Simply put, social media is "any tool or service that uses the Internet to facilitate conversations."1 When used appropriately and strategically, social media allows people to connect in productive two-way conversations and create a unique online community of engagement and information exchange. While specific social media tools will change and evolve with technological advancements and society's needs, current social media platforms include Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Flickr, Ping, LinkedIn and blogs.
As an institution of higher learning focused on fostering excellence, community interactions and innovation and change, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs encourages its students, faculty and staff to engage in community building and information exchange through the use of social media. The University believes social media offers a unique opportunity to enhance the UCCS community and engage diverse audiences. In this process of engaging, UCCS encourages community members to maximize the potential of social media while maintaining awareness of appropriate use of social media tools.
The following guidelines serve as a resource to help you maximize the benefits of social media for professional and educational experiences without compromising academic, professional or University integrity.
One unique and valued aspect of social media is its community-driven component. To be a valued member of the social media community, you should strive to offer valuable information, listen before engaging, and engage in any differences in a respectful manner. Regardless of the social media tool you utilize, the following guidelines are intended to enhance your experience as a social media community member.
Exhibit Respect for Community Members: To be a valued member of the online community, you should exhibit respect for fellow community members. Differences in opinion can result in valuable conversation, which can lead to learning. To create an environment that fosters productive and mutually-beneficial conversation, obscene, threatening, defamatory, illegal or any conduct that violates UCCS behavioral policies should be avoided. Additionally, show proper consideration for others' privacy, and maintain a high level of respect for others when engaging in topics that may be considered objectionable or inflammatory, such as politics and religion. Think before you post, and consider the effect your comments might have on other members of your community. Whether you are representing the University or your personal being, respectful engagement will elevate your online experience and add value to the conversation.
Engage in Productive Two-Way Conversation: As mentioned, the purpose of social media is to engage in conversation with others through technology. Conversation requires a two-way process of sharing information and listening. The more valuable your information, the more likely people are to listen to what you have to say. And, the more you listen to others, the more you will understand what the community views as valuable information. Be sure to monitor your social media tool on a regular basis and respond to community members regularly. Additionally, link back to sites and posts provided by your community members to reinforce conversation and involvement.
Maintain Transparency and Authenticity: Maintain a high level of transparency and authenticity in your online interactions with others. Avoid hiding your identity. Not only does obscuring your identity negate the value of social media as a community-building tool, it's also nearly impossible to be truly anonymous when using social media due to tracking devices. Always identify yourself, including your name, and when relevant, your role at UCCS. When you discuss UCCS or UCCS-related matters, you should disclose your association with the University. Always write in the first person and make it clear when you are speaking for yourself, rather than on behalf of the institution. Many bloggers will include a disclaimer on their sites, such as "The content of this blog is based on personal opinions and does not reflect the opinions of the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs."
Post Accurate Information: All posts and social media interactions should reflect accurate information. Always cite your sources and give credit where it is due. A benefit of social media is the ability to provide links to support your posts.
Adopt a Code of Ethics: When building a social media site, consider adopting a code of ethics. When developing a community, a code of ethics will let community members know what will and will not be acceptable behavior to exhibit while engaging your community.
Be Aware that Social Media Content is Not Private: Privacy does not exist in social media, so community members must protect their own identities. Do not post any information you wish to remain private, and respect the privacy of others. Material posted online can be cut, copied, pasted and saved by members of the online community and in some cases is used by companies for marketing purposes. Be sure to read all privacy agreements posted by social media sites before engaging in social media use. There may be important information in these agreements indicating how your information can be used.