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University of Houston Social Media Policy

The official UH System Social Media Policy can be found as SAM 01.H.01 on the UH Policies and Procedures website. Please refer to the SAM for all official communication. The information provided below is intended to highlight additional social media policy information and best practices. 

About

What is Social Media?

Social media is a general term used to reference websites and applications that enable users to create and share content, and virtually connect with others users. The list of popular social media sites grows every day. 

The University of Houston endeavors to "offer opportunities for learning, discovery and engagement." With that in mind, we encourage our students, faculty and staff to embrace social media as a convenient, engaging and impactful communication tool.

The guidance provided here references important legal information, along with supplementary social media best practices.

Please contact P’nina Topham at pnina@uh.edu with questions and feedback.

Table of Contents

  1. UH Employees who maintain UH social media sites
  2. UH Employees who maintain personal social media sites
  3. UH Students who maintain UH social media sites
  4. UH Students who maintain personal media sites
  5. Popular social media platform how-to and best practice guides
  6. Additional links

UH Employees who maintain UH social media sites

Legal

Follow all applicable state, federal, and university laws, faculty and staff handbooks, regulations, and policies, such as FERPA, HIPAA, and NCAA Regulations. Any content and/or online activity created by a poster or site moderator that violates these ordinances, or contains/leads to the release of a student’s private personal information is strictly prohibited and should be removed.

Protect confidential information with privacy laws, especially FERPA: "The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education." (read more).

If you are en employee of the University of Houston or provide work for the University of Houston, do not engage in any conversations or post any information regarding student records. Some examples of student records include names, admission status, GPA, Social Security number, PeopleSoft number, and any/all other information that would be covered by FERPA. If students request help, you can direct them to a secure discussion platform, such as phone, email, or "Get Help"

Protect confidential medical records, as specified by HIPAA: “The Privacy Rule protects all "individually identifiable health information" held or transmitted by a covered entity or its business associate, in any form or media, whether electronic, paper, or oral.”  Examples of protected information include: “…the individual’s past, present or future physical or mental health or condition, the provision of health care to the individual, or, the past, present, or future payment for the provision of health care to the individual, and that identifies the individual or for which there is a reasonable basis to believe can be used to identify the individual.” See more...

The world of social media has changed the face of communication and recruiting in collegiate sports and all UH employees are asked to abide by NCAA regulations when interacting and communicating on social media platforms. In addition, we ask that all employees refrain from contacting prospective student-athletes on social media until after they have signed a National Letter of Intent with the school.

The university does not endorse or use any social network Internet communication service or media sharing service as a secure means of communication for online business transactions or matters involving personal information. The university will not ask for, nor should an individual send, credit card or payment information, classified information, privileged information, private information or information subject to non-disclosure agreements via any social network internet communication service.

Find UH privacy guidelines click here.

Do not engage in personal affairs under the guise of your UH entity’s social site.

If there is a filter option for comments, disable it or set it to the lowest possible setting.

If there is an option to add information on your site, please add this disclaimer: All content posted here does not necessarily reflect the views/ opinions of the university.

If you photograph a student with the intent to publish that photo on a social media site, you need to have your subject sign a photo release form before you post the photo. Learn more about image release regulations here.

Regarding the posting of faculty and staff pictures in UH publications or mediums, it is recommended to exercise proper judgment and discretion in determining whether to post such pictures and to seek permission in any instance where faculty or staff would have some expectation of privacy. For example, group shots of university employees at university events should be fine. However, for the posting of employee pictures on the website, it is recommended to ask for permission. This can be done in writing, by email, or with the standard UH photo release form. The key is to be respectful of employees’ privacy considerations. 

Respect copyright law. "Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed." (read more). Also see copyright policy information on uh.edu, as related to file sharing.

Fair use allows portions of certain works to be used without consent under specific situations however, "The safest course is always to get permission from the copyright owner before using copyrighted material." (read more).

Utilize available graphics to reinforce the university brand. Do not abuse logos. Your social media icon/profile image for your entity should comply with the UH branding standards. It should either be a photograph related to your entity, an approved logo for your entity, or another appropriately branded image. See the UH Graphic Standards.

UH employees who have authority to update UH social media sites should not post personal information or personal updates to UH social media sites.

Employees must adhere to regular employee policies and standards of conduct. Please review the following:

Obey the terms of use for your social media platform. These rules are constantly changing so it is your duty to stay up to date. Here are links to policies for some of the more popular platforms:

UH social media sites should be accessible in some form to those with disabilities. Learn more here.

Please understand that by posting content to third party applications such as social media sites, you are almost always releasing ownership rights to and control of that content. For this reason we ask that you do not share any restricted-use photos to which you may have access.

If you are a faculty member using social media as a means of communicating information to your students, it is best to only use it as a supplementary form of communication and not the primary form of communication.

Advised


You are encouraged to link to your source material ANY TIME you are able. This will help reduce the possibility of misinformation and it will also drive traffic.

Protect your own privacy online by adjusting your privacy settings and publishing your updates only to the audiences with whom you wish to share your status.

If you manage a forum that allows users access to comment and post (i.e. Facebook wall, LinkedIn Group, etc.), you must adhere to the specific social media platform's terms of service and the UH Social Media Policy.  

Think twice about the content you are about to post and double check EVERYTHING, with special attention to accuracy, spelling, and grammar. Think twice about the value of the content and consider whether or not it may potentially malign or polarize any person or group.

Be respectful. If an audience member posts a comment to your site that upsets you, give yourself some time to cool down before responding. Display good sportsmanship; do not malign your rivals. Treat others as you would like to be treated.

Photos: As mentioned above in the privacy section, you must get a photo release form form from any student identifiable in the photos you share. You should also be respectful of UH employees by requesting written permission to release their image. This can be done via written note, email, or the standard photo release form.

It is recommended that you regularly review your site's metrics. This will help you understand how you can improve your communications and provide your audience with desirable content. 

Cross-promote whenever possible. See the social media directory for a list of official university sites.

Registering and maintaining your site


Register your site with the Division of University Marketing, Communication and Media Relations. To register, please contact P'nina Topham. Registering your site will allow your site to be added to the UH Social Media Directory and allow your site administrators to become members of the UH Social Media Alliance.

Somewhere on your site, it is encouraged that your audience should have a way to privately contact the site administrator. If this is not a built-in feature of the site you are maintaining, then you are encouraged to list or embed email contact information somewhere on your site. You can also link to the Social Media interaction guide. On Facebook you can do this by editing your page settings under the "features" section to show the featured page author. On Twitter you can embed this information in the custom background image. Contact P'nina Topham with questions or comments.

Drive traffic and include source material. Just like a bibliography in a school report, you want to give your audience a place to check the validity of the information you are sharing.

Reinforce the university voice and brand. Help us build our reputation as a world-class Tier One institution.

Ownership rights for official university sites should only be assigned to university employees only (not students). If you need to assign certain duties to a student intern, please seek approval and best practices from the Division of University Marketing, Communication and Media Relations. Send any requests to P'nina Topham.

All sites must have at least two administrators, to ensure that there is a fail-safe in case the primary administrator becomes unavailable in an emergency situation. 

UH Employees who maintain personal social media sites

Legal

Follow all applicable state, federal, and university laws, faculty and staff handbooks, regulations, and policies, such as FERPA, HIPAA, and NCAA Regulations. Any content and/or online activity created by a poster or site moderator that violates these ordinances, or contains/leads to the release of a student’s private personal information is strictly prohibited and should be removed.

Do not divulge any confidential information you have access to as a UH employee (e.g., student information).

If you are en employee of the University of Houston or provide work for the University of Houston the university, do not engage in any conversations or post any information regarding student records. Some examples of student records include names, admission status, GPA, Social Security number, PeopleSoft number, and any/all other information that would be covered by FERPA. If students request help, you can direct them to a secure discussion platform, such as phone, email, or “Get Help”.

Protect confidential medical records, as specified by HIPAA: “The Privacy Rule protects all "individually identifiable health information" held or transmitted by a covered entity or its business associate, in any form or media, whether electronic, paper, or oral.”  Examples of protected information include: “…the individual’s past, present or future physical or mental health or condition, the provision of health care to the individual, or, the past, present, or future payment for the provision of health care to the individual, and that identifies the individual or for which there is a reasonable basis to believe can be used to identify the individual.” See more…

The world of social media has changed the face of communication and recruiting in collegiate sports and all UH employees are asked to abide by NCAA regulations when interacting and communicating on social media platforms. In addition, we ask that all employees refrain from contacting prospective student-athletes on social media until after they have signed a National Letter of Intent with the school.

The university does not endorse or use any social network Internet communication service or media sharing service as a secure means of communication for online business transactions or matters involving personal information. The university will not ask for, nor should an individual send, credit card or payment information, classified information, privileged information, private information or information subject to non-disclosure agreements via any social network internet communication service.

Find UH privacy guidelines: http://www.uh.edu/legal-affairs/general-counsel/ferpa/index.php

Respect copyright law. "Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed." (read more). See also, copyright policy information on uh.edu, as related to file sharing.

Fair use allows portions of certain works to be used without consent under specific situations, however, "The safest course is always to get permission from the copyright owner before using copyrighted material." (read more).

Obey the terms of service for every social media platform, and comply with applicable University policies and laws. The social media platform terms of use are constantly changing; it is your duty to stay up to date. 

Advised

Protect your own privacy online by adjusting your privacy settings and publishing your updates only to the audiences with whom you wish to share your status.

UH Students who maintain UH social media sites


Legal

Respect copyright law. "Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed." (read more). See also, copyright policy information on uh.edu, as related to file sharing.

Fair use allows portions of certain works to be used without consent under specific situations, however, "The safest course is always to get permission from the copyright owner before using copyrighted material." (read more).

Utilize available graphics to reinforce the university brand. Do not abuse logos. See the UH Center for Student Involvement for information on graphics standards.

Adhere to the student handbook (especially regarding academic honesty and student code of conduct) and any/all regular applicable student policies, standards of conduct, and applicable law. Please review.

Obey the terms of use for your social media platform. These rules are constantly changing so it is your duty to stay up to date. 

Please understand that by posting content to third party applications such as social media sites, you are almost always releasing ownership rights to and control of that content. For this reason we ask that you do not share any restricted-use photos to which you may have access.

Advised

You are encouraged to link to your source material ANY TIME you are able. This will help reduce the possibility of misinformation and it will also drive traffic.

Think twice about the content you are about to post and double check EVERYTHING, with special attention to accuracy, spelling, and grammar. Think twice about the value of the content and consider whether or not it may potentially malign or polarize any person or group.

Be respectful. If an audience member posts a comment to your site that upsets you, give yourself some time to cool down before responding. Display good sportsmanship; do not malign your rivals. Treat others as you would like to be treated.

Respond to comments, posts, mentions, and other interactions in a timely manner and with accurate information. Build relationships with other student administrators of social media sites who will be able to help you answer questions quickly and accurately.

It is recommended that you review your site's effectiveness once a month. This will help you understand how you can improve your communications to provide your audience with content that THEY want. This in turn will help you grow your audience. Many social media sites come equipped with native analytics, but there are also plenty of free tools out there that can help (i.e. Google Analytics, Hootsuite, bit.ly, TwitterCounter, SumAll, Rowfeeder, etc.).

If you do not post items of value, your audience will stop listening. Give them content they can share and/or that will help them succeed. Give them opportunities to flaunt their creativity, or to do something fun. Every time you share a new post, ask yourself, "Would I find this valuable?" Also try to keep your language casual. Ask yourself, "Would I speak to a friend like this?"

Cross-promote when you can! See the social media directory for a list of official university sites. 

Registering and maintaining your site


Register your site with the Division of University Marketing, Communication and Media Relations. To register, please contact P'nina Topham. Registering your site will allow your site to be added to the UH Social Media Directory.

Somewhere on your site, you should include include a way for your audience members to privately contact site administrators. 

Drive traffic and include source material. Just like a bibliography in a school report, you want to give your audience a place to check the validity of the information you are sharing.

UH Students who maintain personal media sites

Legal

Respect copyright law. "Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed." (read more). See also, copyright policy information on uh.edu, as related to file sharing.

Fair use allows portions of certain works to be used without consent under specific situations however, "The safest course is always to get permission from the copyright owner before using copyrighted material." (read more).

Adhere to student handbook (especially regarding academic honesty and student code of conduct) and any/all regular applicable student policies, standards of conduct, and applicable law.

Obey all social media platform terms of use. These rules are constantly changing; it is your duty to stay up to date. Here are links to policies for some of the more popular platforms:

Popular social media platform how-to and best practice guides


Related links:



Disclaimer:


This Social Media Policy does not apply to social media advertisements (ads on social media sites promoting your entity, or ads promoting your entity's social media sites). For information on ad policy, contact branding@uh.edu.