For faculty and staff


Social media guidelines

Developed to help MU Extension employees use social media in a way that complies with university and extension policy, these guidelines further and support extension’s mission of providing reliable, research-based information to Missourians. Direct questions about social media or these guidelines to Laura Lindsey, marketing coordinator, at lindseylau@missouri.edu.

For additional information, read and follow the University of Missouri’s social media policies at http://identity.missouri.edu/social-media/index.php.

Getting started

Social media communications tools are rapidly changing. The immediacy and participatory nature of the tools make them valuable ways to reach our customers. However, because of these same qualities, social media accounts demand regular attention. Be prepared to monitor and adjust to application changes as they come.

Learning the social medium

Once you have decided to use a particular social media service, learn about how it works. If you have used the service as an individual, make sure you understand the differences of using it as a business or organization and what options you have. Read the terms of service, and familiarize yourself with the application’s help section. Explore how other organizations or extension offices have used that type of social media.

Start small, with one or two accounts, rather than trying to use every social media tool available. Only take on what you know you can maintain. You or someone else in your office must be able to interact on the account every day. The best plan would include multiple administrators on an account who can cover in the event of absences and busy work times.

Setting up your organizational account

Use an approved, branded profile picture. Keeping our identity consistent across MU Extension will help users recognize our organization. Contact Laura Lindsey, marketing coordinator, lindseylau@missouri.edu to have a graphic created to use for your profile photo.

Name your account with this convention: for counties, MU Extension in Example County (e.g., MU Extension in Boone County), for regional offices, MU Extension in the Example Region (e.g., MU Extension in the Northwest Region) or for program offices MU Extension — Office Name (e.g., MU Extension — Human Environmental Sciences).

Add muextension@gmail.com as an administrator on your account so the Web Team can help you with the account when you need it.

To add Admins:

  1. On the blue menu bar at the top of the page, click on the icon and page name to go to the main page.
  2. Directly below the blue Facebook menu bar, there is the page menu bar with options including Page, Inbox, Notifications, etc. On the right side of that bar, click Settings.
  3. Click on Page Roles on the left menu.
  4. Start typing muextension@gmail.com in the Assign a New Page Role bar. Once the "Mu Extension" account pops up, click on it.
  5. Change the dropdown at the right of the box to Admin.
  6. Click Add.

If possible, complete the “about” section in your social media account to give people more information about MU Extension and your office. In the section, include a description of your office, and note that it is part of University of Missouri Extension. If you can add a street address, make sure you add “Missouri” to the address. The following text can be used to describe MU Extension:

Live. And Learn. MU Extension is Missouri's one-stop source for practical education on almost anything. Visit us on the Web at http://extension.missouri.edu.

University of Missouri Extension uses science-based knowledge to engage people in understanding change, solving problems and making informed decisions. More than a million Missourians turn to MU Extension for practical advice on competing in the global marketplace, balancing the responsibilities of work and family, protecting natural resources and adapting to new technologies.

Composing posts

Good social media content is short and to the point. Provide links to articles or pages where users can find more information if they are interested. Maintain the MU Extension reputation as a reliable, research-based source of information, and share only research-based information that is relevant to your audience and the programs and mission of MU Extension. Remember that you are posting on behalf of MU Extension, so your posts should contain only information the organization can stand behind.

Use the following guidelines to accomplish these goals:

  • Focus on quality over quantity. Maintain our reputation as a reliable source of information, and only post information that you know to be accurate and objective.
  • Use photos and graphics that are relevant to the post. If you post graphics with text on them, make sure the text is legible, and if possible either repeat the text in the post or link the graphic to a page with the information in a format that can be read by a screen reader (e.g., HTML or PDF).
  • Tie content to relevant current events or issues when you can. When tragic national or international events occur, do not post general comments such as, “Our condolences go out to the earthquake victims.” If we have relevant content, such as an article on explaining tragedies to children or earthquake recovery resources, consider sharing those resources. If we don’t have relevant content, and it was a serious event that has the nation’s or Missourians’ attention, don’t post at all.
  • Do not comment on a religious or national holiday if MU Extension has no resources relevant to that event. Generally don’t comment on religious holidays or appear to favor one holiday over another. However, if extension has related content, such as real Christmas tree or candle safety tips, you can post that content at appropriate times. For example, on July 4, instead of posting “Happy 4th of July,” provide a link to a publication about food safety or avoiding heat-related illnesses.
  • If possible, have a second set of eyes edit your content before you post it. While social media are more casual than other publishing venues, correct grammar and clear language are vital to communicating effectively and accurately. Social media posts should follow MU Extension style, which can be found on the Web at http://extension.missouri.edu/staff/communications/style.aspx.
  • Remain professional. It’s OK to have some personality in your social media posts, but avoid posting opinions or attributing feelings to the organization. Point people to MU Extension sources with relevant facts and allow them to develop their own opinions.
  • Do not use “we” or “I” because you are not commenting under your personal account, and the organization is not a person.
  • If your social media account serves a specialized group rather than a general audience, make sure the content you post is relevant to that group.
  • Do not share posts from non-extension sources unless necessary. If your audience needs information from another source, be sure the source is another land-grant university, valid government source, research-based nonprofit institution or other carefully screened source.

Mixing it up

Vary your posts. Sharing articles and events may be your most common type of post, but some other options that can encourage audience engagement are to:

  • Ask viewers to share pictures, videos or comments.
  • Share an interesting fact related to a current issue.
  • Post photos of extension events.
  • Build on comments or posts from other sources.
  • Look at other extension social media sites or other organizations for ideas.

Posting photos or copyrighted material

Respect the intellectual property of others. Do not use copyrighted material without written permission, and provide attribution for non-extension material.

Do not post pictures of people without signed consent. You need consent from guardians to photograph or post pictures of minors or anyone who cannot give consent themselves. Do not tag or identify people in photographs. If they wish, individuals may identify themselves.

Review copyright policies and find photo release forms at http://extension.missouri.edu/staff/marketing/copyright.html.

Liking, sharing, reposting and following

Most social media include some version of “following.” Other users can follow your accounts, and you can follow their accounts. When your account follows another, users may construe that to be an endorsement of the account being followed, so be mindful of what organizations you follow.

Socializing

Interact. Social media is about building relationships and putting a human face on communications, which means you need to learn about and interact with your audience. Don’t always just “push” information to users. Find ways to encourage interaction and sharing.

Responding to and moderating comments

Social media are by their nature interactive, and participants can comment on content and share their own information. Some social media platforms may allow you to limit or turn off comments, but limiting comments has the drawback of decreasing interaction. However, the open nature of social media also has its drawbacks. Users may post inappropriate, inaccurate, negative or harmful content.

Do not delete comments simply because they are critical of extension or MU. As a representative of MU Extension, remain courteous and avoid arguing. If there are inaccuracies in a comment or post, clarify any misconceptions without being confrontational or defensive. Remember, our customers are entitled to their opinions, and a comment may alert us to a problem that needs to be addressed.

While dialogue between MU Extension and our customers is desirable, we need to set standards of acceptable behavior. In the about section, or another easily accessed area, post the following disclaimer.

Posting policies:

University of Missouri Extension reserves the right to remove user-posted content that:

  • is not relevant to the subject being discussed or to MU Extension’s work;
  • campaigns for or against voting issues;
  • contains profanity;
  • conflicts with our anti-discrimination policies;
  • is of a pornographic nature;
  • solicits business;
  • is of an illegal nature;
  • contains threats to any person or people;
  • contains disparaging remarks about individuals;
  • compromises the safety or security of the public; or
  • violates copyright laws.

We reserve the right, at our discretion, to remove any post or to revoke a user's privilege to post to our page.

All social media accounts need to be monitored and moderated by a responsible MU Extension representative on a daily basis. If you have problems with violations of the posting policies, please contact the Web Team.

Keeping it professional

Social media has blurred the lines between personal and professional, public and private. If you are posting for an extension account, your content needs to represent MU Extension, not you. Think before you post. Remember, nothing is really private on the Internet.

Analyzing and re-evaluating

Most social media platforms have ways to help you track your impact, and tools such as Google Analytics can help you analyze traffic to your website. Periodically re-evaluate your goals and your outcomes, and adjust accordingly. Maybe you planned to reach young participants through your Twitter account, but instead you notice that collaborating organizations are following your Twitter feed. Adjust your message to meet the audience you have, or change tactics to reach the audience you originally identified.