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Social media policy

1. Introduction

1.1. St Mary’s University (the ‘University’) recognises the benefits and opportunities that social media can bring. It can be used to share news, information and successes, publicise research, keep staff and students up to date with important developments and promote healthy academic debate about subjects and areas of research and teaching.

1.2. The purpose of the St Mary’s University Social Media Policy is to govern, inform good practice, support and protect staff and students, while at the same time protect the reputation of the University.

1.3. This policy seeks to enable the University to provide a working environment in which all employees feel safe, informed and equipped to engage in innovative use of social media as part of University activities.

1.4. Due to the pace of change inherent in the nature of social media technology and practice, this policy will be reviewed every 12 months by the Communications and Marketing Team in conjunction with other relevant departments.

1.5. This policy focuses on Social Media but should be viewed in conjunction with the St Mary’s University IT Policy.

2. Scope

2.1. This policy covers social media activity undertaken by University employees, students and third parties for both business and personal use, whether during office hours or otherwise where such activity impacts upon the reputational, ethical and legal standards of the University. This policy also applies regardless of whether social media is accessed via a personal or University device.

2.2. The policy applies to social media communications made at any time, in any language, whether privately or publicly, including outside of normal working hours, and from anywhere, including away from campus, whether to an individual, to a limited group or to the world.

2.3. This policy does not form part of any contract of employment and may be amended at any time.

3. Definitions

3.1. Social media is commonly defined as websites, online platforms and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking. Social media in the context of this policy includes, but is not limited to, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Pinterest, Tumblr, WhatsApp and blogs. This also includes any website or application that allows public commentary or posting, including forums, review sites, user generated content, instant messages, anonymous posting or published commentary.

4. Roles and responsibilities

4.1. All staff are responsible for:

  • Reading and taking the time to ensure that they understand this policy;
  • Ensuring that any use of social media (professionally and personally) is carried out in line with this and other relevant policies, including the IT Policy;
  • Completing any relevant training as required (e.g. Data Protection);
  • Ensuring that relevant guidelines are followed;
  • Reporting any incidents or concerns regarding social media use to any one of the following: manager, Marketing and Communications Directorate and or HR;
  • Ensuring that profile disclaimers are used to state that all views expressed are those of the individual and not representative as views of the University.

4.2. All managers are responsible for:

  • Reporting and escalating any incidents or concerns regarding social media as appropriate;
  • Authorising University-relating social media posts where designated;
  • Completing relevant training as required, as well as ensuring that their staff are appropriately trained where required, and
  • Addressing any issues of misuse of social media by those staff for whom they are responsible.

4.3. All University-branded social media account owners are responsible for:

  • Completing any relevant training as required;
  • Operating accounts appropriately, and in accordance with this policy and relevant guidelines;
  • Seeking relevant authorisation for official University posts where required;
  • Putting in place appropriate security on accounts including password management;
  • Ensuring that accounts have up to date content;
  • Responding to comments;
  • Closing down unused accounts;
  • Ensure active hours are clearly communicated/visable.

5. General Principles

5.1. The University recognises that staff have a general freedom to express their views and opinions, and from time to time these may include views that are in conflict to those of the University.

5.2. This policy is not intended to interfere with lawful freedom of speech as set out in the University Code of Practice on Freedom of Speech.

5.3. All communications on social media must be made in accordance with this policy.

5.4. Staff are personally responsible for what they communicate on or through social media and they must adhere to the standards of behaviour set out in this policy and any related policies.

5.5. Staff have a responsibility to represent the University accurately and fairly in any online space and are expected to uphold the values of the University.

5.6. Staff, students and third parties are encouraged to be mindful of posting and references within their social media profiles that identify them as being affiliated to the University.

5.7. Use of social media must not infringe the rights, or privacy, of staff, students and third parties.

5.8. Staff should be aware of usage restrictions set out in the University's IT Policy. The University requests that social media usage for activities not linked to academic purposes is kept reasonable and limited during working hours to avoid disruption or distraction to the University working and learning environment.

5.9. Any media interest resulting from the online activity of all staff, students, academics or third parties associated with the University should be coordinated in partnership with the Director of Communications, Public Relations and Marketing and University media procedures.

6. Using social media as a teaching and learning tool

6.1. The University recognises that social learning tools (like Whatsapp and Facebook) are increasingly being used as a teaching resource to enhance and develop the curriculum and respond to learner expectations. It is not the intention of this policy to limit such innovation but to ensure that where social media is used for these purposes it is done so appropriately and professionally.

6.2. Staff must consider accessibility and data protection issues before developing content for learners on social media (for example students who are in witness protection may not have social media accounts) and must comply with student and national data protection legislation.

6.3. The University has a number of teaching and learning platforms which should be used as a primary communications tool. For further guidance please contact TEL.

7. University- related social media use

7.1. Staff who wish to set up or continue to use a social media account which appears to represent the University should seek prior approval from the Director of Marketing and Communications. Approval will be given at the discretion of the University.

7.2. Staff who wish to set up a social media account must follow the guidance set out in the ‘Procedure for Setting Up and Managing a University Social Media Account’ document, which is available on the Marketing webpages.

7.3. To protect and strengthen the University brand and ensure key audiences experience positive interaction with the University on social media, all requests for new University social media accounts are to be submitted to and approved by the Director of Communications, Public Relations and Marketing. Upon approval account owners will be advised on how to ensure activity adheres to security and brand guidelines. This advice will be provided by the Helpdesk and User Services Manager.

7.4. All owners of University social media accounts, as defined under section 3.1, should ensure up-to-date log-in details are held centrally by IT [User Services Manager]. This is to ensure accounts can be accessed, even when account owners leave St Mary’s University. Passwords will be updated on a regular basis by IT, and the account owner will be notified.

8. Use of Personal social media accounts

8.1. The University acknowledges that its staff may use social media in their personal lives and for personal communications. Personal communications are those made on, or from, a personal social media account unrelated to working or studying at the University. The use of personal social media is subject to this policy.

8.2. This includes sharing or commenting on professional related content not necessarily directly related to the University – for example this could relate to LinkedIn or Twitter

8.3. When using social media in a personal context, staff are still expected to uphold University values, the University’s Mission, respect other employees, students and stakeholders, and protect the confidentiality, privacy and security.

8.4. When expressing personal views, staff should make it clear where necessary that they are not communicating the views of the University, nor do anything that might reasonably create the impression that they are communicating on behalf of the University.

8.5. Staff are reminded that other members of staff and/or student may see their activity of social media.

8.6. St Mary’s social media team will not seek to actively monitor or moderate the social media activity of individual’s personal accounts, but will act on any public postings deemed inappropriate by the Director of Communications, Marketing and Public Relations and or the Director of HR.

9. Conduct

9.1. Inappropriate conduct and behaviour on social media, includes but is not limited to, behaviour commonly referred to as cyber-bullying or trolling. Cyber-bullying is the use of electronic communication to intimidate, harass or threaten a person, which in some instances could be constituted as ‘Hate Crime’ by:

  • maliciously spreading rumours, lies or gossip;
  • intimidating or aggressive behaviour;
  • offensive or threatening comments or content;
  • posting comments/photos etc. deliberately mocking an individual with the intent to harass or humiliate them;
  • Cyber bullying may also take place via other means of electronic communication such as email, text or instant messaging;
  • Sharing sexulised content

Trolling is defined as creating discord on the internet by starting quarrels or upsetting people by posting inflammatory or off-topic messages in an online community.

9.2. All staff, students and third parties must not post unacceptable content that risks bringing the University into disrepute. Disrepute means any activity that may damage the good name of the University, including but not limited to, libellous or defamatory statements and acts of anti-social behaviour as deemed inappropriate by the Director of Communications, Marketing and Public Relations and or the Director of Human Resources who will instigate an investigation into any allegations of disrepute. Persistent or grossly inappropriate use of internet sites, including social media, that adversely affects the reputation of the University will be deemed an act of gross misconduct and dealt with in accordance with University staff and student disciplinary procedures.

9.3. All staff, students and third parties are reminded that content posted to a social media account that is overtly or indirectly associated with the University will be interpreted as representing the views of the University and its wider community.

9.4. In line with University grievance and disciplinary procedures, the University will intervene in issues relating to social media, where specific activity on social media is presented as an act of misconduct in itself, or where activity on social media is presented as evidence of misconduct.

9.5. If any University staff, students or third parties are found to post defamatory comments or engage in illegal behaviour online, including use that falls within the remit of the Prevent Strategy whether identified as affiliated with the University or under a pseudonym or as part of a group, the issue will be dealt with in accordance with relevant disciplinary and/or dismissal procedures and in certain circumstances the Police may be notified.

9.6. Further examples of content that is considered to be of an unacceptable nature and should not be posted include:

  • Details of internal complaints and/or legal proceedings involving the University and/or any current or former student(s) or staff of the University where such sharing will breach data protection legislation or subvert due process;
  • Personal information about another individual, including contact information without their express permission;
  • Content which includes University trademarks, including logos or the trademarks of third parties, such as those of University stakeholders, without obtaining the necessary permissions from the Marketing and Communications Directorate;
  • Sharing of confidential information about the University, its staff, students, partners and other third parties is not permitted. (Confidential information is defined as information that would be commercially damaging if released into the public domain.) The use of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is governed by GDPR and the University’s Data Protection Policy.

10. Inappropriate Use of Social Media

10.1. Where a breach of this policy is reported, the University will review the circumstances and decide on the most appropriate and proportionate course of action, which may include disciplinary action, following an investigation in accordance with the University Disciplinary Policy and Procedure. Serious breaches of this policy may be considered serious/ gross misconduct.

10.2. Disciplinary action may be taken regardless of whether the breach is committed during working hours or not and regardless of whether any University equipment of facilities are used in committing the breach or not.

10.3. Any member of staff or student who is suspected of committing a breach of this policy will be required to cooperate with any investigation.

10.4. The University may also require staff to remove any social media content that it considers to be a breach of this policy. Failure to do so may result in disciplinary action.

11. Intellectual property

11.1. Staff ensure that they have permission to share any University or third-party owned intellectual property, including but not limited to all images, photographs, text and video, before uploading them to, or linking them via, social media and, where sharing is permitted, should ensure that such materials or shared links are accredited appropriately.

11.2. Staff should be aware that under the terms and conditions of a social media platform, by posting content, ownership rights and control of the content may be transferred to the platform. As such, care should be taken before posting any University or third-party owned intellectual property on social media.

12. Recruitment of Staff

12.1. Social media can provide useful information during recruitment and selection processes, particularly where prospective candidates use social media professionally. Only professional social media platforms may be looked at if the candidate has explicitly mentioned the use of social media in their application by providing a LinkedIn profile for example. Personal or private social media activities of prospective staff will not be looked at as part of the recruitment and selection process.

13. Research

13.1. If social media is being used for research purposes, this must be made explicitly clear.

13.2. If utilising social media as part of a research study or project, all relevant ethical considerations need to be taken into account in line with the Ethical guidelines and Research Integrity policy.

14. Monitoring

14.1. No member of staff is permitted as a matter of routine to monitor or investigate an individual’s use of social media. However, where there are legitimate grounds to suspect unacceptable use, the University may monitor or investigate the use of social media where that information is in the public domain.

14.2. The Marketing and Communications team will monitor social media activity related to University-managed accounts and social media profiles where the University is linked to and/or referenced in the public domain.

14.3. In line with the University IT Policy, while the University does not exercise editorial control over any user-generated content, it reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to remove from its systems any content deemed to be in breach of University policy.

14.4. The Marketing and Communications team may also contact social media platforms to remove content that can be linked to the University, which is deemed unacceptable by the Director of Marketing and Communications and / or the Director of HR.

15. Data Protection

15.1. Data protection legislation applies equally to social media as it does in other contexts. Staff must ensure that all posts comply with relevant data protection legislation and the University’s Data Protection Policy.

15.2. No personal information should be shared on social media without the consent of the individual to whom it relates.

16. Reporting issue

16.1. Where staff are in receipt, or become aware, of offensive or unacceptable content on or through social media, this should be reported to their manager in the first instance. Advice may also be sought from the Comms and Marketing team and or HR.

17. St Mary’s University Brand

17.1. The University logo may be used on official University social media profiles and sites by permission only, and usage should comply with University brand and visual identity guidelines. Such permission should be obtained from the Director of Communications, Marketing and Public Relations.

17.2. It is not permitted to use the University logo on any personal social media or online sites.

17.3. Unauthorised use/unofficial sites?

18. Other Relevant Policies

18.1. This policy should be used in conjunction with other University policies, including but not limited to those listed below. These policies will be invoked in the event that a complaint or concern is escalated via the appropriate grievance and/or disciplinary procedures.

  • IT Policy
  • Equality Diversity Policy Statement and Code of Practice
  • Students’ Union Code of Practice
  • Staff Grievance Procedure
  • Staff Disciplinary and Dismissal Policy and Procedure
  • Staff Welcome
  • Student Disciplinary Procedure
  • Residents Handbook and Terms of Occupancy
  • The Students Complaints Procedure
  • The University Code of Practice on Freedom of Speech
  • The Dignity at Work Policy
  • Ethical Guidelines
  • Research Integrity Policy

Policy details

  • Date Written: September 2019
  • Author: Marketing and Communications
  • Version number: Final Version approved September 2019
  • Person responsible: Director of Communications, Public Relations and Marketing
  • Effective from: 16th September 2019
  • Review date: 1st September 2020

1.1. The University will be responsible for ensuring this policy and any related guidelines are highlighted to staff, students and relevant third parties at induction, training and review opportunities as appropriate.

1.2. Marketing will be responsible for:

  • Approval and setting up of University-official accounts.
    • Marketing will provide support in the form of best-practice advice and feedback to new account holders
  • Monitoring and moderation of University-official accounts (please refer to 3.1)
  • Distribution of social media education and training materials
  • Social media monitoring and ‘crisis-intervention’ under PR and reputation management

1.3. Human Resources will be responsible for:

  • Supporting action by managers relating to staff misconduct on social media applications and platforms.

1.4. The Head of Registry will be responsible for:

  • Taking action relating to student misconduct on social media applications and platforms.

1.5. IT will be responsible for:

  • Central management of University-official social media account log-ins

1.6. The Students’ Union will be responsible for:

  • Bringing the Social Media Policy to the attention of key Students' Union members, including but not limited to, account owners for sports teams, clubs and societies, student reps.