Social Media Guidelines


These Guidelines govern Official and Recognized social media sites and posting to those sites by ECU employees, including student employees, wherever such sites may appear, including, but not limited to, the University computer network and social media sites and platforms such as Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Friendster, Inner Pirate Network, Instagram, Flickr, YouTube, Vine, Snapchat, Twitter, Yammer, Yahoo! Groups or Google Groups.

“Official” means a site that represents the entire University.

“Recognized” means a site that represents a portion of the University, including, but not limited to, departments or colleges, and other University Units.

With the exception of clearly delineating which sites and posts are personal, vs. which sites are Official or Recognized, these Guidelines do not apply to personal social media sites or personal postings by ECU employees or students. However, all Members of the University Community remain subject to applicable computer use policies, and REG 07.30.06, Freedom of Expression.

All social media sites seeking Official or Recognized status must be registered with ECU News Services using the Social Media Registration form at https://connect.ecu.edu/registration/

Official and Recognized sites are listed at https://connect.ecu.edu/

Social media sites that do not hold Official or Recognized status shall not represent themselves as sanctioned or approved by the University or a University Unit, and they shall not purport to be conducting University or Unit business.

All Official and Recognized Sites shall comply with the law and East Carolina University (ECU) policy and regulations.

Additional Guidance Applicable to Official and Recognized Sites

  1. Know the rules. Become familiar with the terms of service and policies of sites and networks in which you participate. Pay attention to updates to the terms of service. For example, Facebook’s extensive terms of service are updated frequently: facebook.com/legal/terms.
  2. Be respectful. ECU encourages freedom of expression and recognizes the value of our students’ diverse opinions. Recognized social media accounts are free to discuss topics, but please be respectful to other students and your social media audience members. Recognized social media accounts should not post material that is obscene, threatening, abusive, harassing, hateful, or defamatory. Harassment is defined in ECU’s Notice of Nondiscrimination and Affirmative Action Policy as conduct that is “sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive that it unreasonably interferes with, limits, or deprives an individual from participating in or benefitting from the University’s education or employment programs and/or activities.” Recognized social media accounts should also not post material to extort fellow students, faculty, staff or audience members for organizational or individual gain.
  3. Maintain confidentiality. Do not post confidential or proprietary information about ECU, its students, faculty, staff, patients or alumni. Follow University policies and federal requirements, such as FERPA and HIPAA. As a general guideline, do not post anything that would not be available to the general public. ECU strictly prohibits the unauthorized disclosure of protected health information including patient images on any social media sites. Do not use the information you share on these sites as part of your password, and/or answers to your passphrase security questions.
  4. Future Health Care Workers, Educators and Interns (e.g., Professional Programs): Maintaining confidentiality of your patient and student interactions is critical. Remember not to post or share information, including photographs, about these interactions. Disclosing identity, and/or breaching confidentiality could jeopardize your future career, and stiff penalties may apply. Take guidance from the faculty and professionals in your field and safeguard information and your reputation.
  5. Know the risks. Many of the social networking sites capture information from profiles to use for advertising, which can increase the amount of SPAM you receive. In addition, viruses and spyware are distributed through links on these sites, which can increase the risk to virus and spyware exposure and threats.
  6. Monitor privacy settings. Consider your audiences and be sure to restrict personal information on public sites. Choose profile photos and avatars carefully.
  7. Avoid crisis situations. Unless such participation is part of your authorized duties, never participate in social media when the topic being discussed may be considered a crisis situation. Refer all social media activity around crisis topics to ECU Police or 9-1-1.
  8. Steer clear of legal matters. Never comment on anything related to legal matters, litigation or any parties ECU may be in litigation with. Refer all social media activity around legal matters to the University Attorney’s office.
  9. Respect University time and property. As stated in the ECU Student and Employee Computer Use Policy (www.ecu.edu/prr/08/05/04/) and ECU Network Use Policy (www.ecu.edu/prr/08/10/03/), University computers and your work time are to be used for University-related business. It is appropriate to post at work if your comments are directly related to accomplishing work goals, such as seeking sources for information or working with others to resolve a problem. You should maintain your personal sites on your own time using non-ECU computers.
  10. If you are permitted to do so, use only approved University logos. If you have been authorized by your department or unit to create a social media site or a video for posting in locations, such as YouTube, please contact University Marketing (university-communications.ecu.edu) to inquire about using an approved logo and other images, and to ensure coordination with other ECU sites and content. The logo, seal and spirit marks represent the entire University and are reserved for use as the avatars for official University social media sites. To avoid confusion, these marks should not be used to identify individual employees using social media for personal, unit or professional communications.
  11. Be transparent and honest. If you maintain an Official or Recognized site, clearly state your role and goals. All statements must be true and all claims must be substantiated.
  12. Be accurate. Make sure that you have all the facts before you post. It is better to verify information with a source first than to have to post a correction or retraction later. Cite and link to your sources whenever possible; after all, that is how you build community. If you make an error, correct it quickly and visibly.
  13. Post thoughtful, respectful comments. You are more likely to achieve your goals or change others’ opinions if you are constructive and respectful while discussing a controversial subject or disagreeing with a concept or person. Do not post spam.
  14. Respect copyright and fair use. Always give people proper credit for their work, and make sure you have the right to use something with attribution before you publish. By using a University network, you are attesting that you will comply with the applicable University Student and Employee Computer Use Policy at (www.ecu.edu/prr/08/05/04/), or Academic Computer Use Policy at (www.ecu.edu/prr/08/05/10 and other applicable University IT policies. All users of University IT services are reminded that unauthorized downloading and sharing of music, video and software is a violation of Title 17, of the U.S. Copyright Act, Sections 504 and 505 and is punishable with civil and criminal penalties ranging from $750 to $250,000 and up to 10 years of imprisonment. For more information concerning compliance with the Copyright Act, visit the U.S. Copyright Office Web site at www.copyright.gov and check out the FAQs. ECU resources are available at copyright.ecu.edu and File Sharing.
  15. If it causes you to pause, then pause. Participation in social media on behalf of ECU or your Unit is not a right but an opportunity, so please treat it seriously and with respect. If you are about to publish something that makes you even the slightest bit uncomfortable, review these guidelines and try to determine the cause of your hesitation. If you are still unsure, discuss it with your manager. There is no such thing as a private social media site. Comments can be forwarded or copied. Archival systems save information even if you delete a post.
  16. Separate and clearly delineate your personal social media sites from Official or Recognized Sites. In personal posts, no University employee may represent themselves as speaking on behalf of the University or a University Unit. Do not use the ECU logo, athletic logo, or any other University marks or images on your personal online sites.
  17. Avoiding Confusion. If there is a reasonable chance that your personal media site posts could be misinterpreted as representing the views of the University or a University Unit, we suggest you include a sentence similar to this:
    • “The contents including all opinions and views expressed within this site, are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the opinions or views of anyone else, including other ECU employees, my Unit, or ECU itself. ECU has not approved and is not responsible for the material contained at this site.”
  18. Take measures to protect your identity. Do not provide personal information that scam artists or identity thieves could use against you. Do not list your home address or telephone number.
  19. Use recommended tools for instructional communication. Tools used to communicate for instruction should be limited to University-managed tools that protect student data as required by FERPA and meet guidelines for preservation of information in the event of litigation. Several University tools meet these requirements (Blackboard, Saba Meeting (formerly Centra).
  20. Preservation of Site Information in the Event of Receipt of a Litigation Hold. To learn more about the actions you must take to preserve information when you receive a Litigation Hold, see Regulation 08.05.07 Litigation Hold Notices:  Preservation of Relevant Evidence in Anticipation of Litigation. Follow all litigation holds upon receipt, even if the information subject to the hold is on a social media site.  Do not replace or edit information that is subject to a litigation hold.  Preserve copies of it as it appears at the time the litigation hold is received.
  21. Be aware of location-based services and social networking applications (e.g., Facebook Places, Foursquare, Gowalla) that can “tag” files you post on the Web with confidential information you do not want to share. Geotagging is the process of adding geographical identification to photographs, video, websites and SMS messages. Geotags are automatically embedded in pictures taken with smartphones. Most modern digital cameras do not automatically add geolocation metadata to pictures, but that is not always true. These types of services and applications can be potentially dangerous because they can allow strangers to track your location and movements. To learn more about geotagging, visit en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geotagging. Digital camera owners should study their camera’s manual to understand how to turn off GPS functions.
  22. Have a plan. It is important to have a plan for managing the continued operation of a social media site. The plan should anticipate and provide for the time and resources required to update content and respond to user comments. Additionally, a transition plan should be developed that will ensure roles and responsibilities are properly transferred whenever individuals associated with the operation of the site leave the University.

Recommended Reading

ECU Social Media Regulation: https://www.ecu.edu/prr/08/10/02
United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team—Staying Safe on Social Network Sites: www.us-cert.gov/cas/tips/ST06-003.html

Updated 1/2018; 8/2019