4. Guidelines for Official Use

from the PrISM Best Practices Guide

As the use of social media evolves, more UT Health Science Center schools, departments and groups are exploring how to take advantage of social media to connect with users inside and outside the university.Social media is different from most traditional forms of communication, such as newsletters, brochures and websites, where information is posted or sent to readers as a “one-way” form of communication. Social media is an ongoing conversation that is often less formal that traditional methods of communication, and encourages discussions as wide-ranging as any you’d have with a colleague, a neighbor or a visitor who is seeking information about the Health Science Center.

It’s important to distinguish between:

  • “official use” of social media, such as a Facebook page sponsored by a university department
  • “professional use” of social media, such as a Health Science Center scientist discussing his research in professional circles as an individual under his own name, and
  • “personal use” or an employee Tweeting from his personal Twitter account a funny Youtube video that is unrelated to work.

UT Health Science Center departments and units that decide to establish an “official” social media presence should remember they are opening a new and highly visible communications channel, and therefore have a major responsibility to adhere to university guidelines and policies in those spaces.

The following practices are intended to guide the use of social media for “official” purposes on behalf of the university, such as a Facebook or Twitter account sponsored by a school, division, department or other university-affiliated group.

Social media accounts

  • Consider designating one or more “moderators” to oversee posting and replying to responses on social media sites.
  • Make sure the moderators know exactly whom to contact to help them answer questions that may be posted to the department social media site. The contact person’s job is to be the subject matter expert and to obtain answers for the moderator, as needed.
  • To help coordinate our efforts and amplify each others’ messages, the department should inform the Web Specialist in the Office of External Affairs of the department’s intent to create a social media site and provide a link to the site when it is created.


  • Remember to use “official” social media channels to reflect the university’s mission and values, as well as the goals of the department, division or group.
  • The content should also be aligned with the university’s Handbook of Operating Procedures (HOP). In particular, consider the following HOP sections:
  • Photos – Before using photos of patients and children, a consent form must be signed by the patient or the child’s parents and kept on file.
  • Safety and security — If there are ever any threats to a person’s safety or the security of the campus posted through social media, they should be reported immediately to the university police. Call 9-1-1 from any campus phone or 210-567-8911 from a personal cell phone.
After the site is set up, the designated moderator/s is/are responsible for posting content, regularly checking the site for comments, and responding to comments or questions in a timely manner. This person will become the “voice” of the department through the social media site.Use good judgment and common sense when responding to comments, avoiding inflammatory responses, topics or language.  Responding to comments can include facilitating requests for information, referring to the appropriate person to solve a problem or handling the appropriate business of the department through the account.  When a private response to a public comment or inquiry is most appropriate, first reply publicly to thank the person for their input, and to let them know to expect further response through an appropriate private channel (phone call, email, or private message).The moderator should check with the department’s designated contact person for any necessary guidance when responding to questions and comments.  Strive to maintain an accessible and engaging voice, while staying aligned with the position of the department and mission of the university.  Social media is a conversation so it’s important to stay engaged as much as time allows.

For more information
For assistance in how various types of social media work or how to manage a social media account, please read the Initial Questions, Guiding Principles and General Guidelines sections of this guide.

The Professional Interest in Social Media Group (PrISM) is an ongoing resource for questions, answers, and discussion about best practices and experiences in social media at the Health Science Center.  For more information on PrISM, see the group’s website.

In addition, the Office of External Affairs is available for consultation regarding communications questions at 210-567-3078.


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