to the university’s social media brand standards (Section IV).
- All administrators are representing the university and its president, the University of Maine System and the chancellor of the system at all times (Section VI).
- Privacy concerns are of the utmost importance and all policies regarding privacy must be followed at all times (Section IX).
USM Social Media Compliance Policy (Revised Spring 2019)
Social media refers to online tools and services that allow users to create, publish and share content, and to engage with other users.
The scope of social media goes beyond the most-used platforms, such as Facebook, but extend into many online modes of communication. Examples of social media include, but are not limited to:
- Social networking sites (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn)
- Video and photo sharing websites (YouTube, Vimeo, Instagram, Flickr)
- Blogging sites (Blogger, Wordpress, Tumblr, university blogs, etc.)
- Forums and discussion boards (Quora, Reddit), news article comments and online encyclopedias (Wikipedia)
- Mobile phone applications (Snapchat, Instagram, Buzzfeed)
- Recommendation and lifestyle websites (Pinterest, Yelp, Foursquare)
- Websites, apps or platforms with similar functions
Social Media is an important form of two-way communication. The University of Southern Maine uses social media to promote the university and, more importantly, to engage our audiences — including prospective students, existing students, alumni, corporate partners, donors, community members and the news media.
Experienced staff in USM's Office of Public Affairs manage the USM official social media accounts — primarily USM Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but also LinkedIn, Snapchat and YouTube. In addition to posts we create, we monitor these feeds throughout the day to address any issues or respond to any posts or queries as needed. Social media requires a consistent and significant time commitment to be successful, with page managers investing at least several hours per day for optimum results.
Our goal is to ensure that USM's communications through social media are as consistent, accurate and timely as possible across all platforms. Misuse of social media can have a detrimental impact on our university.
USM's Office of Public Affairs will continuously review our strategies and best practices for using social media. Since social media is evolving rapidly, the USM Social Media Compliance Policy is a document that will evolve over time.
USM Primary Social Media Accounts
The University of Southern Maine has identified primary social media accounts that tie directly to our communication and marketing objectives to engage our audiences, increase enrollment and raise the profile of USM.
The USM community can contribute to a successful social media effort and reach a broader audience by submitting news, events and other information to the Office of Public Affairs for the USM official Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts. To request social media (or other) news sharing, use the Submit Your News page on the Public Affairs website and fill the form out completely with a full description, photograph or video, and link.
To serve the purpose of enhancing the reputation of USM, in most cases we focus our social media sharing on content related to both the President’s Nine Goals and the Four Pillars outlined in the university’s Vision 2028 Plan — content that is timely, highlights student and/or faculty achievements and/or engagement with our communities.
Additionally, as a student-centered and community-engaged university, we base communications around the university’s mission to be Student Focused Every Day. This revolves around the four values of Respect & Care, Integrity, Equity and Responsiveness.
This includes showcasing USM as an environment that focuses on relationships between students and their faculty members, advisors, coaches, community partners and so on; highlighting a future-forward, globally-focused curriculum; demonstrating the integration and importance of learning and work; and showcasing a mission of service and citizenship.
We do not post advertisements, promotional material or information for non-USM events. See more in “Sec. VII. Policies for Promotions, Endorsements and Solicitations.”
Sharing Department News
The Office of Public Affairs also encourages university departments, programs and non-student organizations to post on their own existing social media accounts (see more in “Social Media Account Administration”) — especially in sharing department/program-specific content to reach those audiences. The Office of Public Affairs can share posts from these secondary social media accounts in an effort to increase visibility of affiliated accounts.
The primary purpose of social media is to engage an audience. If departmental accounts are not being effectively utilized, remain stagnant or do not adhere to the USM brand (Section IV), the Office of Public Affairs will work with page administrators to devise strategies to enhance their presence or help them determine if they wish to move forward with the account or not.
The Office of Public Affairs will oversee the strategy of USM’s primary social media presence (see Section II). All university-affiliated social media accounts must be approved by the Office of Public Affairs. Requests for university social media accounts must be submitted in writing to the Office of Public Affairs prior to account creation, via the Social Media Account Request Form.
All social media accounts acting on behalf of USM must include the university’s social media manager and director of communications as administrators on their page. This is in place in case of emergencies, for when the regular page administrator needs assistance or to serve as a bridge during times of page administrator transition.
Any entity or person creating a social media presence that represents and acts on behalf of USM must clearly identify itself as such. Administrator roles for a specific college, department or administrative office must be held by a full-time, regular staff or faculty member. USM students may not be made administrators on any page; however, they may be given “Editor” status.
Social media feeds bring with them a host of issues around oversight, timeliness, responsiveness and so on. As such, departments, programs and organizations at USM should consider these issues carefully before pursuing new social media endeavors. Consider using existing accounts when possible, rather than creating new accounts and building a following from scratch (this is particularly true for smaller departments or majors).
Prior to creating a new account, all potential account administrators must meet with the university’s social media manager to discuss social media goals, strategy, branding and the setup process.
The Office of Public Affairs reserves the right to deny a request for a new social media account if it is determined another strategy would be more effective, or if a similar account exists which may be utilized.
By creating a social media presence, your office is committing to post on a regular, consistent basis and to monitor the page daily for comments, questions or additional requests. The Office of Public Affairs reserves the right, at its discretion, to remove or temporarily unpublish social media accounts that have been inactive for more than six (6) months.
Detailed guidelines and information on each social media platform may be found in the Social Media Toolkit.
If you are managing a USM social media account for your office, school or college, you must follow the USM brand standards to maintain a consistent brand and voice in your social media presence. Social media accounts who do not follow these brand standards will not be viewed as official pages.
Official USM social media profile picture for department, organization or program pages:
Please select the image or download to obtain the graphic. It must be used when establishing a new USM-affiliated social media profile. For more information in general on USM's brand standards, please view the USM Style Guide.
Social media is a platform for engagement. As such, accounts should remain professional yet conversational. On social platforms, we encourage people to use a more welcoming, lively, friendly and positive tone in their posts, and particularly when responding to direct messages.
Followers of USM social media may include existing students, staff, faculty, prospective students and their parents or guardians, guidance counselors, community members and corporate partners. The policy for USM followers, titled USM House Rules, is posted in a tab on the primary USM official Facebook account defined in Section II.
Policy for USM Followers
The University of Southern Maine welcomes and encourages you to engage with USM in social media. We monitor the official USM Facebook, Twitter and Instagram platforms daily in order to answer any questions or correct factually inaccurate statements. We promote healthy and respectful dialogue, including disagreements, but not personal attacks or language that can be considered offensive, vile, or threatening to a person or group of people.
Comments posted by followers do not represent the opinions of USM. Please review the USM Social Media Compliance Policy in its entirety.
Please review the USM Social Media Policy in its entirety.
The University of Southern Maine recognizes the importance of social media as an influential communication tool. Social media channels created on behalf of the university are intended to support the mission and goals of USM. Therefore, USM faculty, staff and administration — as well as the broader USM community — must understand they are representing the University of Southern Maine at all times when using official/approved social media channels.
USM Faculty, Staff, and Administration:
You are representing USM: When posting on social media as part of your job, please remember you are representing not only your department or program, but also the university as a whole, including the President, as well as the entire University of Maine System and the Chancellor at all times.
This policy is not intended to govern personal social media use; however, as a representative of the university, exercise discretion when posting to your personal social media channels.
Be respectful: Retain dignity and civility. Maintain a professional and respectful tone, and encourage feedback and two-way communication. We welcome differing opinions and ask that posters respect differing opinions from others. Encourage others to be respectful as well. Keeping a good outlook will serve as a positive model for others.
Be accurate: Think before you post. Make sure you have all the facts first and think about what you want to say. It might be helpful to remember that anything posted on the Internet is public and lasts forever. Even if you delete a post, archival systems may save this information.
In addition to having all of the facts, be sure to check your grammar and spelling carefully. Give yourself enough time to review your comments before posting. Remember that you are representing the University of Southern Maine.
Maintain confidentiality: Do not post confidential or proprietary information about the University of Southern Maine, its students, its alumni or your fellow employees. Use good ethical judgment and follow university policies and federal requirements, such as FERPA (See section IX. Privacy).
Be mindful of copyright laws: Show proper respect for the laws governing copyright and fair use of copyrighted material owned by others.
If you receive media inquiries about USM, Contact the Office of Public Affairs.
Respond to negative feedback: Administrators should respond to all posts in a timely manner, but it is crucial to respond quickly, appropriately and respectfully to negative feedback. Always respond when a comment is erroneous by making a tactful and respectful correction. Try to turn negatives to positives and think of negative feedback as a way to improve service. Contact USM's social media staff within the Office of Public Affairs if you need assistance.
Vulgar/illegal comments or SPAM: If followers post comments that violate the law or University of Maine System Policy; contain advertisements, SPAM, or other solicitation; contain personal attacks or language that can be considered offensive, vile, or threatening to a person or group of people, remove the comment or post, or simply do not respond to the comment, depending on which social media platform is used and the functionality of the platform.
If you receive a comment that violates state or federal law or University of Maine System Policy, please promptly contact USM's social media staff within the Office of Public Affairs. If you see or receive comments that perceive to be threatening or harmful, either to oneself or others, contact USM Public Safety.
Promotions include "sweepstakes,” “giveaways” or "raffles" (winner is selected based on chance) and "contests" or "competitions" (winner is judged based on specific criteria or skill). The university will occasionally host a promotion on its Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts in efforts to engage our core audiences.
Facebook has very strict promotion guidelines about using their platform. Read Facebook’s policies for promotions. The university allows affiliated accounts to host such promotions, but all contests that you plan to promote using a USM Facebook Page must be approved by the Office of Public Affairs.
Facebook allows page managers to pay to “boost” their posts. This turns that post into an advertisement, therefore reaching a broader audience. USM social media page administrators are allowed to boost posts to reach more users as long as the post doesn’t mimic a current university advertisement or detract attention from ads the university has already placed on social media.
Please contact the Office of Public Affairs if you wish to boost a post for any reason.
We encourage you to use social media to share information about your work at USM. However, posting advertising, solicitation or overtly favorable acknowledgements or endorsements of third-party products and services on USM-affiliated accounts is not permitted.
Commercial or financial solicitations are not allowed on any USM-affiliated account, with the exception of fundraising purposes.
Anyone interacting in USM Social Media is required to follow this policy. The University of Southern Maine will not tolerate content that infringes on proprietary information, or that is defamatory, obscene, harassing, or that otherwise violates law or University of Maine System Policy. Those violating this policy may be brought to the appropriate governing body for disciplinary or legal action.
For related USM policies, please refer to the following:
- Student Conduct
- Faculty Handbook
- University of Maine System Policy
- UMS Board of Trustees Policy Manual Section 214 — Institutional Authority on Political Matters
- Acceptable Use of Information Resources Policy
Great caution should be taken so as to not to reveal confidential or proprietary information about USM students, employees or alumni. All USM social media communicators are subject to FERPA, HIPAA, and other laws mandating the nondisclosure of personal information.
FERPA: The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) is a federal law designed to protect the privacy of a student's educational records. Under FERPA, directory information may be publicly shared by the University, unless the student specifically requests that directory information not be released.
- FERPA rights apply to anyone who is currently or was ever enrolled for classes at and attended USM. FERPA coverage begins on the first day of the first term for which students have enrolled for classes. Read more about FERPA at USM.
HIPAA: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) protects patients' medical records and other health information provided to health plans, doctors, hospitals and other health care providers. Read more about HIPAA at USM.
Mandatory Reporting: Under Title IX, the Clery Act, and University of Maine System policy, all reports or disclosures of sexual harassment, sexual assault, intimate partner violence, or stalking will be reported to the institution's Title IX Coordinator or Deputy Coordinator — this includes if/when such reports or disclosures occur on social media.
University employees are mandated reporters unless they have the privilege of confidentiality as licensed health care providers or counselors (licensed therapeutic or pastoral).
Student Photography Permissions
At large public events, or in public spaces (such as at Commencement, or a basketball game), there is no expectation of privacy. However, it’s always best if possible to give notice that you are taking a photo — either by a posted sign (see below), by asking permission of a group, or by making it obvious you’re taking a photo so individuals can elect to remove themselves from the photo.
When taking an image focusing on a individual or small group, it’s best to have them sign the Photo and Video Release Form. For images that will be used to market the university on the website or in various printed materials and publications, the Office of Marketing and Brand Management requires the signed release form or they may not use the image.
Departments should be encouraged to have their students sign the form (the School of Music and Athletics do this). Finally, high school students or younger must have their parents sign the form, or provide proof of photo permission from their schools.
If someone contacts you asking to remove their image from social media feeds or the website, you should do it as soon as possible.
Photography for Large Events
For events at which large numbers of people will be present — such as a lecture or reception — it is recommended hosts provide signage stating that photos and videos will be taken, with wording for such signage as follows:
“There will be a photographer on location to take photos of this event, including attendees, which may be used to promote the university in the future. If you wish to not have your photo taken, please let the photographer know.”
If it is possible to do so, offer a “no photography” section at the event that the photographer will know to avoid.