Social Media Guide

Best Practices

When participating on social media, it’s important to follow a social media plan, always represent Southwestern University, and think twice before posting.

Think, create, and most importantly connect. University-affiliated social media channels represent Southwestern University and should follow the voice and message of Southwestern University. Every touch point and interaction with the University should reflect the University’s personality and institutional vision and mission. 

University-affiliated accounts are an extension of the University and should not be used to criticize, undermine, or harm the University or its goals and mission.

Be a communicator. Be accurate and purposeful. When communicating on University-affiliated social media channels, use the same procedures and safeguards that you would use for other forms of public communications, such as checking for errors in accuracy and writing, ensuring approval to share publicly, and ensuring clear purpose and benefit.

Have a social media plan. Identify the goals and target audiences for your unit’s social media efforts, and select the platform(s) that best align with them. Develop a sustainable, long-term plan for content, engagement and monitoring for each account. Evaluate and update the plan at least twice a year. Alternatively, consider partnerships with other units and/or accounts. Contact Southwestern University’s social media staff for questions, guidance, and resources —

Be active. Update regularly. Quality over quantity. Social media accounts require attention and balance to be effective. Post regularly and be mindful that audiences will unfollow the account if they feel flooded with messages, particularly if messages seem irrelevant. It’s good practice to space posts out over the course of a day to avoid overwhelming followers. The quality of posted content is more important than frequency of posts. Look at social media analytics to discover the times of day and days your followers are online. Post during those times and days for greater engagement.

Be social. Social media followers expect a two-way dialogue. Have a plan to engage your audiences. Consider tactics such as sharing photos, encouraging followers to share content with you, asking questions, holding contests and participating in conversations.

Consider content for your audience. What information is most engaging and relevant to them? What can you share that is unique to your unit? What types of articles, photos, videos and graphics will be interesting to your audience? Prioritize this content and eliminate superfluous information.

Consider campus and global contexts. Be mindful of campus happenings and world events. A poorly timed post can be seen as offensive or tasteless and may attract scrutiny.

Be thoughtful, mindful and respectful. Use good judgement. Consider how the post’s language and content will reflect on you, your unit, and the University. Be clear in your writing – tone and meaning can easily be misinterpreted online. Consider your audiences’ possible reaction to the post and the comments it may generate. Do not use language or share content that is, or may be perceived as, offensive, discriminatory, inflammatory or biased. Act professionally, honestly, responsibly, respectfully, ethically, appropriately and consistent with University policies and laws. Remember the University’s institutional vision and mission.

Think twice before posting. If you wouldn’t feel comfortable making the same comment to the media on behalf of the University, it should not be posted on a University-affiliated account.

Use relevant hashtags, mindfully. Including relevant hashtags in posts can extend the reach of posts on some social media platforms. It’s good practice to use no more than 2-3 hashtags per post. Ensure you verify what the hashtag conversation is about before using it. Remember Southwestern’s official hashtag is #BeSouthwestern.

Avoid personal opinion and endorsements. Avoid sharing personal opinions or advocating for personal interests. Do not make endorsements, whether commercial, political, or otherwise. Be mindful of unintentional endorsements and posts that may be perceived as endorsements.

Double check the account. Ensure you’re posting the intended content to the intended account. Posts are public and forever.

Schedule smartly. Don’t set it and forget it. Scheduling posts can be useful for spacing posts out over the course of a day. It’s good practice to only schedule one day at a time to remain aware of what is scheduled – especially if an event or incident arises – and remain actively engaged in monitoring the channels and conversations.

Respect privacy, including your own. Be mindful when exchanging personal or contact information. When necessary to exchange such information, it’s good practice to ask an individual to privately message you their information to avoid sharing yours publicly.

Monitor comments. Monitor accounts regularly and actively. Monitoring accounts can provide insight for your social media plans, and alert you to opportunities to engage followers and build a community. Be mindful that users on different social media platforms have different expectations for timely responses.

  • Twitter: Users expect very prompt responses – at least three times a day, check mentions, direct messages, relevant search terms, and relevant hashtags.
  • Facebook pages: Users expect timely responses – at least twice a day, check private messages, wall posts, post comments, and comments on recent previous posts.
  • Facebook groups: At least once a day, check post comments, comments on recent previous posts, group members’ posts, and requests to join.
  • Instagram: At least once a day, check post comments, comments on recent previous posts, tagged photos, direct messages, and relevant hashtags.
  • LinkedIn pages: At least once a day, check notifications, post comments, comments on recent previous posts, and followers’ posts and recommendations.
  • LinkedIn groups: At least once a day, check discussion posts, comments on new and previous discussions, submission queue, moderation queues, and requests to join.

Address negative comments. Have a plan for responding to questions, concerns, and negative comments. Be kind, cautious and avoid escalation. Recognize when comments do and don’t require a response. Be mindful of deleting relevant comments as it can be viewed as censorship. Delete posts that are clearly spam.

Correct mistakes. If a mistake occurs, correct it quickly. Be transparent about the mistake and any corrective measures.

Be supportive. We encourage you to work collaboratively and in common purpose. Together, we are greater than the sum of our parts – we are one University. We encourage you to share appropriate content from schools and colleges, and units and programs, across your unit’s social media channels to show our unity and solidarity, and to support each other’s efforts.

Do no harm. Let your social media activities do no harm to the University, yourself or others.