Social Media Policy

As Community Manager at the Humber Students’ Federation, my day to day role is to manage all of the digital content that is produced by the organization as well as guide a conversation around how we hope people to respond to it.  Although the organization had strong policy documents around communication, there was no policy that explicitly dealt with social media.  So I wrote one.

The document is still in process, and will likely change, but it is really close to being completely finished.

To get things started, I actually modified a template that I had previously used for a Public Policy and Administration course that I took at Ryerson.  This helped get some ideas down as to what the important parts of the policy were and why they needed to be addressed.

HSF Digital Media Policy Working Document

State why this issue is important. Identify and clearly define the problem under analysis.

Online communication tools evolve rapidly.  It is crucial to define the terms of engagement with respect to how HSF will communicate online.

This policy provides guidelines governing the appropriate use of online communication tools.  This policy works in conjunction with Humber’s Acceptable use policy as well as the Charter of Student Responsibilities and Rights.


Present sufficient background details with a review of the literature drawing from academic as well as other sources to set the policy context.

In larger organizations, there has been a movement towards “social media guidelines” rather than policy.  These organizations typically have multiple individuals or business units producing content, different goals, and distinct online presence.


Research the social, physical, economic and political environment around the issue.


  • from Humber – no significant influence to change the course of HSF communications
  • what messaging do we say no to
  • how should executives appear online?  where does their personal voice stop and their HSF representative voice begin?
  • hsf vs humber vs external
  • disciplinary action when students post inappropriate content


  • use of resources vs other media
  • any paid advertising, promoted tweets
  • cost associated with promotion of online presence




  • students are typically high users of social media
  • main focus is full time students
  • connecting students
  • communicating our message
  • accepting environment online, not exclusive
  • two way communication


  • social media is quickly changing
  • concepts should be similar across all tools (fb, twitter, instagram,
  • content can be contributed by anyone, anywhere at any time



Cite comparative context: refer to studies and policy outcomes in other jurisdictions, if available. Are there best practices for our jurisdiction?

Identify the various stakeholders whose interests must be considered.

HSF Executives / Student Staff / FT Staff
What are the expectations in discussing HSF online?
Some guidelines around what should not be discussed:

HSF Clubs
Starting a facebook/twitter account

Starting a facebook/twitter account

Humber (the institution as a whole)
Occasionally Humber wants to leverage HSF’s social media presence to communicate a message

Want to consume information, gather knowledge, participate, complete a task
Use social media as a tool to connect with other students

HSF as a Brands
All communication and interaction reflects on HSF as a whole


Suggest policy recommendations and the various rationales defending those positions

The following areas should be addressed:

  • Terms of use / acceptable interactions / community guidelines (directed at students / community)
  • Reaction to / discipline of individuals who breach the community guidelines
    • up to and including dismissal at the discretion of committee, ex dir
  • Presence of HSF representatives online (execs)
    • tone of voice
    • what not to discuss (financial data, personal information of other individuals)
  • Presence of BoD and student staff online
    • helping HSF achieve objective
  • Clubs / other arms length groups creating new online profiles/communities
  • Day to day operations of HSF official accounts (internal staff)
    • response time / hours
    • tone of voice
    • creating / shutting down accounts


Other questions:

  • Is this policy related material?  Or is it more closely related to a procedure manual?
  • Who will abide by this policy?
  • What consequences are expected upon breaking policy?

Key points

  • “terms of engagement” for dealing with people from the humber community who post on our online sites (what comments are allowed, what are not, how to deal)
  • “arms length” pages and profiles (execs, bod, clubs) guidelines
  • “official accounts” best practices, how to accomplish our goals

Next it went through many refinements.  Group discussions with individuals that would be impacted by this policy were critical to getting everyone on board.  This document has been discussed, modified, chopped down, built up, and will likely go through some more revisions.  But for now, take a look:



Policy Intent

This policy, in conjunction with Humber ITAL’s Acceptable Use Policy, is intended to provide guidelines governing the appropriate interaction with Humber Students’ Federation’s (HSF) social media presence.  The intention of this policy is to ensure the safety of individuals participating within the HSF online community as well as ensuring the proper representation of HSF.

For the purpose of this policy, social media and online community refer to any and all existing and future HSF accounts, profiles, and websites, including but not limited to:



The purposes of building an online community at HSF is to distribute relevant and appropriate information to stakeholders as well as gathering information from the community to inform future initiatives.

This online community must be a safe space where users feel welcome and are willing to share, contribute ideas, and collaborate with HSF and other students.  HSF affiliates, students, and community members, must be responsible for the content that they contribute to ensure a safe and appropriate atmosphere.

This policy may interact with, and be superseded by a number of other policies such as Humber Acceptable Use Policy, Humber Charter of Student Rights and Responsibilities, IT and Security Policy, Privacy Policy and others.

Policy Definitions

Humber Students’ Federation (HSF) – includes all HSF affiliates, subsidiaries, and branches.

Social Media – any and all digital accounts and profiles that allow for the creation and exchange of content.

Online Community – opportunities for users and HSF affiliates to interact with one another in a web based environment.

Users or HSF Affiliates – refers to all Executives, employees (full and part-time), Directors, club members, and all other HSF advisors or consultants.

Official HSF Accounts – any and all digital accounts and profiles that were explicitly created by the HSF Community Manager for HSF business.

Complimentary HSF Accounts – any and all digital accounts and profiles created by HSF affiliates which might be assumed to be representative of HSF.  Even if these accounts are not created with the intention of representing HSF, they are assumed to be complimentary accounts if created by recognizable HSF figures and discuss HSF activities.

 Existing Accounts of New Representatives – any and all digital accounts and profiles that belong to student executives or directors.  This includes accounts that were already existing before the start of the executive’s or director’s term.


Policy Guidelines

Official HSF Accounts
The creation, monitoring, maintenance, and decommission of official accounts will be done by the HSF Community Manager or delegate.

Complimentary HSF Accounts
When creating or maintaining accounts that are intended to represent an HSF related initiative, service, group, or individual, the following concepts should be observed:

  •  Objectives – What are you trying to accomplish whit this social media presence?  How does it align with the strategic goals of HSF?
  • Audience – Who is the intended audience of this account?
  • Strategy – What tactics will you use to accomplish your objectives?  How will this be measured?  How long will this account be active?
  • Interaction – How will you interact with established accounts on campus to help build your profile?
  • Representation – Recognize that whether intentional or not, students and the Humber community may interpret your account as a representation of HSF.

Existing Accounts of New Representatives
Elected members including executives and board members are public figures by the nature of their positions.  In these cases is it is important to recognize that any public content posted to personal accounts might be interpreted as a representation of HSF, whether or not that is the intention.

Prohibited Activities

Without exception and without limitation, no user of an Official or Complimentary HSF Account may:

  1. Violate the laws and regulations of Canada, or any other nation, or the laws and regulations of any state, city, province, or other local jurisdiction any law or encourage others to violate any such laws
  2. Access or disclose corporate, employee, and/or student data without proper authorization or consent
  3. Display of any kind of sexually explicit image, or document.
  4. Commit infractions, such as misuse of HSF assets or resources, sexual or other forms of harassment, unauthorized public speaking and misappropriation of intellectual property.
  5. Conduct or promote any form of commercial or for-profit activity without proper authorization in an attempt to exploit resources.

This is not an exhaustive list.  Any other actions that would be deemed inappropriate by a reasonable person is prohibited.

Community Guidelines

The terms of engagement for interacting within the online community will be readily available for all visitors and community members.  The intention of these guidelines is not to discourage discussion or silence ideas, but rather to ensure that all members are able to feel safe without fear of harassment.

Tolerance – HSF will not tolerate comments, images, or other content that promote racism, violence, homophobia, illegal activities, or that are intended to make others feel uncomfortable.

Removal – If content from a community member violates any of the preceding concepts of tolerance, the content will be removed.

Response – If content is removed, an official response will be issued addressing why the action was taken.

Follow Up – Depending on the severity of the incident, further action may be taken.  The issue may also be addressed within other polices, such as Humber Acceptable Use Policy, Humber Charter of Student Rights and Responsibilities, IT and Security Policy, Privacy Policy or others.



  1. HSF representatives who violate this policy may be subject to disciplinary action up to and including expulsion and/or termination of employment at the discretion of the Executive Director and President.
  2. Community members who violate the laws and regulations of Canada, or any other nation, or the laws and regulations of any state, city, province, or other local jurisdiction are subject to litigation by the appropriate authorities. HSF bears no legal liability for users who violate these laws.
  3. Online users who contribute to, or interact with HSF online communities in a way that contradicts the statement of HSF Tolerance may be subject to disciplinary action such as deletion of content, ban from future contribution, or actions referred to in other policies including the Humber Acceptable Use Policy, Humber Charter of Student Rights and Responsibilities, IT and Security Policy, Privacy Policy and others.


Let me know what you think.  Are there any items that you would modify?

If you are creating a social media policy for your organization, I hope this is of some value.  Let me know in the comments if this has been useful.

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