Best Practices

Be transparent and honest

Identify yourself and your affiliation with Southwestern University. If you’re stating your own opinion, be sure to clarify that it is yours and that you are not speaking on behalf of the University. Remember that some social media (Facebook) allows you to comment as yourself OR as a page. Be aware of who/what you’re posting as.

Consistency is key

Be consistent in your voice and tone; this consistency helps build trust, rapport and relationships. This can be challenging if multiple people are managing the account, in which case, you may consider signing posts from different contributors with initials or first names (e.g. “We’re out on the mall today! Come find me and say hi. ^DS”)

If you are open with the identity (or identities) of the person (or people) behind the account, allow for individual voices while still adhering to a generally agreed-upon tone for the account (e.g. scholarly, casual and enthusiastic).

Be polite

Apply the golden rule. Treat people with courtesy and respect.

Did you screw up?

If you make a mistake, admit it. Be upfront and be quick with your correction. If the tool you’re using allows you to edit, you may choose to modify an earlier post-just make it clear that you have done so.

Create some excitement

As a national liberal arts college, Southwestern is making important contributions to the world, to the future of education, and to public dialogue on a broad range of issues. Let’s share with the world the exciting things we’re learning and doing-and open up the channels to learn from others.

Have fun

Social media is not stuffy. Have a personality in your posts and be enthusiastic. People follow Southwestern on social media because they are excited about it. Don’t put a damper on the fun. (That being said, be respectful and sensitive in times of crisis or need.)

Listen and Respond

“Listening” to the communications on your social media accounts (and others’) is key to success. Remember to pay attention to your fans and followers, but also to posts by other accounts (related to Southwestern, higher education, your niche, etc.) and use that content to share with your audience to add value to your communications.

Negative comments are part of social media. Do not delete them or you may risk losing authenticity. Do your best to address them in a positive and honest way. Take the high road, and avoid getting into an argument.

If you do not feel like you’re the best person to respond to a question or comment, ask somebody else to do so. It’s better to have an appropriate voice respond rather than letting something go unanswered or replying with inaccurate information.

Add value

There are millions of words out there. The best way to get yours read is to write things that people will value. Social communication from Southwestern should help our students, parents and colleagues. It should be thought-provoking and build a sense of community. If it helps people improve their knowledge or skills, build their businesses, do their jobs, solve problems or understand Southwestern better, then it’s adding value.

Understand the community

Every social network has its own lingo and culture. Spend time getting to know these things before diving in. Here are a few tips for Facebook and Twitter:


  • Be clear and succinct. Facebook status updates have a 420-character limit, but generally speaking, your updates should come in well below that limit.

  • Use the extra space (compared to Twitter) as an opportunity to avoid abbreviations and shorthand.

  • To spur engagement, consider ending your posts with a question.


  • Tweets cannot exceed 140 characters, so brevity is critical. However, don’t forsake clarity.
  • Some abbreviations are OK (e.g. ampersands, using numerals instead of spelling out numbers, easily understood acronyms like “prof.” “univ.” “Med/Som” etc.) but avoid text speak (e.g. “where r u going 2 school?”).

  • Twitter is a conversational medium. That means:

    • Be friendly, engaging and responsive.

    • Find opportunities to be inclusive (“you,” “we,” “us”).

    • Talk to people like you’re a person, not an organization or a machine.

    • If someone asks a question and you don’t know the answer, be honest and say you don’t know but you will either find out or point them to someone who does.

    • Don’t be afraid to be expressive, when appropriate. This could mean exclamation points or emoticons—all in moderation!

  • When you reply to a tweet, only you, the recipient and mutual followers will see that reply in their tweet stream. However, anyone who goes to your Twitter account webpage can see all replies and tweets. (If you want to reply but also allow other people to see the response, precede the @username with an unobtrusive character, such as a period (“.@SouthwesternU You guys rock!”).
  • Before using a hashtag, go to and type it in to make sure it is not already claimed for something that might not be how you intend to categorize your tweet.

Familiarize yourself with privacy and safety

Social media content is public. Think before you post and never reveal private information about yourself, students or colleagues. Consider confidentiality laws (such a FERPA) when determining what information is appropriate to post.

Everything posted online lives forever. A good rule of thumb is not to post anything you wouldn’t want your grandma to see or you wouldn’t be comfortable seeing on the front page of The Statesman.

For specific information reference Facebook’s Privacy Guide and Twitter’s Privacy Policy.To learn more about this topic, read these articles by Mashable and CNN.

Remember: content is king (or queen)

Be relevant and timely. Engage your followers with interesting and useful posts. Create content based on what they know, want and need. (And don’t be afraid to ask what that might be!) Do your best to push people to the Southwestern University website to further engage your followers with the institution.

Do not allow advertising or soliciting

Delete non-University advertisements or solicitations unless they have been discussed with you prior to the post. However, be advised that allowing one post like this may open the door to many others. The easier way to approach offers or opportunities relevant to your audience is to share them yourself.

When in doubt, ask.

If you’re unsure about a post, link, photo, etc. ask around. Check with your colleague next door, take a quick poll among your friends, or share your idea with the Office of University Relations – Communications or ask the Social Media Advisory Group (SMAG). It takes a village!