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This semester student in my PR Research course have been researching creation of a social media policy for LSU. They have done focus groups and surveys to gauge audience attitudes, interest and desire for a LSU social media policy as well as completed content analyses of social media policies for corporations, university and sports teams. The line between guidelines for good social media behaviors and what should be rules enforced in a social media policy has blurred.

So let me clarify. Policies are enforceable. They are rules that must be followed by a social media user. If you don’t follow the rules you can have posts removed, accounts closed or face other consequences. Check out these policies suggested as examples on Mashable.

Guidelines are tips about what you should do online (ex, like use keywords in blog posts). The CDC put together some impressive tips and best practices in their guidelines.

With that said, I have assembled my own Top 15 Social Media Guidelines for students. In the spirit of Pirates of the Caribbean these “are more general guidelines than actual rules.”

  1. Be branded – Develop a professional & branded online presence (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, blog, professional email address).
  2. Be involved – Follow, listen, retweet, comment, answer questions.
  3. Be a storyteller – But understand you cannot control the narrative (that means you too, Lance Armstrong).
  4. Be private – Assume everything you publish is public.
  5. Be found – Use keywords.
  6. Be accurate – Don’t post unverified information.
  7. Be mindful – Watch what/who you follow because employers are watching too.
  8. Be professional – Don’t remove source from RTs and shares, but do remove @#!* words.
  9. Be cautious – If you don’t want your grandma to see it (or ask about it) don’t show it.
  10. Be responsible – Don’t use a “handle” or hide your identity in order to say things you would not say in person.
  11. Be legal – Use “fair use” images (i.e., free to use or share).
  12. Be ethical – Do not post confidential or proprietary information about an organization you are working for.
  13. Be grammatically correct – Review posts for content, spelling, AP style errors before hitting send/post.
  14. Be accountable – Own and correct your mistakes.
  15. Be smart – Don’t do it in class!

This last one is a freebie — I got it from the UCSF social media guidelines and think it sums up just about everything that should be a RULE.

“Be respectful.  Refrain from posting material that is profane, libelous, obscene, threatening, abusive, harassing, hateful, defamatory or embarrassing to another person or entity.”

image from Kathleen Donovan on flickr

image from Kathleen Donovan on flickr