Draft social media guidelines

EMBL hasn’t really had any social media guidelines for users. As we build our community I’ve been drafting and redrafting advice and guidelines for our staff. These are now ready to start sharing and asking for comment. Do these make sense? Do they answer your questions? Are they too long/too short/too prescriptive? Now is the time to let me know and I invite feedback here and by email or by just stopping me when you next see me.

I also want to make clear that none of the guidelines I’ve written supersede the work done with respect to Staff Rules and Regulations and Internal Policies and I thank Amarata in the EMBL legal team for advising me about this.

Policy

The EMBL Staff Rules and Regulations, particularly 1 3.03-04 and R 1 3.03-05 [EMBL intranet link] and Internal Policy 54 [also intranet] apply to staff members using social media. Please make sure you are familiar with them.

Guidance

These guidelines are designed to help you to make effective use of social media as part of your work at EMBL. We distinguish between the following types of usage:

  1. Private: you work for EMBL, but you use a social media channel in a personal capacity and your link to EMBL is not acknowledged or stated overtly.
  2. Associated: you work for EMBL and while your use of a social media channel is largely personal, you have declared an association with EMBL via that channel (for example in a Twitter bio).
  3. Representative: your use of a social media channel is representative of a part of EMBL, such as a service, department or laboratory.

You do not need to ask permission before starting a private or associated account. If you wish to open a representative account please consult EMBL’s social media manager, Laura Howes. The social media manager can offer you support and guidance.

EMBL’s logo and emblems are protected (see Staff Regulation R 1 3.05) and should not be used without permission.

Use of social media in a private or associated capacity

Some rules of thumb:

  1. Treat social media like a professional or a public space.
  2. Remember that you are representing EMBL.
  3. Consider anything you post as completely public (even if you don’t have a large number of followers).

Use of social media in a representative capacity

Before you start

Know why you are going to engage with social media

Consider the following questions:

  • What do you hope to achieve through your chosen social media platform?
  • Who is your audience?
  • What are you going to talk about?
  • Do you have enough to talk about?
  • What existing conversations are there and how can you contribute to and enhance them?

Don’t just set up an account without knowing why or how you will proceed. You might do better to use an existing EMBL social media account to get your message out.

Be prepared

  • If you’re sure you want to get started then have some content ready for the first few days/weeks – some tweets, some posts, some events, notifications etc. Information should be interesting, relevant and useful (not always all three!).
  • Do you have adequate time to dedicate to this? Social media is an active conversation with your audience. You should be prepared to engage with them.

Your profile

Branding/logos/icons

Do not use the EMBL logo to create your own avatar as these can easily break our style guidelines. The EMBL logo can only be used by certain representative accounts in agreement with the social media manager.
To sit within the brand stick with Helvetica and use an EMBL colour such as #007c82 (petrol) or at EBI #077b7f (blue-green). More extensive brand guidelines are being developed for the organisation and in the meantime if you need some advice contact EMBL’s art director, Tabea Rauscher.

What name and handle will you use?

In many cases this might be straightforward, your department name for example. Depending on the purpose and the platform you may need to think carefully about your name and make sure it’s clear immediately.

Know your platform.

What are you going to use? Twitter, Facebook, College blogs, Google +, LinkedIn…the face of social media continues to evolve and each platform can suit different purposes at different times. Make sure you select an appropriate platform for your target audience.

Try it out yourself.

If you have never used your chosen platform before and are going to be involved in or responsible for the management of an EMBL representative account you should try using it in a personal capacity first. EMBL’s social media manager [me] is also on hand to offer advice.

Posting content

Consider your style. Decide how formal/informal your voice needs to be. For example, you might want to use a conversational style when tweeting and give your tweets a bit of character. However if you are posting a blog about important departmental news then an informational style might be more appropriate. The content should be authentic.

Write right. Write knowledgeably and accurately, and remember your audience: keep the language simple and not pedantic.  Review content for grammatical and spelling errors and ask a friend or colleague to look over a blog post before you publish. Content that is interesting, informative and timely is bound to reach the right audience.

Be prepared to answer questions and monitor comments. Open-ended content invites feedback: a two-way communication exchange allows for a more meaningful conversation. This isn’t always easy. Unanswered questions stick out like a sore thumb. This can become time consuming so make sure you have enough time to dedicate to keeping your social media relationships thriving. Your users may become frustrated if their questions are seemingly ignored.

Don’t ignore negative comments. If someone complains try to answer them positively. Don’t pick fights! Being defensive might invite further complaint and encourage others to join in. Social media can be a very helpful source of feedback.

Keep social networks and customer support distinct. Feedback is useful, but detailed discussions about EMBL services are best handled directly by group members or helpdesks. Direct people to these.

Make sure the information you post is accurate. Don’t make things up because you don’t have time to check. If you do make a mistake try to be the first to correct it.

Don’t break copyright rules. Make sure you have permission to post other people’s content. If you’re posting any EMBL images onto an external site, check that you have permission to do so.

Get rid of irrelevant spam. Use your discretion to remove advertisements, spam, and comments that are hateful, obscene, or defamatory following the EMBL Community Guidelines.

If someone from an external media organisation contacts you about a post on your social media platform, please contact Strategy and Communications for advice and guidance.

Author: Laura Howes

I joined EMBL in December 2013, and on 1 September 2016 I became EMBL's Social Media Manager within the Strategy and Communications team. I'm interested in exploring how social media and external platforms can help us share information effectively and reinforce the strong EMBL community that already exists.

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