How to maintain a Twitter channel

Applies to: not CMS specific
Last updated: 27/10/2014
Summary: Guidelines for schools, departments and other organisational units who use, or are interested in using, Twitter.

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Use a generic departmental delegated email address (also known as a shared email address) for your account. This will allow other staff to take over should you leave or change your role. Moreover, maintaining an account with a colleague or small group of colleagues can help make the account a success by spreading the workload. If you do not already have a delegated email account you can request one via the IT Services website.

Naming conventions

The main University Twitter username is @BristolUni. To ensure your username is easily identifiable with the University, we recommend prefixing your department name with one of the following options:

  • @BristolUni[...]
    For department names/acronyms that are short or easily shortened, bearing in mind that a Twitter username has a maximum length of 15 characters. Eg @BristolUniMaths for the School of Mathematics
  • @Bristol[...]
    For department names/acronyms that are longer, but are still quickly identifiable with the University rather than the city. Eg @BristolBiochem may work for the School of Biochemistry; but @BristolEnglish may be too vague for the Department of English.
  • @UoBris[...]
    For department names/acronyms that are longer and/or may be too vague to use with options 1 or 2. Eg @UoBrisEnglish for the Department of English.

Don’t be tempted to use ‘UoB’ in your handle. While this makes sense to current staff and students, who are used to seeing this abbreviation being used to represent the University, it is not so recognisable to the public, especially as other universities such as University of Birmingham and University of Bath also use 'UoB' as an informal abbreviation.

The key point is to make your username memorable, easily identifiable and, if possible, visibly connected to the University. If you’re unsure which option to use, or are concerned that the above options aren’t appropriate for your Twitter account, let us know and we can offer advice.

If you are intending to use other social media accounts, such as YouTube or Flickr, we recommend using the same username across all your accounts for consistency (where appropriate - Facebook doesn’t display usernames, for instance).

Can I change my username?

Twitter allows you to change your username while keeping your followers/following. So if you already have a Twitter account with a different username, you can rename it in line with our naming convention. Read Twitter’s instructions on how to do this.

Logo and visual identity

All schools and departments should use the following version of the University logo as your profile image:

Other accounts, such as research-group accounts, public-engagement-project accounts, or course-group accounts, can use a profile image of your choosing. (This shouldn’t be a logo created specifically for your group however - local logos aren’t allowed under the University’s visual identity guidelines.)

All accounts should include a reference to the University of Bristol in the profile text. The key point is to make your account easily identifiable and visibly connected to the University.

Be aware when using images and logos from other people/organisations in your tweets or profile. Do you have written permission to use them? If not, copyright infringement could lead to legal proceedings.

Your audience

Think about your audience before you start posting. Will it be for current students? Alumni? Prospective students? Staff? Research community? For your account to succeed in building a strong following, you will need to pick one primary audience and make sure your (re)tweets are interesting to that audience.

If you try and cater for everybody, you will struggle to attract anybody.

Publicising your account

People won’t follow your account if they don’t know about it. Make sure you advertise your account wherever possible: add a link to your website, on any relevant print or online publicity you produce, and encourage your colleagues to include it on their email signatures.

Before making a big splash about the fact you are now on Twitter, build up a few tweets (and retweets) over a week or two. This will give potential followers an indication of the sort of thing you are, and will be, tweeting about.

Build it into your work pattern

Too often, social media accounts fail after an initial flurry of activity, followed by disillusionment when the enormous following expected doesn’t materialise, or a particularly busy period dissipates the original enthusiasm. Combat this by building social media communication into your daily/weekly working routine from the start. You don’t have to (and shouldn’t) spend a lot of time on it, but you should make it a regular activity.

When posting...

Be clear

Social media is a relatively informal method of communication, so feel free to use a chatty, informal tone in your posts as long as it doesn’t undermine the clarity of the post.

Be courteous

As a University of Bristol employee, you understand the University’s commitment to acceptable behaviour in the workplace. Some online communities can be volatile, tempting users to behave in ways they otherwise wouldn’t. Don’t forget that anything you post can be seen by anybody, and it might not be possible to remove it. Your reputation, and the University’s, is best served when you remain above the fray.

Be transparent

If you participate in or maintain a social media site on behalf of the University, clearly state your role and goals. Discuss with your manager when you are empowered to respond directly to users and when you may need approval.

Be thoughtful

If you have any questions about whether it is appropriate to write about certain kinds of material in your role as a University employee, or how to respond to negative feedback, ask your manager or contact us before you post.

Be responsive

Encourage comments and respond to those who have questions. Retweet relevant posts from others - followers like to see that you interact with your community. Social media works best when you engage in two-way communication, rather than just broadcasting information with no attempt to engage with feedback.

Be focused

Ensure you post items that have relevance to your target audience; don’t be tempted to tweet or retweet general news that isn’t connected to what you do.

Be honest

If you make a mistake, don’t try and delete it: followers may receive the message anyway. Instead, apologise and move on. You’re only human after all, and followers trust those who admit their mistakes more than those who try to hide them.

What next?

Once your channel is up and running, let us know. We can add you to the University’s social media directory, and promote your account via existing feeds.

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