Social media at Birkbeck

Social media channels help us to engage with the Birkbeck community and other important groups, including friends and alumni, prospective students and the wider academic community. All College-level social media activities and campaigns aim to build Birkbeck’s reputation as a world-class research and teaching institution, a vibrant centre of academic excellence, and London’s only specialist provider of evening higher education.

Birkbeck has a presence on major social media channels, including Facebook and Twitter. We use these channels to provide targeted and timely information so that people can keep up-to-date with news and events that are happening at Birkbeck, including our lobbying campaigns – which they too can engage with and support, for example, through their professional networks and organisations. All social media activities link people back to the Birkbeck website to find more in-depth or detailed information.

What is social media?

  • Essentially, social media incorporates the online technology and methods through which people can share content, personal opinions, swap different perspectives and insights into world issues and generally discuss the evolution of media in itself.
  • Social media website content can come in many shapes and forms:
    • Text - text is often used to put across opinions or write blog posts.
    • Images - images and photos can display anything from holiday photos to shots by professional photographers.
    • Audio - social media lets you create podcasts for users to download.
    • Video - video sites mean that you'll be able to record a video of your child's birthday for friends all over the world to see.
  • The most popular types of social media websites are huge at the moment. A few examples of these social media websites are:
    • Social networking - websites that allows you to create a personal profile about yourself then chat, discuss and share information with others such as friends and family. Facebook is a prime example of a social networking site.
    • Video sharing - video-sharing sites allow you to upload and share your personal videos with the rest of the web community. A perfect example of a video sharing website is YouTube.
    • Photo sharing - photo-sharing websites allow users to upload pictures and images to a personal account which can then be viewed by web users the world over. Flickr acts as a great example of a successful photo-sharing site.
    • News aggregation - news aggregators provide a list of the latest news stories published by users from a range of different websites. Digg, for instance, is one of the web's largest news aggregators with one of the most dedicated communities.
    • Social bookmarking - social bookmarking sites allow users to publicly bookmark web pages they find valuable in order to share them with other internet users.
    • Presence apps - these websites allow you to post micro blog-like posts to announce what you are currently doing. Twitter is a good example of a presence app.
  • This list is by no means exhaustive and there are many more types of social media sites available on the internet. And because the social media front is moving so fast, even if it was possible to list all the varieties of social media websites that exist, it would likely be out of date by the time you read this page, as new and innovative social media sites spring up nearly everyday.

General guidelines

  • Get in touch: Let us know what you've set up: we'll add you to our list of social media users, help you to publicise your social media channel (e.g. by adding you to our list of Birkbeck groups on Twitter) and also try to keep you up to date with central social media developments. Email
  • Make sure it’s consistent with Birkbeck’s visual identity: this is important, as many of those engaging with Birkbeck information through your social media will also be seeing Birkbeck’s official pages, and a consistent visual identity helps to build and maintain the College’s reputation (contact the design and print officer if you want some advice).
  • Check before you use others' branding on your website. If you're planning to use a social media website's icons, or other content on your site, always check that you have permission to do so (e.g. see Twitter's guidelines for use of the Twitter trademark)
  • Don't rely too heavily on one social media site. Social media channels appear and disappear all the time (Friends Reunited anyone?) - and the conditions for using them change as well. Make sure you've thought about an exit strategy for any work that does depend on social media.
  • As ever, abide by Birkbeck's computing regulations in all social media use.

Publishing content

  • Think about who you're posting as. If you already use social media personally, it may be worth creating a new and separate profile just for Birkbeck. Make it clear whether you are writing for Birkbeck, or writing personally (see ‘Personal use of social media’).
  • Consider your style. In some cases, you may need to write in a purely informational style. For example, we have chosen to take an informative, courteous but relatively impersonal tone for our BirkbeckNews' tweets, as we think it would be inappropriate for this channel to be personalised in any way. We do not feel it is the role of this channel to editorialise on any aspect of policy or practice – this approach is better suited to individuals (such as VCs of institutions or Directors of External Relations!). However, don't let that put you off writing in a personal, informal way when appropriate (e.g. read Costas Douzinas on Comment is Free). Don't get too formal - social media is by its nature much more informal than other media, and a formal tone will strike a false note in this medium.
  • Respect others' privacy. Don't post private information about individuals.
  • Be accurate, and when appropriate, give references as to where information came from. If you make a mistake, don't hide it, but update the page explaining what the error was.
  • Don't infringe copyright. Don't put others' content online without their permission. If you're posting Birkbeck images onto an external site, do check that you have permission to do so (the images may only be licensed to be used on the Birkbeck domain). For more information, see the Library's guide to copyright.
  • Always be courteous, even when you don't feel like it. Remember that in most cases, content that you post will be public, and it may not be possible to remove it at a later date. Think twice about how you post content if you're feeling angry about something.

Representing Birkbeck on social media platforms

  • Don't spam others to promote Birkbeck. Be careful how you communicate with others on the platform - will your communications be of interest or irritation?
  • Be honest. If you're posting about anything to do with Birkbeck on another website or social media platform, do identify yourself as a Birkbeck staff member. Don't hide your identity if you're promoting anything to do with Birkbeck - if others find out who you are, Birkbeck's reputation on that site will probably be damaged.

Dealing with visitor comments

  • Most social media platforms allow visitors to comment and discuss videos, pages, blog posts, etc. We recommend that you:
    • Encourage comments, and be responsive. Interacting with your visitors is a way to build up a community, and help gain trust from others.
    • Deal with negative feedback. If users post complaints, or have other problems, follow them up positively and quickly (before many others join in!).
    • Monitor all comments. If there is an option to be emailed whenever a user comments, use it. In social media platforms where this isn't possible (such as a discussion board on a Facebook page), ensure that this is checked reasonably regularly.
    • Provide house rules: it is useful to outline your 'rules of engagement' on your Facebook page - have a look at the house rules we use for our corporate Facebook page, which we use to determine what we will take down: advertisements, spam, and comments that are hateful, obscene, or defamatory.

Personal use of social media

  • Do not use the Birkbeck logo or other Birkbeck visual identity branding.
  • If you mention that you are a Birkbeck staff member, ensure that it is clear (e.g. in your site's profile) that your views are not necessarily reflected by Birkbeck.


Birkbeck social media channels

About this site

  • This site has been set up for Birkbeck staff using social media. Its aim is to encourage users, and to also provide some guidelines for best practice.
  • Credit: these guidelines are based on the UCL social media guidelines, and we are grateful for their permission to adapt them to our use.