Social media guidelines


1. Oxford Brookes University is committed to making the best use of all available technology and innovation to improve the way we operate. This includes using all reasonable and cost-effective means to improve the way we communicate, reach out and interact with the different communities we serve.

2. 'Social media' is the term commonly given to digital tools which allow users to interact with each other in some way – by sharing information, opinions, knowledge and interests online. As the name implies, social media involves the building of online communities or networks to encourage participation and engagement.

3. These platforms open up many new and exciting opportunities. However, the practical application of such technology by the University is continually developing and there are many potential issues to consider – both as individual employees and as a University.

4. To avoid major mistakes which could result in reputational, legal and ethical issues, and misuse/abuse of a well-functioning social media relationship, it is important that we manage any potential risks through a common-sense approach and framework as well as proactively monitoring the development of different forms of social media.

5. These guidelines should be read in conjunction with the information provided by the Communications Team on the use of social media.

Definition of social media

6. For the purposes of these guidelines, social media is defined as a type of interactive online media that allows parties to communicate instantly with each other or to share data in a public forum. This includes e-mail, online social forums, blogs, video- and image-sharing websites and similar facilities.

7. Employees should be aware that there are many more examples of social media than can be listed here and this is a constantly changing area. Employees should follow these guidelines in relation to any social media that they use.


8. These guidelines aim to provide managers and individual employees with information concerning the use of, or the development of, any social media application, and to help them get the best out of the tools available whilst maintaining a safe professional environment and protecting themselves, as well as the University.

9. These guidelines should be read in conjunction with the Regulation for the use of IT facilities at Oxford Brookes University and other relevant policies.

Use of social media as part of duties

10. Where the University encourages employees to make reasonable and appropriate use of social media as part of their work, it is recognised that it is an important part of how the University communicates with its audience and allows communication and networking between staff and partners. Employees who have this remit will be advised at their induction and/or by their line manager.

11. Employees may contribute to the University's social media activities, for example by writing for our blogs, managing a social media account and running an official social communications account for the University in accordance with the standards defined by the Communications Team.

12. Employees must be aware at all times that, while contributing to the University's social media activities, they are representing the University. Staff who use social media as part of their job must adhere to the following safeguards.

13. Employees should use the same safeguards as they would with any other form of communication about the University in the public sphere. These safeguards include:

  • ensuring that the communication is in line with the University’s marketing and branding guidance
  • obtaining permission from a manager before embarking on a public campaign using social media and using this social media guidance; and
  • getting a colleague to check the content before it is published.

14. Any communications that employees make in a professional capacity through social media must not:

breach confidentiality, for example by:

  • revealing confidential intellectual property or information owned by the University; or
  • giving away confidential information about an individual (such as a colleague or partner contact) or organisation (such as a partner institution); or
  • discussing the University's internal workings (such as agreements that it is reaching with partner institutions/customers or its future business plans that have not been communicated to the public); or

do anything that could be considered discriminatory against, or bullying or harassment of, any individual, for example by:

  • making offensive or derogatory comments relating to sex, gender reassignment, race (including nationality), disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief or age; or
  • using social media to bully another individual (such as an employee of the University); or
  • posting images that are discriminatory or offensive or links to such content; or

bring the University into disrepute, for example by:

  • criticising or arguing with students, customers, colleagues, partners or competitors; or
  • committing the University to student entitlements that it does not intend to deliver
  • making defamatory comments about individuals or other organisations or groups; or
  • posting images that are inappropriate or links to inappropriate content; or

breach copyright, for example by:

  • using someone else's images or written content without permission; or
  • failing to give acknowledgement where permission has been given to reproduce something.

Excessive use of social media at work

15. The University understands that employees may wish to use their own computers or devices, such as laptops, tablets and mobile telephones, to access social media websites while they are at work. Such use should nonetheless be in accordance with the safeguards above (13 & 14).

16. Employees are allowed to make reasonable and appropriate use of social media websites from the Oxford Brookes University’s computers or devices, provided that this does not interfere with their duties.

17. Employees should not spend an excessive amount of time while at work using social media websites and should ensure that use of social media does not interfere with their other duties. University work will take priority over personal use of social media sites.

Monitoring use of social media during work time

18. The University reserves the right to monitor employees' internet usage in accordance with the Information Security Policy. The University considers that valid reasons for checking an employee's Internet usage include suspicions that the employee has:

  • been spending an excessive amount of time using social media websites for non- work-related activity; or
  • acted in a way that is in breach of the rules set out in these guidelines.

19. The University reserves the right to monitor and, within specific guidelines as defined within the Information Security Policy and associated IT policies, retain information that it has gathered on employees' use of the internet.

20. Access to particular social media websites may be withdrawn in any case of misuse.

Social media in your personal life

21. The University recognises that many employees make use of social media in a personal capacity. While they are not acting on behalf of the University, employees must be aware that they can damage the University if they are recognised as being one of our employees.

22. Employees are allowed to say that they work for the University, which recognises that it is natural for its staff sometimes to want to discuss their work on social media. The employee's online profile (for example, the name of a blog or a Twitter name) may contain the University's name, but should be focused to the area in which the employee works.

23. If employees do discuss their work on social media (for example, giving opinions on their specialism or the sector in which the University operates), they should include on their profile a statement along the following lines: "The views I express here are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer."

24. Any communications that employees make in a personal capacity through social media must still comply with the safeguards listed in 14.

Use of social media in the recruitment process

25. Unless it is in relation to finding candidates (for example, if an individual has put his/her details on social media websites for the purpose of attracting prospective employers), the People Directorate and managers should conduct searches, either themselves or through a third party, on social media only when these are directly relevant to the applicant's skills or claims that he/she has made in the recruitment process. For instance:

  • a prospective employee might claim that he/she has used social media in his/her previous job (for example, as a publicity tool); or
  • a prospective employee's social media use may be directly relevant to a claim made in his/her application (for example, if he/she runs a blog based around a hobby mentioned in his/her CV or a skill in which he/she claims to be proficient).

26. There should be no systematic or routine checking of prospective employees' online social media activities, as conducting these searches during the selection process might lead to a presumption that an applicant's protected characteristics (for example, sexual orientation or religious beliefs) played a part in a recruitment decision. This is in line with the University's Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Policy.

27. Recruitment should be carried out in accordance with the established procedures and guidelines related to recruitment and selection. The University reserves the right to adapt to the changing environment by making best use of up to date communication methods within the remits of paragraphs 25 and 26 of these guidelines.

Disciplinary action over social media use

28. All employees are required to adhere to these guidelines. Employees should be aware that use of social media in a way that may be deemed as deliberate or inadvertent misuse which could be a breach of these guidelines, may lead to disciplinary action under the University’s disciplinary procedure. Serious breaches of these guidelines, for example incidents of bullying of colleagues or social media activity causing serious damage to the University, may constitute gross misconduct and may lead to action under the disciplinary procedure up to and including dismissal.

Public Interest Disclosure ('whistleblowing')

29. Where employee releases information through social media that may be considered as a Public Interest Disclosure (Whistle Blowing’), the University’s Whistle Blowing procedure must be initiated in the first instance before any further action is taken.

Updated January 2017