Marketing and Communications

Social Media Guidelines

The purpose of the social media guidelines are:

  • to support best practice
  • to protect the University’s reputation
  • to promote effective use of social media as part of the University's marketing strategy

The guidelines apply to you if you’re a University of Portsmouth employee or student creating or contributing to any kind of social media which uses the University’s name or department therein. This includes all course, faculty, research and support service accounts. This encompasses Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat channels that you use to represent the University for the purpose of information sharing and promotion. Other channels will be assessed as they are released and social media platforms which post-date the creation of these guidelines should be assumed as included between document updates. Students using social media should do so in line with the student code of conduct to not bring the University into disrepute, and are not covered therefore in this document as they are not representing the University directly.

The University expects all who participate in social media representing the University of Portsmouth to understand and to follow these guidelines. Failure to do so could put the University’s reputation at risk and put your future participation in social media activity on the behalf of the University at risk. As new technologies and social networking tools emerge, these guidelines will evolve and it is your responsibility to check this information regularly if you contribute to social media as a member of University of Portsmouth staff.

Approval to use social media for University of Portsmouth

Social media is an essential tool for communication for the University and its use has an impact on our reputation and the way we are perceived. In the same way that our web pages and publications are subject to editorial processes we need to know who is using social media on the behalf of the University and ensure accounts remain active and serving a clear purpose within the University social media structure.

All requests for new social media presences managed by staff and bearing the name of the University (or one of its departments or groups) and/or logo should be made to and have the approval of the relevant Head of Department, Head of School or other appropriate person.

There need to be clear objectives for using social media. Discussion of these goals allows us to establish whether accounts already exist that can fulfil these objectives or if a new account is required to best meet them, as well as which channels will work best and how to utilise these.

Effective use of social media is interactive and consistent, and therefore has resource implications so consideration needs to be given to whom has responsibility for populating accounts on social media. This responsibility should be shared in order to ensure continuity during absence and continued access to accounts in the case of personnel changes. This is to provide a good level of content and ensure continuing support of the accounts. In many cases it may be that an area or service can input to one of the University’s already established channels rather than create new accounts that can fragment our messaging and miss the intended audience.

Points to consider

There are billions of words and online conversations - what can you add that’s different and why will anyone want to hear from you? Think about a potential student who might be engaging online with several universities, who are all trying to be an applicant’s first. What can we offer that’s different and is of benefit? Or a researcher looking for places to read about their chosen subject, how can you appeal to them enough to follow your account over a publisher? These types of questions are not meant to deter use, but to encourage consideration of content before beginning so that you have the best chance of success and that time can be spent in the most efficient way.

The best way to get your contributions read, watched or listened to, is to write about and share things that people will value. University of Portsmouth social communication should help our customers, partners, and colleagues, and be clear in which of these audiences it is for, even if this varies from post to post. It should be interesting, generous (what can we give in terms of content that people want or will want to share?) and build a sense of community. It is adding value if it helps people improve knowledge; or business activities to grow; staff to feel more confident and informed at work or potential students to understand what makes the University of Portsmouth standout. Personality is important. Social media must be sociable and should retain this element even for corporate accounts. People engage with the personality behind a brand, not the brand face and therefore it’s important to create a mix of content to reflect this. This may be showcasing the caring nature of a support service with shares and engagement with relevant news stories, or another example would be to show the creativity of those representing creative courses. If you need help establishing this email and we can work to establish what makes your social media presence unique, yet still a clear part of the wider University brand.

Only think about social media if you have the time and the material to update it regularly. An unused Facebook group, Twitter account or blog can look worse than none at all. You must have an idea of what types of content can be posted before you begin - what type of updates/info/pictures will you upload? Who will be responsible for keeping it up to date? Can you commit to update it regularly?

There is no specific best time or frequency to post to your social media accounts, and advice on this varies depending on the source of the information. You will start to see trends as you develop and experiment on your accounts around what type of content works well and when. There are some common sense principles to be applied however, such as posting during lunch or commuting hours for a corporate audience, or scheduling content for evenings, outside of scheduled lecture times, for the student audience etc. The decision to post should be driven by having something to say, rather than to fulfil a quota, and if there is nothing to say then do not post, it will be likely to have more of a detrimental effect than a positive one. If you’re concerned you don’t have enough to say, try planning a month’s worth of content, if this is a struggle, perhaps there's another account your messaging could add to.

Twitter accounts should be weighted 70/30 in favour of retweeting other people’s content, such as industry bodies, trade publications, researchers, news articles etc. This method helps your account become a hub of information on a topic, rather than a self-serving broadcast account, like shouting in a crowd rather than having conversations. Instagram should only be used by those with enough visual content to keep it populated. These images should be on brand, not of posed groups of people, and varied. Facebook pages are restricted to a structure, and areas outside that will need to discuss with the Social Media Coordinator as to why any exceptions. The University should not use profiles instead of pages, but groups tied to pages will sometimes be a better option for an activity. Snapchat is restricted to one University level account, which colleagues are encouraged to add to rather than create fragmented accounts on this channel.

Advice and sign off on accounts, their uses and the set up can be obtained by emailing


Responsibility for the maintenance of a corporate social media channel rests with its creators/administrators and should not misrepresent the University. Accounts other than the core University of Portsmouth accounts should largely consist of content regarding their own area of expertise, rather than the university sector as a whole. The exception to this is when celebrating success of the University as a whole, or where mass communication is required, as this should be amplified as far as possible across all corporate accounts.

Managers should consider resources for social media – how much time should a staff member devote? – it is an integral part and highly effective method of communicating with internal and external audiences, and should be allocated the time that reflects this importance. Social media does not always require express written responsibilities in a job description, as it is an extension of existing duties. For example, course promotion or communicating with students are activities which exist outside of social media, and the social media element is simply another route to the audiences here.

If a channel/page is no longer relevant, has resulted in very little engagement or there is insufficient resource to maintain it, it should be deleted or made non-public. If personnel changes mean that an account cannot be accessed in order to remove it, all efforts should be made through the help desk of the platform in question (for example contacting the Facebook support team) to have it removed or access given to another administrator to do this. If you are in need of support to do this please contact


  • Contact (put NEW ACCOUNT in the subject) to discuss the creation of new accounts. A decision will be made regarding the account creation based on how it fits within the social account structure of the University, whether an account already exists that can be used for the proposed need, and whether there is sufficient resource and content to fuel the account long term.
  • For branded corporate accounts, engagement must represent the University, or any of its departments or activities. The appropriate manager must approve its creation, more than one administrator must be assigned to maintain it, and details of login information must be stored so lasting access can be maintained to the account should personnel changes occur.
  • Once created, login details must be made available if requested for admin purposes to the University’s Social Media Coordinator and Marketing.
  • Once created advice and training can be requested on the use of the account for the purposes of best practice, to ensure effectiveness. The account must serve and support the University strategy and the social guidelines must be adhered to.
  1. Never represent the University in a false or misleading way. Be prepared to provide evidence that claims and statements are true and not misleading.
  2. Create a balance between created and curated content - this ensures your account is seen as a credible source of information about your field rather than purely self serving and gives people a reason to follow. This is to be weighted in favour of curated as this enables population of the account even on tight time scales and shows the account to demonstrate varied sources
  3. Use your area of expertise and write what you know – your ‘voice’ and perspective will make this unique and interesting.
  4. You should not post messages offering advice or opinions on behalf of the University when this is not part of your approved work.
  5. You don’t have to be an expert on behalf of other departments or post messages about their areas of work - refer enquiries outside your direct field to the appropriate University website pages or colleague. Please see the responsibilities area of these pages.
  6. Write in the first person and be transparent. When you are writing about the University, use your real name, identify that you work for the University, and be clear about your role. If you have a professional or vested interest in what you are discussing, make sure that this is declared.
  7. Make sure your efforts to be transparent don't violate the University's privacy, confidentiality, and legal guidelines or bring the University into disrepute.
  8. Reply to comments in a timely manner, preferably by the next business day.
  9. Respect proprietary information, content, financial disclosure regulations and confidentiality. It is your responsibility to ensure you have sought appropriate copyright permission for third party content and have permission to use any images.
  10. Do not publish or report conversations that are meant to be private or internal to the University of Portsmouth without express permission from senior staff.
  11. Never comment on anything related to legal matters, litigation, or any parties with whom the University may be in dispute.
  12. Do not denigrate our competitors or the University of Portsmouth.
  13. Seek guidance before participating in social media when the topic being discussed may be considered sensitive (e.g. a crisis situation, intellectual property, a volatile news story, commercially sensitive material).
  14. Refer social media activity around sensitive topics to the Social Media Coordinator or, in their absence, to the Head of Marketing and Campaigns
  15. Apologise quickly and honestly for any mistakes you make in online conversations.
  16. Remember, you may be personally responsible for your content.