Best Practices for Managing UB Online Communities
Establishing a social media presence at the University at
Buffalo (UB) takes a commitment of time and resources as well as a
focused strategy. Once you’ve developed your social media
strategy, these guidelines will help you manage the online
commentary for your social media pages.
The purpose of this document is to help UB web, publication or
social media managers manage fan/follower commentary and
discussion in UB’s online communities.
Why are Comment Guidelines Important?
Posting or linking to UB’s Comment Guidelines will be
important the first time someone posts an inflammatory or UB
reputation-damaging comment on your social media or web channel.
How will you handle it? Should you respond? What is your
responsibility? What if UB’s reputation is at stake?
- In order to be considered official, any UB page or
publication that permits public commentary MUST include UB’s
basic UB Comment Guidelines language.
- Only official UB web pages and social media will be
promoted in directories and other university-wide listings
Posting (or linking to) UB’s Comment Guidelines will
inform users of what you (and UB) consider acceptable practice and
how we will moderate their comments. Units are free to include
additional language in their published Comment Guidelines, but only
pages that include UB’s basic Comment Guidelines language
will be considered official UB pages.
The first step is to develop social media guidelines (and train
social media managers) that define how your unit will manage your
social media presence.
Your social media guidelines should define whether you will
allow your users to publicly comment on your content, or not.
If you choose to allow public comments, follow UB Comment
Guidelines and these Best Practices for Managing Online
1. Prepare for public comments
Before you enable comments on a blog, web site or social media
page, carefully consider how much control you want over public
comments. Do you want moderated or unmoderated comments? Choose the
options that are most appropriate to your audience needs and
business strategy and adjust your page settings accordingly.
- If you choose to allow your audience to comment freely in an
unmoderated forum, you must clearly understand that with
unmoderated public engagement, there is potential risk. Following
the strategies below will help you mitigate this risk, but you will
need to closely monitor comments in any unmoderated forum.
- Open communication is at the heart of social media, and most
users expect to be able to comment in some way or another. Be sure
you understand your social channel and all the ways your users can
post. (For example, Facebook users can post directly to the page as
well as respond to your posts.)
- If you chose to moderate commentary, you need to review
comments in a timely manner.
2. Set up a Comment-friendly page
You can make your social media and web sites
- Posting or linking to UB Comment Guidelines so users understand
how you and UB will manage comments.
- Adjusting your social media page settings to limit who can
comment, post photos/videos, tag, or reply to comments
- Including contact information for your page administrators
- In the “About” or “Profile” section of
your page, include contact information (email and/or phone) for
- Use an email alias or administrative email account, rather than
your personal email (e.g. email@example.com). This allows several
people to manage pages, and protects your personal privacy.
- Learn more about email
3. Identify Roles & Be Authorized
- Be sure your social media guidelines specify who will function
as page administrators and what is expected from them.
- Identify more than one person to act as Page Administrator.
This allows units to spread the workload and ensures your unit will
have immediate access to your page in the event of an
administrator’s absence, departure or reassignment.
- Be sure anyone (includes students, faculty and staff) who
responds to public comments is authorized to represent UB and your
department. You will be functioning as a spokesperson for your
unit. Get the approval of your unit head to post on your
- Make sure those who respond use UB Social Media Response
Protocol as a guide (see end of this document)
4. Monitor / Assess Commentary
- Most commentary simply reflects an individual’s point of
view. But sometimes what’s said online may be threatening,
harassing or potentially harmful to UB’s reputation. Part of
your role as page administrator is to protect the integrity of your
social media channel, the rights of our fans and followers,
UB’s reputation, and your unit’s reputation.
- Understand and monitor all the places comments can be made. For
instance, in Facebook, user-generated comments can appear:
- Comments to Posts
- Posts direct to Page
- In Shares, Mentions or Check-ins (see your Notifications)
- On Shared Photos
- Stay on top of comments; read them frequently and be prepared
to respond as appropriate
- In a community full of opinions and preferences, purposeful
conflict is natural and welcome, but personal attacks are a direct
violation of these guidelines and could be grounds for disciplinary
- Be respectful of language differences, but when fans comment in
a language other than English, use Google Translate to confirm the
content. Use the translation to guide your actions, but do not post
5. Respond or Take Other Action
UB’s Comment Guidelines describe in detail the actions a
page administrator may take to protect our followers and our brand
from inappropriate comments. Options include (but are not limited
- Responding to a comment/post (using the behavioral tips
- Delete an offensive comment
- Warn a user/follower directly on the page or by private
- Refer the user to UB’s Comment Guidelines)
- Block the user from future access
- Report the abuse to university or municipal authorities
Decide if you will respond to comments
- Sometimes the online community will respond with far more
authenticity than we can. Give them a voice, when appropriate.
- Carefully consider the factors and consequences listed
- If an exchange gets particularly difficult, keep records. Take
screen shots of posts and comments, especially those you plan to
- Use UB Social Media Response Protocol as a guide (see
- When in doubt, do not post – ask for help
If you choose to respond:
Decide how you will respond – think about it before you
post!! Consider these factors.
Always respond as the UB PAGE. Be 100% sure you are logged in as
the page admin and confirm that responses and comments are coming
from the UB page, not your personal account.
Consider the Impact:
- Your posts can have global significance. Forever. The internet
is permanent and worldwide. Your response should be mindful and
- Be mindful that you are representing UB. Every UB site, large
or small, reflects on the university as a whole.
Use Good Judgment and Be Professional
- Be genuine. Interact with users/fans individually, as if
you’re talking to them in person. You will be more
- Use your own voice but respond as a representative of UB
(“we” vs “I” or “the
- Fully disclose your affiliation with UB
- Respond politely, truthfully and in a timely manner
- Use respectful language. Never threaten or verbally abuse
users, fans, followers
- Proof your posts and responses carefully
- Debate, but don't attack.
Protect our Users/Fans
- Comply with all applicable laws.
- Do not post confidential information. Adhere to state, federal
and other governing laws and regulations related to information
security and privacy, especially FERPA (access to student education records), HIPAA (access to personal healthcare records),
NCAA (student athlete guidelines), as well as
university privacy policies. See More Resources for links to more
Get Help or Escalate
- If comments deal with unfamiliar topics, or topics for which
you are not the subject matter expert, seek input from the
appropriate UB subject matter expert or forward the concern to the
appropriate party within UB and tell the user where you’ve
- If comments are abusive, harassing or threatening, follow
6. Dealing with Threats or Harassing Comments
In the event that a fan /follower posts threatening or harassing
comments, take these steps:
- Depending on the severity of the comments, you may wish to
contact the commenter directly to ask them to cease their line of
commentary. If the comments persist, or if they are at all
threatening or harassing, get help responding.
- If comments are clearly threatening to you or others
- If a comment makes you (or others) reasonably fear for your
safety, it should be considered a threat
- Threatening comments may:
- Involve threats of violence, damage to property, stalking or
following, or of other criminal acts such as breaking and entering,
assault or unlawful confinement
- Be directed toward individuals, groups or institutions.
- Report any threat to an individual or group, criminal activity,
health or safety issue directly to:
UB University Police
716-645-2222 (24 hrs)
- Harassing comments may:
- Involve libel, slander, obscenity
- Involve violations of UB policies, private commercial
solicitations, advertising or political campaigning, unauthorized
surveys or requests for private information, chain letters,
unauthorized activities, etc.
- Report any harassment or similar abuse directly to:
UB Information Security Office
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org from a
buffalo.edu account if possible. Include as much information as
- why you believe this is a problem
- Your contact information
- If comments seem to negatively impact UB’s reputation
(e.g. “UB supports child labor”)
- When in doubt, get UB Media Relations involved. Email
them at email@example.com
as soon as an issue or a line of commentary becomes too hot to
Please forward feedback or questions on these guidelines to UB
University Communications at firstname.lastname@example.org,
UB Social Media Response Protocol