Social Media GuideOverview
Getting Started Best Practices Tips
CSU, Chico Social Media
Social media is an essential tool for communicating with the modern audience. This is especially true for universities hoping to engage students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, community members, and more.
In recent years, Public Affairs & Publications has engaged in a comprehensive effort to broaden California State University, Chico’s social media presence. These efforts stretch across platforms including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+, and Wordpress. Our strategy focuses on maintaining each platform consistently, engaging our followers, and garnering new media consumers.
Our goal is to enhance affinity for the University by sharing the story of the Chico Experience, reaching people who may not be communicating with the University in traditional ways like print and email.
We want to help others at Chico State community by sharing what we’ve learned along the way.
This guide gives an overview of some of the most used social media platforms, information on how to set up and maintain them, and best practices and resources to help you create an effective social media presence.
Anything posted on California State University, Chico social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Wordpress, etc.) should be in good taste and appropriate for all audiences.
As a public institution, CSU, Chico's social media properties are considered public forums and therefore must protect the right to free speech. However, comments remain subject to the user agreements for each platform and may be reported for violating a platform's standards (e.g. Facebook's Community Standards). Additionally, online harassment and threats of violence may be reported to law enforcement officials and/or Student Judicial Affairs as appropriate.
Comments and photos shared on any CSU, Chico social media site may be used by CSU, Chico on other sites and in communications materials including but not limited to print and online publications and email newsletters.
As a participant in California State University, Chico’s social media efforts, you take personal responsibility for your comments, your user name, and any information you choose to provide. Please do not post personal information such as phone numbers and addresses.
Each faculty, staff, and student user of CSU, Chico’s computer communications systems is responsible for the material that he or she chooses to send or display using the campus computing/communication resources.
Most books, journals, magazines, photographs, art, sound recordings, computer programs, and websites are protected by copyright law. In addition, architecture, motion pictures, and dance choreography can also be protected by the law. So when you use ideas, words or phrases, images, or sounds from another source, be sure to seek out the copyright holder and obtain permission before you include that work in your social media copy.
For more details, refer to the Use of Copyrighted Materials page on the Meriam Library website.
“Plagiarism is the use of someone else's work, including words, ideas, projects and/or any other material without citing the source.” (Policy on Academic Integrity and the Establishment of the Academic Integrity Council; Revised Executive Memorandum 04-036)
You can seek permission to post someone else’s images, words, and ideas, but social media also allows you to “share” (Facebook) or “retweet” (Twitter) posts from other sources, and that’s the best way to pass along someone else’s work while giving them credit. Read more about plagiarism and social media here.
See also “Photo Policy” in CSU, Chico’s University Publication Guide
Posting photos on your social media sites is an effective way to generate engagement, but it’s important to follow a these simple guidelines:
- Never use a photo from another source without permission from the copyright holder of that photo.
- If you’re shooting photos in a public space, such as outside a building on campus, you do not need to secure permission from people you photograph. But, if you shoot photos inside a building or at a non-public event, we recommend that you get written permission from everyone in your photos.
- If you photograph minors, you need permission from their guardians or parents. You can print the standard CSU image release forms from the Web in English or Spanish: https://www.calstate.edu/brand/resources/
This guide is an overview of some of the most popular social media platforms, but it is by no means comprehensive.
The world of technology and social platforms changes so rapidly, it is difficult to predict whether the next big thing will become the next big flop. Therefore, carefully evaluate a platform before you get started. You have limited time and resources—and can’t be everywhere. Choose your platform(s) strategically based on your audience and purpose (see "Getting Started," below).
Facebook is the world’s most popular social network. It allows users to create personal profiles and connect with “friends” to create a vast online community. Organizations can capitalize on this audience by creating a page and posting status updates, photos, videos, and more to their “fans,” who then share them with their friends. Frequent interactions and sharing of content encourages new fans to “like” your page and create a lasting relationship with your organization.
A pioneer of “micro-blogging,” Twitter allows users to post frequent updates of 140-character or less. “Followers” can subscribe to receive your updates, reply to you, or “retweet” (share) your content. You can build on this community by sharing news and links, and encouraging interaction.
Instagram, owned by Facebook, is a mobile photo-sharing application that allows users to take photos and short videos, apply filters to stylize them, and share them with friends. Photos can only be posted within the app from an Android or iOS device (smartphone or iPod/Pad), but they can be shared to other social platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, and foursquare) and/or viewed on the Web.
Blogs, which feature longer posts, are perhaps the simplest media to maintain, as they do not need frequent updating. Viewers can also subscribe to receive email updates when you post. The University blog is currently hosted by Wordpress, but other popular blogging sites include Blogger, Tumblr, and TypePad. While essentially providing the same kind of services, each platform has unique advantages, so we encourage you to do a little research before selecting which platform will work best for your blogging style.
Billed as a professional networking site, LinkedIn allows users to create resume-style profiles and connect with colleagues and business contacts. Businesses can also create company profiles to share news and updates. Additionally, users/companies can create groups specific to industries, interests, or program alumni.
YouTube is a video-sharing network that allows users to upload content to their "channel" for public consumption as well as comment, like, and share other videos. Videos can also be shared to other social outlets and embedded in blogs for easy viewing.
It’s helpful to consider the following before creating social media accounts for your department:
What audiences are we trying to engage?
Social media platforms can target different audiences, so deciding which audience(s) you want to engage will help direct you to the platform which best suits your needs.
Facebook– prospective students, current students, parents, faculty/staff, and alumni (all ages)
The Study Abroad Office uses Facebook to shares stories/photos of current study abroad students, promote programs and opportunities, as well as connect study abroad alumni with one another.
Twitter– prospective students, current students, recent alumni, faculty/staff, news outlets, and industry partners
The Admissions Office uses Twitter to inform students of upcoming deadlines and important information regarding admission status and application process.
Athletics uses their @ChicoWildcats account to live-tweet sporting events and share news about our athletics teams and alumni.
Instagram– prospective students, current students, and recent alumni
The Wildcat Store posts photos of new products, events, contests, and more.
Blogs– prospective students, current students, faculty/staff, general public, and target markets/industries
The Liberal Studies department uses their "Reflections of a Peer Advisor" blog to give advice and study tips to current students.
The Technology & Learning Program's blog posts campus-related updates as well as educational technology industry news.
LinkedIn– alumni and target markets/industries
The Alumni Association maintains a group where alums can network, share news, and keep in contact with one another.
YouTube– prospective students, current students, and general public
University Housing created video tours of the dorms as well as comedic roommate conflict resolution tip videos.
Do we have a designated staff member to maintain and coordinate the site?
It’s not necessary to assign a specific staff member to social media, but one may be helpful if you are attempting to build a strong social media presence. Many departments have student assistants who work with a supervisor to maintain their platforms (See Maintenance).
Not ready to launch your own social media site?
Public Affairs and Publications can help by posting your messages on the University's social media sites.
Check out successful social media accounts from CSU, Chico and other universities or programs similar to your own. Note the frequency of their updates and the kinds of content they post. A little research can help you develop goals or strategies for an effective social media presence.
Remember that it is most important to be where your audience is, rather than try to be on all of the platforms, so ask your desired audience where they are and where it makes sense for you to be.
If you are not familiar with social media, take some time to try out the platforms personally. The knowledge you can gain from simply using Facebook, for example, far exceeds anything you can read in a guide such as this.
Developing clear goals for your social media efforts is essential to long-term success. Most departments don't have the resources or the need to maintain several platforms, so its important to determine your desired outcomes before launching a page/profile/account.
In addition to audience concerns mentioned above, you should also consider what you hope to communicate. Occasional program news, student successes, daily events/activities, enticements for prospective majors/participants, alumni news, or some combination? Something else?
Different platforms can help you achieve those goals in different ways. And some will work better than others for your content. For example, Twitter is well-suited to frequent event/news updates, but it might not be appropriate if you only have news to post once a week/month.
Think about your desired outcomes, figure out tactics for achieving them, and determine you'll know measure your success. Will you create a posting schedule to ensure your sites are consistently updated? Will you create a regular feature (Throwback Thursday photos, Student Spotlight posts, etc)? How will this help achieve your overarching goal?
Example (from the "University-wide Social Media Strategy"):
Goal: Build affinity for the University among prospective and current students and alumni. Develop positive identity for the University with parents and the general public.
Tactic: Increase the amount of material posted that aids in the positive branding of the University (e.g., student awards, civic engagement, sports achievements, alumni accomplishments). Specifically:
- Post and link to news releases that positively reflect the University and its students
- Share and re-tweet positive posts from other campus departments and encourage departments to post about or mention us
- Interact with campus community offline (Words with Wildcats) and share responses in our social media
- Monitor direct feedback (comments, likes, re-tweets) on social media sites
- Track @mentions on Twitter to see what users are saying about the University
- Record relevant representative comments
Use Campus Announcements and Student Announcements, as well as email lists and notices on your website to let potential audiences know of your social media sites. Also, use your other social media platforms to promote new additions. Inviting other CSU, Chico programs to be your “fan” or “follower” can help connect you with the University’s broad online community.
Join the Chico State Social Media Users Group on Facebook and contact firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the campus social media maintainers email group, so we can share the news around campus. By coordinating efforts across the campus, we can create a unified social media identity for the University while promoting the unique attributes of individual programs and departments.Let Public Affairs and Publications know when you’re getting started! We can help you set up and promote new sites, as well as help you track results.
A social media site can be a great marketing and communication tool. But if its not updated regularly—with content your audience wants—the site will be ineffective. Therefore, it’s helpful to have a designated individual or team responsible for keeping content fresh and relevant.
Depending on the platform you choose, the time requirements will differ. The initial setup of the social media sites will take a couple of hours (depending on the enhancements you choose), but once they are launched, you can expect a maintenance schedule close to the one listed below:
Between posting new content, interacting with users, and updating photos and other media, expect to spend at least 15 to 30 minutes a day maintaining communication via your Facebook page. It’s a good habit to check the page a few times a day to reply to users and keep the conversation consistent. To avoid oversaturating your audience with too many posts, make sure to spread your content out throughout the day, and aim for no more than three updates per day.
To be effective on Twitter, you need a post consistently. A Twitter feed has a rapid pace, so updates won't have a long lifespan. You can typically post as many updates as you need/like per day. Depending on how many tweets you post and how active your community is, you could spend 10 to 20 minutes throughout day posting and replying to users. Remember that you can supplement original content with retweets and @mentions.
Instagram is all about images. The most time-consuming part of maintaining an Instagram account is finding new and interesting visual perspectives of your program to share. Instagram is flexible; it's acceptable post frequently (a few times a day) or moderately (just a few times a week). But maintain a consistent frequency of posts so your users know what to expect when they follow you. It is important to remember that you can only upload photos to Instagram via their smartphone app, so you'll need access to a smartphone in order to use this platform. (You can use a digital camera to take photos and even edit them on your computer, but you'll need to send them to your phone for uploading.) To reduce daily workloads, consider taking several photos at a time and saving them for future posts.
If you are writing blog posts yourself with a goal to publish once a week, the time you spend working on WordPress will be around one to two hours a week—possibly more, depending on content. If you are recruiting guest bloggers to write for your blog, communication with authors, editing, and publicizing may take two to three hours a week.
Your update frequency for these platforms will depend on your goals and audience. Some LinkedIn groups are very active and may require discussion moderation or posts from you daily. Others are more self-supporting and only need to be checked weekly or monthly. Your YouTube channel can be updated with new videos as you create them. If you set your videos to allow users to comment, you should check comments regularly and respond to any questions or misinformation.
Do's and Don'ts of Scheduling Posts
- Don’t schedule posts unless absolutely necessary (and if you do, choose content carefully). Posts are better if they’re fresh, current, and relevant.
- Do make your own posting schedule through an editorial calendar. (Plan ahead so you can promote often but avoid content fatigue.)
In the social media world, it’s important to keep track of a few critical numbers to gauge your impact with the online community.
Facebook has created a great built-in analytics program called “Insights.” As you maintain your page, you should explore the “Insights” button on the right side of the profile page. This analytics overview provides basic user statistics, including daily, weekly, and monthly activity, as well as page content feedback, comments, and “likes.” In addition to these details, “Insights” provides useful demographic information, including gender and age, location, and external referrers (outside sites that refer viewers to your Facebook site).
Unfortunately, Twitter has not created a handy analytics tool yet, but there is still crucial information you can record to determine your influence. We recommend you keep track of the following categories on Twitter: number of tweets, followers, retweets, and @replies.
WordPress blogs have an information box titled “Stats” on the user dashboard. The basic statistics include the number of views per day, top searches, and top posts. If you delve further into the analytics program, you can find which sites are referring viewers to the blog, subscription information, and other statistics.
YouTube also has a built-in analytics program. For content uploaded to the official ChicoStateChannel, Public Affairs & Publications will be able to provide you with information regarding video views, thumbs up/thumbs down numbers, comment reviews, and demographics. Contact email@example.com for help with this.
CSU, Chico social media sites should be CSU, Chico-branded with both textual and logo references. Keep the format consistent so it becomes familiar to your audience. See the Graphic Standards in the CSU, Chico Publications Guide for more information.
Content can be copied and forwarded once it’s posted on the Internet, so use good judgment in the topics and language you choose. Everything you post on an official CSU, Chico social media account reflects on the University. Be respectful of your readers and their opinions and comments.
Understand the audience(s) you are trying to reach and choose your language and tone to fit them. You want a genuine voice and conversational tone, but keep unrelated personal information out of your official CSU, Chico social media postings.
It’s likely that at some point a reader will post questionable content. You can ignore most negative comments. The social media environment is extremely fast-paced. An occasional negative comment will not harm your reputation, and you can appear small minded by engaging in negative banter or extending a negative conversation. However, do counter inaccurate statements with accurate facts.
Delete all posts involving political endorsements or banter, unrelated outside links, mudslinging or defamation, advertisements and promotions of any sort, or SPAM.
All official CSU, Chico social media accounts reserve the right to delete comments that are deemed inappropriate. Contact Public Affairs and Publications if you want help dealing with questionable comments.
Pages vs. Groups
As a university entity, you should be launching and maintaining a Facebook page, not a group or individual profile.
- Pages communicate broadly with people who “like” them. Pages may be created and managed only by official representatives of the organization.
- Groups provide a closed space for small groups of people to communicate about shared interests. Groups can be created by anyone.
Name your page to clearly and concisely identify your specific program. Do not name your page in a way that might be confused with a page representing the entire University or any other CSU, Chico program.
Add the institution name “CSU, Chico,” or “Chico State” before your unit name, e.g., “Chico State Admissions,” not “Admissions at CSU, Chico” or simply “Admissions.” If necessary, a long dash can separate the institution and unit names.
Correct usages might include:
- CSU, Chico English Department
- CSU, Chico – Office of Public Affairs and Publications
- Chico State Study Abroad
Attach YouTube video links right to your post, so it’s available for viewing directly on your Facebook wall.
Post photos to your page through Facebook photos and tag the official California State University, Chico page. By tagging CSU, Chico, followers of the university page will be able to view your images and more traffic will be directed to your page.
It’s fine to repost information on Facebook from Twitter and other media, but be sure to reword the post and remove hashtags. Try to put a different spin on the story.
Tag people in posts—other colleges, people, etc.—with the hope that they will repost your information. Tag other users, pages, or events by using “@NAME” in your post.
Look for post sources from both Chico State (e.g., @chicostate) and beyond campus (e.g., news websites). Aim for a mix of fact and color in your tweet posts. Keep your tone conversational and respectful; avoid a reporting tone—“Smith said xxx” or “Public Affairs reports that xxx.”
You can “tag” a post by prefacing a word with the pound sign (#). This hashtag makes it easy for readers to search posts by topic. Use both internal and external hashtags. To create a new hashtag, just include the new word (e.g., #ChicoStateRecycles) in a tweet. Provide some context for the new hashtag so users can grasp its meaning (e.g., “AS Recycling increases composting options on campus! Look for bins @ BMU Marketplace! #ChicoStateRecycles”).
Limit the number of hashtags per tweet to a maximum of three. Don’t use hashtags at the beginning of a tweet because Twitter occasionally has technical issues that can delete these tweets.
Tweet on topic and with a consistent frequency. This helps keep readers engaged. Decide how many tweets you want to make per day and week, and work to reach that goal. But don’t tweet if you have nothing new to say, as this can result in boring posts. Five to 10 tweets per day, including retweets and @mention responses, is a good goal.
News-worthy and fun content is appropriate for retweeting because they tend to promote user engagement. Tweets that continue a positive image of your department are always worth retweeting. Using the RT button rather than copy and paste helps you avoid duplication and plagiarism in feeds. Limit your post to 125-130 characters to make it easier for retweeters.
Reply to a tweet or a question directed to you by clicking the “reply” button at the bottom of the original post. With this feature, you can easily add to the content or answer a question, and it automatically inserts the username of the person you’re replying to. Your reply will be visible to your followers, and it can be seen by recipients in their “@Mentions” tab on their homepage.
Direct Messages (DMs) are good for exchanging contact information and other non-public information. But automatic direct message responses are impersonal, so avoid using them (e.g., “Thanks for following us. Check out our website!”). Don’t write anything in a DM that you wouldn’t want the whole world to see. DMs are usually private, but you never know when a technical malfunction might make your post public.
Links and Multimedia
Display your Twitter feed on your website, giving site visitors a direct link to updates and giving you an easy way to promote your program.
Official CSU, Chico accounts should “follow” all other official CSU, Chico Twitter accounts, so we can help each other promote our programs.
Posts and Multimedia
Strive to have at least one post per week. Readers want to be able to anticipate new information, so consistency is vital. But stay on topic; it’s better to not post than to post something off topic. In general, a graphic or video and 100-300 words is a good goal.
Promote your blog by posting about it on Twitter, Facebook, Campus Announcements, and Student Announcements.
CSU, Chico has an official YouTube channel where it hosts clips and videos related to Chico State. Having your video on the Chico State YouTube channel will reach the largest possible audience. To have your video uploaded to the official YouTube channel, e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org with a video title and short description.
Five Tips for Success
Adapted from “Waterloo Social Media Guidelines.”
1. Have a conversation.
Social media is about connecting with people. It’s important to listen to what your audience is saying, respond appropriately, and ask open-ended questions that encourage interaction and connection. Use conversational language and tone, but be respectful, clear, and correct.
2. Be clear.
When you maintain a social media site that represents a university program, it’s your responsibility to clearly state your role and goals. Don’t try to hide your identity as a Chico State employee.
3. Be precise.
Check your facts before you post. Cite your sources and provide links whenever possible.
4. Be careful.
Don’t post a comment if you feel angry or upset; wait until you can write with a clear head. Social media is not private. Anything you write on a social media platform can be copied and forwarded, and search engines can retrieve comments years after they were posted. Deleted posts are often saved in archival systems.
5. Get a second opinion.
Know when you can respond directly to users and when you need approval from your supervisor. When you have questions about what material is appropriate to write about, ask your supervisor before you post or contact Public Affairs.
Management & Analytics
Bitly - link shortening and click rates
HootSuite - manage multiple platforms and gather analytics
TwitPic - uploads photos to Twitter
“Introduction to Social Media” - An interactive presentation introducing social media platforms and strategies
“Social Media at Colorado State University” - Comprehensive guide for getting started and understanding copyright laws.
CASE Social Media - Blog focused on social media strategies for universities from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.
The Social Media Guide – Website containing the latest news and tips for social media.