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Social Media Guidelines

Category Marketing and Communication
Type Guideline
Approved by Vice-Chancellor's Advisory Group, 12 August 2013
Date Guideline Took Effect 12 August 2013
Last Approved Revision
Sponsor Deputy Vice-Chancellor (External Engagement)
Responsible Officer Head, Web Services
Review Date 29 February 2020

Please note that compliance with University Guidelines is expected in normal circumstances, and any deviation from Guidelines – which should only be in exceptional circumstances – needs to be justifiable.


These guidelines cover the setting up and use of social media accounts by staff in the course of their employment.

These guidelines assist university staff to use Social media in the course of their employment.

The Social Media Guidelines are framed within the University of Otago Web Policy and the University of Otago Social Media Policy, and are to be read in conjunction with the University of Otago Web Guidelines

Organisational Scope

Joint venture collaborators are strongly encouraged to use these Guidelines as a reference.


Social media is the creation, dissemination and exchange of user-generated content in an electronic and online setting using (but not limited to) blogging, micro-blogging, media sharing, social networks and virtual worlds.

Account Owner means the person who, in the course of their employment, creates a social media account and/or publishes, monitors, maintains and appropriately archives content.

Categories of social media use - The six categories of social media use as defined in the document below.

Department includes Departments, Divisions, Centres, Research groups, committees, units and any other collective administrative body at the University of Otago.

Social media provider means the website supplying the social media service including, but not limited to, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.


Social Media Guidelines

These guidelines assist university staff to use Social media in the course of their employment. Staff are encouraged to use the resources mentioned in the last section to increase their understanding of responsible use of Social Media.

1. Categories of social media use

This document distinguishes between six different categories of social media use:

  1. Use of a University owned social media account by the University in its official capacity. For example, an account that represents the University, a division, school or department.
  2. Use of a University owned social media account related to a University paper or papers (e.g. COMP150).
  3. Use of a University owned social media account by an informal University group. For example, a research laboratory. The group may not necessarily be a financial entity within the University and may have non-staff administering the account (e.g. a graduate student).
  4. Use by an individual who owns a social media account related to his or her University work, but where the content represents the user’s personal views only. For example, an academic with a research-related blog or twitter feed.
  5. Use by an individual who posts to an external social media account that he or she does not own and who does so in a University-related role. For example, an academic commenting on a blog post relevant to his or her research.
  6. Use by an individual who owns a social media account in a private capacity or who posts to an external account in a private capacity.

These guidelines relate to Categories 1-5 only.

2. General social media guidelines for staff

  1. The Marketing and Communications, Social Media Advisory Group, can give you good advice and access to a range of resources such as images.
  2. Be familiar with and follow the Social Media Policy and other University policies and regulations.
  3. Always be aware of how the general public will interpret what you say, and use appropriate writing style, tone and language.
  4. Be transparent and use your real name when discussing university-related topics or issues.
  5.  If you are representing a Department, course or paper, confine yourself to relevant information.
  6. In some forums it may be appropriate to give a personal opinion. If it is appropriate, then make sure you indicate you are giving your personal opinion and not that of the University or your department.
  7. Anything you say will be available online for a long time – so take care what you say and correct any errors.
  8. Make sure you consider copyright issues relating to any content you use.
  9. Privacy is important. Take care not to publish information that should not be made public. If in doubt then don’t publish. Seek advice and refer to any relevant University policies.
  10. Confine yourself to your area of expertise and talk about what you know.
  11. Stay within the legal framework and be aware that defamation, copyright and privacy laws, among others, apply. (see section 6 of NZ Government Social Media in Government: High-level Guidance).
  12. Do not spend extended time on social media unless it is a role assigned by your manager.

3. Social Media Account Owners – How to meet your responsibilities

  1. There are specific requirements for creating accounts for the first four categories of social media use defined above. You must refer to and abide by the University’s Social Media Policy.
  2. Before starting a social media account you need to consider things such as:
  • is there a more appropriate account already in place?
  • your goals and objectives.
  • your target audience(s).
  • the benefits, risks and mitigations for those risks.
  • the on-going resources required.
  • your measure for success.
  1. Choose a suitably appropriate name for the social media account that accurately reflects the Department or individual operating the account. Do not simply use “University of Otago” as that implies the account represents the entire University;
  2. Regular monitoring and moderating of your account is very important.
  3. Implement a robust protocol for accessing the account should the account owner be unable to do so. Nominate at least one other person who knows the password and can be easily contacted, or keep the password in a secure and documented location in the departmental office.
  4. Consider attending social media related training to learn the ropes and understand what is expected of an account owner.
  5. Delegate responsibilities clearly, but trust staff to follow the Policy and Guidelines.
  6. As the Social Media Policy and Guidelines only apply to staff, careful consideration should be given before granting students administrative privileges on social media accounts.
  7. Read the appropriate sections in these documents;

(They have been a useful reference for these guidelines).

Related Policies, Procedures and Forms

Contact for Further Information

If you have any queries regarding the content of these Guidelines or need further clarification, contact Francis Till, the Head of Web Services at