Agriculture Communication


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Social Media Guidelines

NDSU Agriculture & University Extension Social Media Guidelines
Approved by AITAG, 3/8/2010

These are the official guidelines for NDSU Agriculture & University Extension (AUE) employees and partners creating or contributing to blogs, wikis, social networks, virtual worlds, or any other kind of social media both on and off and domains.

We expect all who participate in social media on behalf of AUE to understand and follow these guidelines. Failure to do so could put your future participation at risk.

These guidelines will continually evolve as new technologies and social networking tools emerge—so make sure you're up to date with acceptable practices.

When You Engage

Social media and other Web-based tools are changing the way we work, offering new ways to engage with customers, students, colleagues, and the world at large. It's a new model for interaction that can help you to build stronger, more successful educational relationships. And it's a way for you to take part in global conversations related to the work you are doing and the things you care about.

If you participate in social media, please follow these guiding principles:

  • Stick to your area of expertise and provide unique, individual perspectives on what's going on in AUE and in the world.
  • Post meaningful, respectful comments—in other words, no spam and no remarks that are off-topic or offensive.
  • Always pause and think before posting. That said, reply to comments in a timely manner, when a response is appropriate.
  • When disagreeing with others' opinions, keep it appropriate and polite. Try to respond with research-based information instead of personal opinion.
  • Be professional.


Rules of Engagement

Be transparent. Your honesty—or dishonesty—will be quickly noticed in the social media environment. If you are posting about your work, use your real name, identify that you work for NDSU, and be clear about your role. 

Write what you know. Make sure you write and post about your areas of expertise. If you are writing about a topic that AUE is involved with but you are not the AUE expert on the topic, you should make this clear to your readers.

Perception is reality. In online social networks, the lines between public and private, personal and professional are blurred. Just by identifying yourself as an NDSU employee, you are creating perceptions about your expertise and about NDSU by our stakeholders, students, and the general public. You are also creating perceptions about you by your colleagues and managers. Do us all proud! Be sure that all content associated with you is consistent with your work and with NDSU's values and professional standards.

It's a conversation. Talk to your readers like you would talk to real people in professional situations. Write in the first person, and avoid jargon and acronyms. Use language appropriate to a broad and diverse audience. Consider content that's open-ended and invites response. Encourage comments. Broaden the conversation by citing others who are posting about similar topics.

Are you adding value?  Social communication from AUE should help our customers, partners, and co-workers. It should be thought-provoking and build a sense of community. If it helps people improve knowledge or skills, build their businesses, do their jobs, solve problems, or understand NDSU better—then it's adding value.

Your responsibility: What you write is ultimately your responsibility. Participation in social media on behalf of AUE is not a right but an opportunity, so please treat it seriously and with respect. 

Lead by example. Do not denigrate others. You do not need to respond to every criticism or barb. Be careful and considerate. Once the words are out there, you can't really get them back. And once an inflammatory discussion gets going, it's hard to stop.

Did you screw up? If you make a mistake, admit it. Be up-front and be quick with your correction. If you're posting to a blog, you can modify an earlier post—just make it clear that you have done so.

If it gives you pause, pause. If you're about to publish something that makes you even the slightest bit uncomfortable, don't shrug it off and hit 'send.' Take a minute to review these guidelines and try to figure out what's bothering you, then fix it. If you're still unsure, you might want to discuss it with a co-worker or your supervisor. Ultimately, what you publish is yours—as is the responsibility. 

 For more information on participating in social media, contact Bob Bertsch, Web Technology Specialist,

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