Today one of our local legal firms ran a workshop for senior Professional Service managers on Social Media. I was a little nervous at first, as I didn't want it to be full of the legal pitfalls and put people off, but I needn't have worried. It was an excellent session, very interactive with a lot of discussion around issues that everyone needs to be aware of. I began with a quick overview of how we use social media in the University, and particularly in CiCS, mainly Twitter, Facebook and blogs. We then had a round table discussion about how other departments, including the student Union, our accommodation service and the Library use it. What soon came out was that this is not something you can do as an afterthought. It requires dedicated resource at a reasonably senior level, and constant monitoring. It's also interactive, and questions need to be responded to, conversations need to be completed.
Then we had a look at some of the pitfalls and how things can go badly wrong. From misguided marketing by Habitat to posting from an official account, instead of your personal one. Some of the risks you have to be aware of include damage to the University's reputation, liability for defamatory material, infringement of IP, data protection breaches, and making contractual agreements. All of these risks can be mitigated if you control who has access to your official account, having some guidelines, and agreement about content and messages, and being positive, helpful and friendly.
Of course, we all make mistakes, and how you recover from them is very important in a medium as fast and pervasive as twitter. Do you take down the offending material, or respond, or apologise, or make a joke of it? This is a really good example of how to do it.
In terms of personal use, one of the hardest things to deal with in the workplace is bullying and harassment issues. We had a discussion bout whether we need guidelines on the use of social media for all of our staff - at the moment we don't. Our view has always been that our existing policies - on use of IT, on bullying and harassment, on bringing the University into disrepute, should be robust enough to deal with any form of media. Similar discussions took place when email was first implemented. Our values, including respect for our colleagues, should also be applied to all forms of communication.
this example of a response.
And we ended on a very good piece of advice - "Think before you post". Something that Michael Ruse would have been advised to do.