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Social Media Policies

Social Media Guidelines and Best Practices

Southern Adventist University embraces the responsible use of social media as a supplemental communication tool for building relationships with university constituents. These guidelines are to help ensure that social media accounts representing the university are managed in a manner consistent with the university’s standards, values, beliefs, and reflect a level of excellence that adds value to Southern’s reputation. The same laws, professional expectations, and guidelines for interacting with university constituents apply online as they do in the real world.

Southern recognizes that social media offers many opportunities, along with risks if accounts are not properly managed. It is important to be strategic to ensure consistent, effective communication of Southern’s brand. Social media should continue to build and enhance the university’s reputation by communicating Southern’s key messages and unique selling points.

Best Practices to Remember

Before creating an account, determine: 

  • What is the unique Southern angle and value proposition that you would like to share?
  • Do you have the time and resources to post high quality content at least once a week, year-round?
  • Who are your audiences?
  • What social media platforms are they using the most?
  • What are your goals in posting?
  • How will you measure success?

Good social accounts:

  • Strive to give audiences a social media experience that is unique to Southern. This means avoiding posting content that does not have a connection to Southern.
  • Post content on a regular basis, such as once a week or more, year-round. An account with infrequent posts or low-quality content may lose followers and see a decrease in engagement.
  • Only follow appropriate accounts that will not reflect negatively on the university and fit within our values.
  • Measure the success of your account and its content and adjust your strategy accordingly. Using the social platform’s built-in analytics provides valuable insights for doing this.
  • Interact with your followers, as well as other university social media accounts.
  • Review and remove any inappropriate content or interactions.
  • Respond to interactions in a timely manner with gratitude, gentleness, and respect, regardless of
    whether or not the individual is kind.
  • Always act as a representative of Southern Adventist University.

Good social content: 

  • Is factual and free of spelling, punctuation, or grammatical errors. Such errors detract from the university’s, and your department’s, reputation.
  • Is concise and easy to read.
  • Is visual. Content with high quality photos or videos typically receives better engagement than text-only posts.
  • Is timely and engaging.
  • Regularly uses only two or three, concise, unique, and memorable hashtags.
  • Does not depict students or employees violating the university’s handbook policies.

I. Structure

Marketing and University Relations

Marketing and University Relations (MUR) promotes and protects the brand of Southern Adventist University, and the digital engagement manager in MUR maintains Southern’s primary social media accounts and guides campus in strategic social media endeavors. The digital engagement manager is always ready to help answer questions or give guidance.

When your department has a social media need, we can help! Contact the digital engagement manager for assistance determining the most effective solution for you. Your department may need help with:

  • determining if a new social account should be created,
  • promoting an upcoming event or campaign,
  • creating social media ads,
  • or submitting content to be considered for posting on Southern’s main accounts.

Social media accounts managed by MUR:

Social Media Directory

Southern-affiliated accounts that meet branding standards and guidelines outlined in this policy are listed in the online social media directory. If an account you manage is not included in the directory, submit it to the directory via the account registration form. If an account you manage has not been included because it does not meet Southern's social media guidelines, please contact the digital engagement manager for assistance.

II. Branding

These branding guidelines will help social media audiences easily identify our accounts as officially affiliated with Southern Adventist University. The identity standard for accounts is:

  • Consistent—Profile pictures, cover photos, and account names should be the same across social media platforms. While cover photos may change, profile pictures should rarely change, helping your followers instantly recognize your account when scrolling through their feeds.
  • Visual—Profile pictures contain the approved department-specific Southern logo. The logo is not edited or modified in any way. This ensures a consistent and recognizable brand identity across Southern’s broad social media presence and increases opportunities for engagement and audience growth.
    Note: Student clubs and organizations are encouraged to use the university’s name in their social media accounts, however, the university’s logo, in any form, may not be used.
  • Unique—Your department’s accounts should be unified in name and visuals; however, none of these should be the same as department’s account. This ensures followers will differentiate between accounts when scrolling through their feeds.
  • Identifiable—The full university name (“Southern Adventist University”) is included in either the account’s name, handle, or biography. Including Southern’s full name will make your department’s account easily searchable and identifiable, increasing opportunities for audience growth.

III. Account Management

Strive to give your audience a social media experience that is unique to Southern. This means avoiding posting content that does not have a connection to Southern. Post content on a regular basis, such as once a week or more, year-round. An account with infrequent posts or low-quality content will likely lose followers and see a decrease in engagement.

Getting Started

When determining whether to create a new social media account, your department should assess the following:

  • What is the unique Southern angle that you can share online?
  • Do you have the time and resources to post high quality content at least once a week, year-round?
  • Who are your audiences?
  • What platforms are they using the most?
  • What are your goals in posting?
  • How will you measure success?

If your department is having trouble answering these questions, contact the digital engagement manager for assistance. If your department has assessed these questions and decided to move forward in creating an account, complete the account registration form. If your department does not want to create content year-round but would rather promote or highlight a one-time event or other infrequent department initiatives, consider sending content to the digital engagement manager for consideration for posting on Southern’s main social media channels.

Passwords and Account Access

If a new account for your department is approved, login information should also be shared with the digital engagement manager for emergency-only access, as well as the names of the account administrators—including any students with access.

  • A minimum of two employees must have administrative access.
  • Passwords should not be shared with anyone who is not an employee or an authorized student.
  • When an employee or authorized student with administrative access leaves the university or no
    longer needs access to the account, the account’s password must be changed. For social media accounts on Facebook or LinkedIn, that individual’s administrative access must be removed in the settings.
  • If an employee’s departure leaves only one employee with administrative access, a new individual should be appointed access.
  • Passwords should be changed on a regular basis. Remember to update the digital engagement manager when your password is changed. 

Student Access

When authorizing a student to have long-term access to your account:

  • Thoroughly vet the student.
  • Ensure the student has read and understood these guidelines.
  • Change the account password once the student no longer needs access.
  • Consider requiring the student to sign a statement of responsibility or understanding.
  • If a student needs temporary access to your account (such as just for a day):
      • An account administrator should log the student in and out of the account. If this isn’t possible and the account’s login information is shared, change the password after the student no longer needs access.
      • Ensure the student understands these guidelines.

Best Practices for Setting Up an Account

  • When prompted for an email address to set up your account, don’t use an individual’s email; rather, use a generic department email address that multiple individuals will have access to. If setting up a student club or organization account, consider asking a faculty or staff sponsor to use their department’s generic email for the account.
  • Contact the digital engagement manager for assistance in obtaining cover photos or an approved department logo for your account’s profile picture.
  • Only follow appropriate accounts that will not reflect negatively on the university and that fit within the institution’s values.
  • Begin advertising your account after a few quality posts have been made.
  • Measure the success of your account and its content via insights provided by each platform’s built-in analytics tools. Contact the digital engagement manager for assistance.

IV. Content

Avoiding Errors

Ensure your content is factual and free of spelling, punctuation, or grammatical errors. Such errors detract from the university’s reputation, as well as your department’s.

Visual Content

Including a photo or video in your post will likely ensure your content receives better engagement than a text-only post. To better boost your engagement, visual content should be high quality and sized appropriately for posting online.

Visual content should support the university brand and policies, including those listed in the student handbook. Content posted should not contain violations of the university handbook policies. (For example, photos or videos should not depict students violating dress code policies, such as wearing jewelry.) If such content is found, it may be asked to be removed. Any serious violations will be reported to administration.

Photo Permissions

Most students sign a photo release when enrolling at Southern, allowing the university to take and publish their photos. However, some have not given permission, so it is important to keep these guidelines in mind:

  • When taking photos or videos of individuals or small- to medium-sized groups (such as in classrooms, rather than vespers or convocations), ask permission. This will give any individuals who may be recognized in your photo the opportunity to speak up if they do not wish to have their picture taken for personal or safety reasons.
  • Do not take photos or videos of minors (under 18) without written parental or guardian consent.
  • If contacted and asked to remove a photo by an individual, remove the photo immediately.

User-Generated Content

User-generated content may be obtained from a user who shares a photo or video with a university social media account via direct message, tags the account, uses a specific hashtag promoted by the account, or tags the specific location of the school or department.

Direct message or comment on the photo or video asking the user’s permission to share on your account. When sharing user-generated content on your channel, give credit to the original source of the photo or video by tagging their account on the photo or video or in the caption.

Hashtags Best Practices

  • DO search for your hashtag before using it to see how it is currently being used by others before using or promoting it.
  • DO select two or three hashtags to focus on and reuse.
  • DO use short, memorable hashtags.
  • DO make sure your hashtag is descriptive enough and will make sense to users with little context.
  • DON’T overuse hashtags. Two or three per post is sufficient.
  • DON’T use hashtags used by other organizations or campaigns, if possible.
  • DON’T feel required to use a hashtag in every post.

Inappropriate Content

Southern Adventist University reserves the right to review and delete content on university accounts that violates university policies; is offensive or abusive; contains profanity; is threatening in tone; contains attacks toward a person or group of people; violates city, state, or federal laws and regulations; relates to legal matters, ongoing investigations, or litigation; uses the university brand or name to endorse any product, private business, cause, or political candidate without first consulting with MUR; or represents personal opinions as university-endorsed views or policies.

Paid Advertisements

Paid ads or boosts must be reviewed and approved by MUR. Please email the digital engagement manager if you would like to advertise on social media.

V. Interacting with Audiences

University social media accounts are encouraged to promote interaction and conversation with their followers. Additionally, account administrators are encouraged to interact with other university social media accounts through tagging, mentions, comments, and shares. This cross-promotion leads to increased awareness among followers.

Managing Interactions

There may be a rare occasion when a user posts something negative or inappropriate, whether stemming from a poor customer experience, malice, or even boredom. The university’s policy on managing negative interactions is as follows:

Southern Adventist University reserves the right to delete user comments or posts that violate university policies, promote commercial ventures, are offensive, abusive, contain profanity, are threatening, or contain personal attacks. Account administrators reserve the right to review all comments and posts and remove any that violate this policy. If your social media account is on a platform that provides ample room in an “About” section (such as Facebook, but not Instagram), list the above policy there.

If a post or comment does not warrant being deleted and requires a response, it is important to be delicate. If you’re not sure how to respond, contact the digital engagement manager for assistance as soon as possible. Even after a negative post or encounter has occurred, there is a chance to turn the incident into a win for the university. As a welcoming and caring community, we work to respond in a timely, helpful manner, providing facts, empathy, and assistance where appropriate.

When responding to a comment or post:

  • Be transparent—Disclose your connection to the school.
  • Stick to the facts—When necessary, cite your sources by including links to reference material, when available.
  • Be timely—Respond within 24 hours. However, take time to formulate a careful response, and have it double-checked for facts, spelling, and grammar.
  • Use appropriate tone—Respond in a tone that reflects the customer service standards and Christian values of Southern. Always respond with gratitude, gentleness, and respect, regardless of whether or not the individual is kind.
  • Read more about responding to comments here.

Emergency Communications

In the case of an emergency or crisis, seeking safety should be your top priority.

All official emergency communications will be generated by the university’s Crisis Communication Team, which is chaired by the director of MUR. Only official university accounts managed by MUR may communicate on the situation. University social media accounts managed by a department, academic area, or program should remain silent, unless users are actively contacting your account or posting on your page with questions/comments on the crisis, In such a case when a response may be necessary:

  • Only comment to dispel rumors and send users to find updates at southern.edu.
  • Keep responses neutral and factual.
  • Do not post regular updates.
  • Monitor postings, comments, and messages occurring on your page. Share appropriate criticisms or praise with the digital engagement manager.
  • If media outlets contact your account, provide them with the contact information for the editorial manager or director of MUR.

VI. Legalities

Use of Copyrighted Materials

Before posting or sharing copyrighted materials, ensure rights and permissions are obtained. Copyrighted materials may include music, art, copyrighted photographs, copyrighted text, and portions of copyrighted video.


Social media accounts created on behalf of university departments, academic areas, or programs are the sole property of the university and the individual department/area/program. Any person operating as administrator for the account relinquishes all rights to the account.

Media Inquiries

Any media inquiries should be directed to the editorial manager in MUR.

Maintain Confidentiality

Posting sensitive or proprietary information about Southern or personal, medical, or financial information about students, alumni, or employees is prohibited. Sound ethical judgment should be exercised, and university policies and federal requirements, such as FERPA, HIPAA, and Title IX, must be followed. If a user is unclear about how these laws and regulations apply, he or she should consult the digital engagement manager before posting such information.

Out of Compliance

If any university-affiliated social media account does not follow these guidelines, MUR will:

  • Contact page administrators and ask for corrections to be made.
  • Contact the supervisor(s) if errors are not corrected.
  • Contact the appropriate vice president if errors remain uncorrected.
  • If corrections are not made on the account, it may be subject to removal by MUR.

Personal Accounts

All social media users are individually responsible for what they post on their own sites and on the sites of others. Great care should be taken since social media users have been held personally liable for commentary deemed to be copyright infringement, defamatory, threatening, proprietary, libelous, or obscene (as defined by the courts). Posts must be true, accurate, and helpful and not expose the university or the user to legal liability.

Key Marketing and University Relations Staff

Joseph Hyde, digital engagement manager



Becky Brooks, editorial manager



Janell Hullquist, director




Joseph Hyde