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12.2 Hints and tips 

A starting point should be to check out your own institution's social media strategy, policy or guidelines to find out how this applies to you and what help is available. The social media guidelines produced by Edina (2011), based at the University of Edinburgh, are also a useful source of information and the basis for guidance issued by many universities.

Another useful approach is to look at how real-world peers are using social media and think about how comfortable you would be adopting their style. You might even go so far as to have one or two informal mentors to double-check with when things get heated or to help you reflect on the question, “could I have handled that differently?”

Key points for consideration include:

  • Let relevant colleagues know what you are doing – do you have the authority to set up the type of social media channel you are proposing? If you are representing part of the institution or using the institution's facilities it is likely that you will need to seek some form of approval. If nothing else, letting people know what you are doing is a good way to make sure that others can publicise and promote your activity. 

  • Think about your digital identity – we give guidance on managing your personal identity in section 7, Managing your digital presence. Where you are representing your institution the key issue is to ensure that you are acting with integrity. Declare affiliations where relevant and make it clear whether you are representing the views of your department/research group/institution or personal views with which they may disagree. Where a number of people are contributing to the social media channel, be as transparent as possible about who is making each contribution. 

  • Choose your connections well – think carefully about how you connect with other people in the network e.g. whether friending students on Facebook is appropriate. Check out the background of other users before allowing them access to information and do regular housekeeping to check you are not being followed by spam accounts. 

  • Show respect for others – legislation demands a certain code of respect and fairness in relation to some areas (e.g. gender, age, race, sexuality, belief) but as part of a community it is to be hoped that all users would behave in terms of good netiquette and professional appropriateness. The internet is a very public forum and care needs to be taken as casual comments that may amuse some people could cause offence to others (and who knows whether those others might be potential employers or research funders?). Think carefully before responding to provocation and/or criticism to ensure you do so in a way that is measured and appropriate. 

  • Give credit where it is due – ensure you acknowledge sources of information and provide links where appropriate. Make sure your own postings do not breach anyone else's rights/copyright and that images are cleared for use (or are Creative Commons licensed and appropriately credited). Do not link to any materials you suspect may be pirated, copied or unlicensed. 

  • Follow good online writing practice – this includes making your writing scannable by using meaningful blog titles, putting important keywords at the beginning of sentences, breaking up large blocks of text and writing succinct posts. An informal style does not mean writing as stream of consciousness, or that editing is unnecessary. 

  • Engage and reciprocate – share and comment on other people's work and show your expertise through giving constructive advice and useful suggestions. 

  • Maintain confidentiality – ensure that anything you are publishing is appropriate to go into the public domain. Material that should not be released would normally include:

    - research that is not yet in the public domain;
    - indications of forthcoming developments or funding bids;
    - data or software code;
    - information about colleagues or personnel matters;
    - unresolved grievances;
    - non-public or not yet approved documents or minutes, news or information;
    - information about students (it may be possible to deduce the identity of individuals).

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