For social admins

If you manage a VCU-affiliated social media account or are thinking of starting one, review these social media guidelines and complete our approval form to register or update your accounts.

We also invite you to join our VCU Social Media Administrators Group. This group meets monthly to explore best practices and key issues facing communication through social channels. Please email us at socialmedia@vcu.edu if you would like to receive communication about upcoming meetings.

Social media guidelines

Social media sites offer opportunities to engage individuals, institutions and organizations through an interactive process that has the potential to foster recognition, enhance creativity, build stronger relationships and contribute to the success of VCU by sharing information and dialogue. Content posted to social media sites is public and therefore has associated risks.

The purpose of the VCU Social Media Guidelines is to ensure proper portrayal, promotion and protection of the institution. These guidelines apply to all VCU-owned social media accounts and administrators of those accounts who engage in social media usage as part of their assigned VCU responsibilities.  

Inappropriate disclosures, use of information, or acts of unprofessional behavior are not tolerated and will be addressed by university disciplinary procedures. VCU will report suspected unlawful conduct to appropriate law enforcement authorities.

Members of the VCU community using social media are subject to the VCU Code of Conduct and/or the VCU Student Code of Conduct. Employees are also subject to the following:

Guidelines for Usage

Expectations for social media property and community administrators of VCU-owned accounts include: 

Account approval

Your VCU-owned social media accounts are authorized through VCU University Relations and will be included in the university’s social media directory. All departments should have a social media strategy and plan approved by the unit’s social media leadership team member for review and assessment prior to the debut of any social media program. VCU-owned accounts are required to: 

  • Obtain authorization through VCU University Relations by submitting a VCU Social Media Account Approval Form.
  • Review and be familiar with all policies, procedures and best practices outlined in this policy. Employees engaging in social media as part of their official duties must not violate any university computing, privacy, IT, FERPA, HIPAA, NCAA, intellectual property, branding, freedom of speech or other state, local or federal policies and laws.
  • Use an official VCU email when creating or logging into VCU-owned social accounts. Register all official accounts that need an email login with a shared or generic VCU email account that is accessible by more than one person. To set up a university group or generic account, go to http://servicedesk.vcu.edu and log in to Service Desk to fill out the request form. 
  • During the social media site registration process, indicate your specific department or unit is establishing and entering into the account agreement, not an individual. Create accounts through business page managers or multiuser logins when possible.
  • Renew the Social Media Account Approval Form whenever administrative or account changes occur. If an assigned community administrator of a VCU account leaves the university or no longer wishes to be a community administrator, it is the responsibility of the academic or administrative department to designate another VCU employee to be an administrator on the account and remove the former employee’s administrative permissions to the site.
  • For your social media account, assign at least three designated community administrators, one of whom should be a full-time faculty or staff member. We recommend that a minimum of three full-time faculty or staff members have administrator access or access to the login information and passwords to a social media account, including each unit’s identified social media team leader.
    • All assigned community administrators should have defined social media duties in their official job descriptions.
    • If student workers are assigned as community administrators, all content must be approved and posted by a VCU faculty or staff member.
  • Obtain account verification. If verification is not possible, include a phrase in the descriptions or bios to indicate that the site is an official VCU site. Most government agency accounts can be verified through the links below.
  • Complete all descriptions and bio information on social sites. Descriptions and bios should always provide a link to your website and pertinent information about your department. Always provide links to your social media accounts on your website.
  • Any sites or pages existing without prior authorization will be subject to review when discovered and may be amended or removed. Sites that have been inactive for more than six months will also be amended or removed. 
Branding requirements

All VCU-owned social media accounts must follow VCU identity and brand standards. 

VCU’s social media branding requirements are:

  • All policies, procedures and guidelines regarding university trademarks, names and symbols are followed for all VCU-owned social media accounts.

  • VCU University Relations must approve logo usage. Additional requirements for VCU’s identity standards are listed at http://www.identity.vcu.edu

  • Review and follow the social media identity section in the VCU brand standards guidelines.

 

Passwords and login details
  • Must be strong and can be achieved by a combination of the following factors:

    • Contain lowercase and uppercase letters

    • Contain at least one number

    • Contain at least one special character

    • Be a minimum of eight characters

  • Password advice

    • A password should not be related to any personal information or phone numbers.

    • Do not use the same password for VCU-owned social media sites as for other nonwork-related or personal account access.

    • Passwords should always be stored in a secure fashion.

    • A password should not be a recognizable word out of a dictionary.

    • Avoid simple variants or permutations of words (e.g., replacing S’s with 5’s, your name or department name backwards or repeated)

    • Never reuse passwords across social media channels, third-party applications used to access social channels or email.

    • Never share passwords for VCU-owned accounts with anyone outside of the immediate social media team and never share passwords for personal accounts used to access VCU-owned accounts.

    • All passwords for VCU-owned social media accounts must be changed twice a year (i.e., every 180 days) or when there is a staff change.

Community administrator guidelines

Community administrators must be aware of these guidelines and adhere to them. Administrative specifications are as follows: 

  • All usage of third party social media platforms must comply with applicable terms and conditions of the platform.
  • Community administrators engage in communications that are acceptable in the VCU workplace and respect copyrights and disclosures. Proprietary financial, intellectual property, student information, patient care or similar sensitive or private content may not be revealed.
  • Community administrators are responsible for using good judgment when posting shared material and content. If it is not clearly obvious that the material was intended for public sharing on social media sites, it is the responsibility of the administrator to gain the expressed consent of all involved parties for the right to distribute or publish recordings, photos, images, video, text slideshow presentations, artwork and advertisements whether those rights are purchased or obtained without compensation. VCU and VCU Health subjects photographed or videotaped for promotional purposes must complete a model release or permission to record. Links to releases can be found at http://identity.vcu.edu.
  • Community administrators are responsible for maintaining an accurate, active and up-to-date social media presence. Administrators should deliver timely and professional customer service to inquiries or postings on official accounts.  If a site is inactive for six months, the administrator should consult with University Relations regarding closure of the account.
  • Community administrators are responsible for constantly monitoring postings and comments to social media sites and reporting requests for public records to FOIAvcu@vcu.edu.
  • Community administrators must have an understanding of the State Record Management requirements of social media and when needed, retain proper records of communication to their social networking sites, including records of posts made by the general public. Central administration will need to be notified when a VCU-owned site will be decommissioned in order to submit a deletion form to State Record Management.
  • Community administrators should contact their social media leadership team member should an active or pending communication crisis occur on their accounts.
  • Community administrators should always use VCU-owned accounts and not personal accounts when responding to inquiries and postings on behalf of VCU.
  • Community administrators are invited to join the VCU Social Media Administrators Group. This group receives emails concerning social media communication at VCU and meets monthly to explore best practices and key issues facing communication through social channels. Please email us at socialmedia@vcu.edu if you would like to receive communication about upcoming meetings.
Content policies and disclaimer
  • All usage of third party social media platforms must comply with applicable terms and conditions of the platform.

  • When posting material on social media sites, VCU employees must respect the copyright rights of others. Administrators must gain prior consent from rights holders to distribute or publish recordings, photos, images, video, text slideshow presentations, artwork and advertisements whether those rights are purchased or obtained without compensation.

  • VCU employees must be aware of sensitive information in their possession, and refrain from publicly posting proprietary, financial, student, patient or similar sensitive or private information.  If there is any question as to whether information should be posted, employees may consult with University Relations.

  • VCU employees must be aware of sensitive information in their possession, and refrain from publicly posting proprietary, financial, student, patient or similar sensitive or private information.  If there is any question as to whether information should be posted, employees may consult with University Relations.

  • Prior to publicly sharing images on social media sites, it recommended that the administrator gain consent of individuals to be depicted.  Prior to publicly posting images or videos owned by VCU and VCU Health, administrators must ensure prior permission was granted for promotional purposes.  In most cases, this is found in the model release form provided by University Relations.

  • Posts on social media are communications that should be consistent with other forms of communication in the workplace.  At all times, posts, comments, and other usage of social media must comply with relevant VCU policies.

  • Social media is intended to foster comments on specific topics.  Administrators should not pre-approve or screen comments or posts made to VCU-owned pages.

  • VCU is committed to fostering a safe environment and ensuring equal access to education and related services to everyone affiliated with the VCU community. It is important to make efforts to reduce barriers to access for individuals with disabilities (e.g., closed-captioning on all videos produced at VCU). Please review VCU's guidelines for closed captioning content
  • VCU-owned accounts are prohibited from posting content that:
    • Violates city, state or federal laws and regulations
    • Is related to legal matters
    • Endorses any view, product, private business, cause or political candidate
    • Denotes personal opinions as if they were endorsed by VCU
  • When available on a social channel, implement the use of profanity filters and page-moderation tools that block offensive language.

  • As a public university, VCU respects First Amendment rights of individuals.  However, certain VCU social media sites may be created for specific purposes, and user comments that fall outside of the explicit purpose of the site may be removed for inapplicability to the purpose of the site.

  • Where appropriate, if the site allows comments or posts by others, include an explicit purpose for the social media page and a statement of VCU’s content.  An example of an appropriate statement of purpose is below:

This is a page designed to promote Virginia Commonwealth University. VCU encourages users to post comments, photos, videos and links that are respectful and related to the promotion of Virginia Commonwealth University. Postings and comments that include illegal content, profanity, are threatening or incite violence are not welcome on this site and may be removed from this page. You are fully responsible for the content that you share. Postings or comments made by individuals on this page do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of VCU or any of the university’s divisions. This page is not to be used for solicitation of sales or the promotion of any goods or services.We reserve the right to block users who violate the terms and conditions of this platform or who reject the purpose of this page.

Emergency communication and major announcements
  • Emergency communications, including inclement weather closings or delays, should always originate through VCU Police, VCU News, VCU’s Alert page or VCU’s central social media accounts. Never share information that has not been issued by central university administration on any VCU-owned social site.

  • In the event of a major announcement, information should not be mentioned on social media until it has been made official and posted on www.news.vcu.edu. Once official, information may be shared through other university social media channels. 

Security breach on social media accounts
  • If you suspect a security breach on a VCU-owned account or personal account used to access a VCU-owned account, contact your social media leadership team representative and central administration immediately at socialmedia@vcu.edu or (804) 828-1231.

  • Best practices for avoiding security breaches

    • Secure your passwords. Do not share passwords with anyone for VCU-owned accounts or personal passwords for accounts that are linked to VCU-owned accounts.

    • Consider setting personal profiles linked to VCU-owned accounts as private. Be cautious about accepting friend requests from strangers. Avoid connecting to online applications through personal social media channels linked to VCU-owned accounts.

    • Exercise caution when opening links on social media sites.

    • Do not leave a computer, tablet or mobile device unattended if VCU-owned accounts are accessible.

    • Regularly change passwords on personal accounts that are linked to VCU-owned accounts.

    • Be wary of “official” communication from social channels sent through unusual channels. For example, Facebook will never send official communication via Messenger.

    • Always check that you are logging into official social channel URLs. Scammers often set up fake pages that look like login pages.

    • Turn on login approvals or two-factor authentication for an additional layer of security if someone attempts to log in from an unrecognized device. Consider using a social media manager system like Facebook Business Manager or password management system. 

Threats of violence or inappropriate postings on social media pages
  • If a threat is known or suspected to be an emergency situation, call VCU Police immediately at (804) 828-1234 to report the situation. If a credible threat is made or suspected against an individual or group, it shall be documented, removed and reported to the appropriate law enforcement agency.

  • Upon discovery of any threats, harassment or personal information trolling, please report it quickly to a page administrator. If a threat appears to be urgent, you are encouraged to report this to VCUPD. If it appears to involve only VCU employees or students, then consult the VCU Threat Assessment Team information available at www.threat.vcu.edu. All emergencies are to be reported to VCUPD immediately at (804) 828-1234.

  • If the situation does not seem to be a threat, then consult with the site administrator and supervisor in your area to determine whether or not to remove the content or to reply with an invitation to discuss the matter offline with the posting individual. 

Advertising on social media
  • All nonemployment-related advertising by university entities must be expressed in writing to University Marketing in the Division of University Relations in order to ensure that it is consistent with the VCU brand identity standards and image.

  • VCU units must review VCU’s Outgoing Sponsorships, Advertising and Endorsement Policy and submit a Request to Advertise form for review and approval by the vice president for university relations. Advertising materials must meet VCU brand identity standards before they can be placed. University Marketing will confirm that advertising materials meet VCU brand identity standards. All media purchases must be made in compliance with applicable procurement policies and procedures. 

Contacts

The Division of University Relations will provide input and assist in outreach on these guidelines and best practices for social media. Please direct policy questions to University Public Affairs within the Division of University Relations.

Questions regarding implementation of these guidelines or reports of inappropriate behavior on VCU-owned social media property, may be sent to the assistant director of social strategy and integration at socialmedia@vcu.edu or via telephone at (804) 828-1463.