Social Media

Social Media


The Social Media Guideline provides guidance to University staff who plan to engage in social media in the capacity as an employee of Macquarie University.


PurposeTo provide guidance to University staff who plan to engage in social media in the capacity as an employee of Macquarie University.                


“Social media” refers to websites and online media that allow people to interact, comment, share digital media and participate in discussions.

The following are the most prevalent forms of social media:
  • Social networks eg Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Linkedin
    These websites and networks allow you to add friends, create groups, participate in discussion and chat and post digital media such as videos and photos.
  • Blogs eg sites hosted on or powered by Blogger or Wordpress
    Blogs are websites that normally feature timely online journal-style content on a particular topic. Typically they allow and invite comments and feedback.
  • Micro blogs eg Twitter
    Micro blogs allow you as the user to post short messages that are open and public. You can ‘follow’ the posts of other users, which then appear in your stream.
  • Wikis eg Wikipedia
    Wikis are collaboratively created repositories of content. Wikis allow users to create and edit new and existing articles and content.
  • Photo and video sharing eg YouTube, Vimeo, Flickr, Instagram and Snapchat
    These websites allow users to post video or photo content. They also allow you to comment or share other people’s contributions
  • Social Bookmarking eg Delicious, Digg, Reddit
    These sites allow users to share and rate their favourite content and comment on the submissions of others.
  • Question and Answer sites eg Quora, Yahoo Answers
    These sites allow users to post questions and invite answers from the public.
  • Location-based services eg Foursquare
    Location-based services allow you to ‘check in’ at physical locations, this is then shared online.
There are many reasons for us to be active as an organisation in social media. Examples include:
  • Social media is often the forum where important social and political discussions are taking place. As a University we encourage our staff to be an active part of these discussions particularly as it relates to areas of expertise.
  • Social media is an effective channel to communicate our ideas and messages, and can leverage a powerful ‘multiplication’ effect as content can be shared with a user’s entire network.
  • There are many marketing opportunities available through social media and its widespread use by the audience we wish to reach.
  • Monitoring social media can give us an insight as an organisation as to how we are perceived in the community.

As with traditional media, ill-considered comments and poor responses to particular issues and circumstances can rapidly develop into negative issues. This can have a damaging effect on our reputation. A particular nuance of social media is that both negative and positive stories can spread at a rapid pace and require an organisation to respond at a speed that is difficult within traditional organisational structures.

Another nuance is that audiences both consume content and participate in its creation, such that a negative issue can evolve and develop based on the contributions of others which may or may not have any factual basis.

As a University we strive to be at the cutting edge of new understanding; we are an environment that encourages freedom of thought and expression. This necessitates that we are active participants in dialogue and the exchange of ideas. As a community of free thinkers we are also likely to be a community with a variety of viewpoints that may or may not agree with mainstream commentary on issues. At the same time we need to consider the representation of our organisation that we aim to maintain and promote. As such our ideas do not exist in isolation, but rather within the organisational community of Macquarie University whose values need to be respected and embodied.

As a member of staff it is important that you understand your obligations when commenting in public forums, including through social media. You are required by the Staff Code of Conduct to comply with the Public Comment Policy. It is important that you take the time to understand these obligations.

The following points outline some key principles to employ when you are active in social media:

Speak only on your area of expertise
The Public Comment Policy details the topics that you are permitted to comment on as an official representative of the University. You are only to comment or post as an official representative of Macquarie University on matters that relate directly to your area of expertise.

Where you are commenting outside your expertise please use a disclaimer such as “The views expressed are my own and do not necessarily represent the official views of Macquarie University”

Show respect and be positive
It is important to be aware how quickly online discussion can descend into negative and potentially reputation damaging argument. On the flip side, positive and respectful comments are greatly appreciated in the online sphere. Positive and respectful interaction can often turn those with negative opinions of Macquarie University into advocates when they experience genuine human interaction and engagement with their issues. With this in mind it is important to avoid being negative or argumentative and post and comment with a respectful and positive tone. Try to avoid tit-for-tat dialogue that can prolong or deepen a negative issue. It is also helpful to adopt a human and informal tone that avoids ‘legal’ sounding language.

Be transparent, accurate and honest
Where possible post with your real name and declare your position within Macquarie University. It is also vital to ensure that your information is accurate – if you require time to gather facts mention that rather than post something incorrect that will require a retraction later. Be aware that any attempt to mislead or obscure the truth within a social media context is likely to be uncovered and will typically prolong or deepen a negative issue surrounding the University.

Follow up
Social media provides us with a great gauge as to the perceptions of our organisation. If you are alerted to an organisational issue please be diligent in notifying those that may be able to resolve it. If you make any promises to someone through social media please ensure they are followed up and resolved.

Use judgement and commonsense
When posting on any social media platform we need to be aware of the consequences of our opinions and the speed with which these can be spread. Before you post, stop and think:
  • Are you uncomfortable with what you are about to post?
  • Are you uncomfortable about personally owning and being associated with this comment?
  • Will this comment inflame or offend your audience?

If you answered yes to any of these questions reconsider posting, and think about discussing it with your manager or the online marketing team. You are responsible for ensuring that your post complies with the Public Comment Policy and you will be responsible for the consequences of your actions.

Dealing with mistakes
If you realise you have posted something that is wrong, correct it quickly and publicly. It is far better to own up to mistakes and maintain transparency than try to cover them up as they are often uncovered.

Perhaps the most difficult area of social media engagement is knowing how to respond to negative opinion or criticism. For a more detailed outline on this topic refer to Social Media Toolkit. However, you should follow these principles:
  • As a general rule genuine negative feedback should not be deleted. It is far better to respond positively and constructively.
  • Respond in a timely manner. Negative issues can become worse if they are left with no response. This can be a challenge depending on your organisational structure. It is worth considering whether the appropriate measures are in place to allow a quick response before an issue arises.
  • If the issue relates to a real problem, let the commenter know what is being done to resolve the matter in a friendly manner. If there is something you can do to assist them, get the ball rolling and let them know what is being done.
  • If a comment is spam or trolling (an inflammatory comment designed to start a negative argument) the comment may be ignored or deleted.
  • If a comment uses profanity or is highly offensive it may be deleted – it is useful to publish terms of use when you create a social media property.
For advice on best practice with regard to establishing a presence in social media please refer to the Social Media Toolkit.

Guideline Information

Contact Officer
Manager, Online Marketing
Date Approved
15 September 2011
Approval Authority
Director, Marketing
Date of Commencement
15 September 2011
Amendment History
27 April 2016 – added Instagram and Snapchat to Photo and Video Sharing examples.
Date for Next Review
September 2014
Related Documents
Public Comment Policy
Social Media Toolkit
Staff Code of Conduct
Social Media, Social Network, Blog, Wiki
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