Skip to main content

Guidelines for WVU Social Media Use During an Emergency

It is critical that all West Virginia University social media accounts communicate uniform messages during a disaster or emergency. This keeps the campus community and beyond properly informed with consistent and accurate messaging.

Accordingly, all official University messages in a crisis will originate on the WVU Alert Twitter account (@WVUalert) and the WVU Police and Safety Facebook. Only the content posted on these accounts or on the main University accounts (@WestVirginiaU Twitter/Instagram, the WVU Mountaineers Facebook, and @WVUToday Twitter) should be retweeted/shared.

For the University Relations Social Team:

The @WVUalert Twitter account and the WVU Police and Safety Facebook serve as the main source of official information on social media. Therefore, when a crisis first arises, all scheduled posts should be removed to allow for a clear focus on the emergency at hand. Scheduled posts for @WestVirginiaU Twitter/Instagram and the WVU Mountaineers Facebook should also be removed. Any content on the @WestVirginiaU Instagram story should be deleted.

Throughout the crisis, the Senior Director of Marketing should be in constant contact with the Director of News at University Relations/Communications and designated communications specialist for the latest information surrounding the situation.

Posting

  • In the case of a crisis, University Police will craft and send WVU Alert messages to alert the community of a crisis on campus. These messages will be sent through text and email to those signed up for the service as well as posted on social media. Only the first WVU Alert should be automatically posted to @WVUalert and the WVU Police and Safety Facebook. Any alerts sent following the first one, including the final message indicating the emergency is over, will be manually posted to Twitter and Facebook by the social media designee.
    • To keep @WVUalert properly connected to the WVU Alert text system, the social media team should inform University Police if the password for the @WVUalert account has changed.
  • The initial alert should be quickly retweeted/shared from @WVUsafety, @WestVirginiaU Twitter/Instagram story, @WVUToday, the WVU Police and Safety Facebook, and the WVU Mountaineers Facebook. Subsequent WVU Alerts should be retweeted/shared as deemed necessary.
  • As WVU Alerts are sent and as the social media designee receives information from the Director of News at University Relations/Communications, they will manually post the alerts/new information to @WVUalert and the WVU Police and Safety Facebook.
    • For Twitter, additional alerts/messages including new information should include “UPDATE:” at the beginning of the tweet. All tweets throughout the crisis should be threaded to streamline news on the user’s feed. This should also help in showing the most up-to-date information to users.
    • For Facebook, additional alerts/messages including new information will be added to the initial Facebook post by editing the post. This will create a timeline of all alerts/messaging with the most recent update at the top. Edits should be formatted like: “UPDATE (time): Put the text alert here.” Past alerts/messages and the initial WVU Alert should not be deleted from the post. An example of what the Facebook post would look like in a crisis is:
      UPDATE (10:47 am): This is the second update.
      UPDATE (10:39 am): This is the first update.
      WVU Alert (10:30 am): This is the initial alert.
    • Each WVU Alert/message with new information should also be shared on the @WestVirginiaU Instagram story. Similar to Facebook, each new update should read “UPDATE (time):” followed by the rest of the information/message.
  • To restore and maintain confidence and calm within the campus community, it is important to post updates periodically (at least every 10-15 minutes generally and maybe every 5-10 minutes during a high-tension crisis). The following are examples of messages that can be used when no new information has yet been provided:
    • Please continue to avoid the area. Emergency services are on the scene.
    • There is no new information at this time. Continue to avoid the area.
    • Emergency services are responding to the situation. Please continue to avoid the area.
    • Investigation is ongoing. Please do not spread misinformation. Official information will only come from @WVUalert. Please continue to avoid the area.
    • Continue to avoid the area. We will continue to update as we receive new information.

Other “filler” content should be developed depending on the crisis. Only content from official social media accounts (ex: @MonCoOEM, @Morgantown_PD) may be retweeted/shared.

  • Commonly used crisis terms and phrases should be clearly defined in a crisis. The use of a graphic with the term and its definition should be attached to posts where the term is mentioned. These graphics should be made ahead of time and will be stored away for future use. These terms/phrases may include:
    • shelter-in-place
    • all-clear
    • barricade/hide/deny access
    • run/hide/fight
    • and more
  • All social media posts should do the following during a crisis or disaster:
    • Calm the masses.
    • Give information to the public.
    • Give information to external news outlets.
    • Clearly define commonly used safety terminology like shelter-in-place, all clear, etc. as these terms are used in alerts.
    • Control/“own” the conversation around a crisis.
    • Give us off-site communication access should phone lines and internal servers be compromised.
  • Remember to always update the campus community when a crisis is over. The final WVU Alert text and email message giving an “all clear” should not be automatically posted to @WVUalert or the WVU Police and Safety Facebook. Instead, this final alert should be manually posted to the Twitter thread to close out the thread and added to the WVU Police and Safety Facebook post about the crisis.
  • In the event that a crisis has caused significant negative impact to the campus community, it will be necessary to create posts that will facilitate calm and healing over a designated time period. Topics that may be discussed could include mental and emotional assistance, counseling, hotlines, and more.

Monitoring

The social media team should have a Twitter monitoring program available (ex. TweetDeck, Sprout Social, HootSuite, etc.).

  • Create searches for all references to WVU and the emergency situation at hand. Additionally, create similar searches that have a location parameter set up around Morgantown. Searches may include terms like:
    • WVU
    • WVU alert
    • WVU emergency
    • WVU shooting, WVU bomb, etc.
  • Closely follow the interactions of the @WVUalert, @WVUsafety, @WVUToday and @WestVirginiaU Twitter accounts. Also monitor the comments on the WVU Police and Safety Facebook and the WVU Mountaineers Facebook.
  • Note any specific social media posts that could be used to help in a crisis investigation. Copy the link to these posts, and take a photo/screenshot of these posts as well in case they are deleted. Alert Sherry St. Clair with University Police at Sherry.StClair@mail.wvu.edu or at 304.293.3136. In addition, alert the director and the designated communications specialist.
  • If there is an obviously erroneous post that is receiving a large response on social media, the social media designee will work with the director and designated communications specialist to confirm it is unfounded and respond in an effort to calm the masses.
    • Engagement during a crisis depends on the situation, but it is discouraged in many instances. After a crisis, depending on the outcome and nature of the incident, it could be necessary to engage to make an effort to restore and maintain confidence and calmness.
  • After a crisis has ended, monitor the notifications of @WVUalert. If people are actively quote tweeting old alerts/updates, reply to these tweets with an all clear message to ensure that they know this situation has ended.

For Other University Social Media Managers

  • During a crisis, all scheduled posts on social media scheduling programs should be unscheduled or deleted on all University-wide accounts. This will allow for a constant and consistent stream of news from official sources.
  • Any University-related social media accounts (those with reference to WVU or that are considered affiliated with the University) should refrain from posting their own messages. Instead, they should only share official updates from @WVUalert or the WVU Police and Safety Facebook. If they would like to refer their followers to those accounts for more information, they may do so by posting, “For official updates on the current campus emergency, follow @WVUalert or visit emergency.wvu.edu.”
    • In long-running situations, the University Relations social media designee will send an e-mail to the social media managers across campus and/or post to the WVU Social Media Managers Facebook group with information and reminders on what to do with their respective accounts. An email will be sent to the Key Communicators listserv to inform them as well.
  • Once there is an official University announcement that a crisis is over, all University-affiliated social media accounts should end its crisis communications. They can do so by retweeting/ sharing/etc posts from @WVUalert and the WVU Police and Safety Facebook or by posting an official University press release. They can return to regular posting as deemed appropriate.

General

  • When discussing information with media members and sending news releases, please include: “For the most up-to-date information on this situation, follow @WVUalert on Twitter.”
  • Do not rely on outside media reports in any crisis situation. Only official information received from the Director of News at University Relations/ Communications or designated communications specialist should be posted during a time of crisis or disaster, and only posts from @WVUalert and the WVU Police and Safety Facebook should be retweeted/shared.