Social Media Best Practices
Is your department thinking about jumping into social media to better connect with your students? Are you already rocking Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat? Regardless of whether you’re a social media expert, or starting out for the first time, these guidelines and best practices were created with you in mind!
Publishing and engaging with people on social media carries a similar obligation as they would if you were working with traditional media. These social media guidelines have been designed for New Mexico Tech’s various divisions and departments develop their social media presence. These recommendations apply only as far as Tech employees identify themselves as employees of the university, or are using university social media accounts.
Getting Started - Questions to Think About
Does Social Media support the conversation you want to have with your audience
Does my audience regularly engage in social media?
Does my organization have enough content to keep users engaged on a regular basis?
Does my organization have the resources to actively maintain a social media presence.
Who is your audience?
Who are you creating content for? Current students? Recent alumni? This will depend based on the department you are working with.
Your audience will then help determine the kinds of content you want to create and share with them, and how you want to engage with them.
For example, while Student Activities, Fidel Student Center, and student government accounts would create content that current students find more interesting, Advancement and Alumni Relations will probably create content and engage with their audience more like a “college friend.”
You need to think like a member of your audience - why do they like Tech? If they are an alum, what were some of their fond memories of Tech and Socorro? What kind of information would they find interesting, and how would they like to engage with your social media accounts (if at all)?
Give them a chance to provide content and connect to your coverage of university events.
Get Your Content Together
When first creating an account on any social media platform, you will need the following information anyway, so it is best to have this available ahead of time:
- Title (we suggest placing “NMT” or “New Mexico Tech” before your program/unit/department title)
- Content type (most NMT Facebook Pages fit nicely into the “Company, Organization or Institution” category and “Education” or “Science” sub-categories)
- A profile picture/NMT logo for your program/unit/department. Make sure this logo fits the New Mexico Tech Marketing and Communications Identity Standards
- Basic Information about your organization (Facebook recommends adding your website, Twitter Page or other social media accounts in this area as well).
- A plan for posting content and marketing your new social media accounts.
Official NMT Web Colors
If you’re running a New Mexico Tech Social Media Account, you need to be using NMT’s Official Dark Blue and Rust!
Creating the Right Content Once You’ve Started
Who is your audience? Once you answer this question you’ll be able to create the content that will connect with them the best.
Is it students? Faculty and Staff? Alumni? Each audience want a different story of the university - students want to know what is going on across campus, how-to stories about enjoying campus life, tips to improve their grades; alumni want to hear positive stories about their alma mater, stories that will boost their pride and may even want to encourage them to donate.
You want to create content that your fans will want to share with their fans.
If you don't have time or resources to create content your audience will find useful, you need to ask if your department needs to be on social media, or if a static website would work better for your needs.
Social Media Etiquette
Remember when you are posting on official NMT social media accounts, your content and engagement reflects on the Institute.
- Avoid controversial issues or inflammatory statements.
- Be positive in your interactions with your fans or followers. Make sure you don’t alienate or upset your fans or followers when you are engaging with them.
- Use sound judgment when creating your posts/images/tweets/etc. Once posted, your content can go anywhere.
- Remember FERPA and HIPAA requirements when creating posts or responding to comments.
Always Be Engaging
You want to give your audience a chance to connect with, and help develop, the university’s brand and identity.
Always be looking for chances to have conversations with your audience/potential audience. We need to meet with our audiences where they are, interest-wise. What pop culture events are going on that you can leverage to keep your audience interested in your department?
Your accounts need to have some personality behind them, people want to know there is someone running these accounts, and not just an automated RSS feed.
Focus on Your Audience
Be focused on what your users want, you want to be a valuable source of information to them, as well as engaging.
You're building a social community with your audience, and while you want to provide information to your audience, remember - this is a discussion, not a shouting match.
Listen and respond to your audience
Insider Information - You need to serve as a connection between your audience and the information that they can't quickly find.
Participate and Share -Think like a student. Answer the questions and provide content that people really want to know about.
Network Specific Guidelines
If you are seeking to build community or communicate with a finite cohort, such as a “Class of 2020”, then consider making a Facebook Group. If you are creating a Facebook presence for a university course, you might want to consider a Private or Hidden Facebook Group.
For a large presence that you hope will increase and/or exist indefinitely, such as a department, school, or college, a Facebook Page is probably the better option. Pages are an excellent way to connect with the Tech Community. That being said, they are also a very visible representation of the university and should only be created after careful planning and consideration.
Establish Page Administrators
In the same way that you should never have just one single individual be in charge of a university unit's email account or website, you shouldn't have just one person be an administrator for your unit's Facebook Page. We recommend having no less than two trusted individuals listed as page administrators, not including the New Mexico Tech Digital Media Manager.
Having more than one administrator ensures that you will still maintain access to your page in the event that your admin separates from your unit, graduates, has an unexpected emergency, etc.
Who will be primarily responsible for posting new content?
Who will be primarily responsible for monitoring activity on the Group/Page?
What policies will need to be in place to responsibly manage the page? (see Disclaimer section for more details)
Who will your backup administrators be?
Will student employees be given administrator access to this Page/Group?
Twitter is a microblogging social network. Unlike Facebook, which allows you to grow and reach out to your audience through “friend connections,” Twitter is an outward-facing network. Twitter encourages you to interact with people who you aren't connected to/following, based on your interests, or a shared connection.
The ability to have a conversation with people is an important part of social media. Twitter gives you the opportunity to talk with people around the world about anything you find interesting, or just update your friends and family with what's going on. Twitter has also become the "backchannel" for discussion about events in the news.
Retweeting (RT) is a way for others to share your messages via Twitter. If you limit your Tweet length to 200-240 characters if possible, to make it easier for people to retweet your content.
Consistency is key in using Twitter - you need to set a goal for the number of tweets you want to make per day and work to reach that goal over time. You also don’t want to just repeat the information you are sharing on Facebook, these are two different social media audiences.
Direct Messages: You can use direct messaging system (DM) to respond directly to those who are following you on Twitter. You can address criticisms or other negative comments directly, if necessary.
From time to time your audience will post content or comments that you, or members of your department, will find questionable. Developing a plan to respond to these situations before they arise will enable you to make informed, strategic responses rather than rash ones.
Do not delete/ignore negative comments just because they are negative. You should act quickly to address the criticism given, and contact the person involved to see how you can help resolve the issue, is possible.
When to delete a post/comment
Feedback on sites like Facebook should only be deleted or removed if it is in violation of the NMT Page Policy or your division’s own Page Policy (see below for details on Establishing a Page Policy). Unless the comment or post is a violation of these policies, you should attempt to resolve the issue without censoring your page. In many cases, pages that are well utilized tend to develop loyal users who will support or respond to criticism on your behalf. In other cases, negative posts allow you to respond publicly, thus turning a negative situation into a positive one.
Example of a negative post worthy of a public response:
Sally: “I just read the Chieftain today and cannot believe that your department reduced your hours to service! Aren’t you here to HELP students instead of making their lives more difficult?!”
Department Response: “Hi Sally! Thank you for your feedback. We appreciate that you care enough about our services to comment about today’s article about the change in hours at our department. Budget cuts have indeed reduced our traditional service hours, however, we are now available to help you for anywhere at anytime via Facebook, our website...”
Example of a negative post worth of a private response:
Ted: “I just got my financial aid award letter and found out that I won’t be able to afford Tech this semester! Thanks for being so expensive!”
Department Response: “Hi Ted. We’re sorry to hear about your situation. Please send us a private FB message or call us at 835-XXXX to discuss your situation and see if there is anything we can do to help.”
What types of comments should be outright deleted?
That is a decision that only you can make. Generally, posts that offensive (including, but not limited to, racist, sexist, homophobic or anti-Semitic statements) should be deleted. If you delete a post by a user, you should consider sending him/her a private message detailing why the posting was removed and how they can appropriately address concerns (aka have an educational moment with him/her).
All official NMT social media accounts reserve the right to delete content that is considered inappropriate. Please contact email@example.com if you need help addressing questionable content.
Finally, Get Involved!
As you develop your skills, knowledge and abilities in using social media, you will find that you become increasingly resourceful to others on campus. Please consider being part of the dialog surrounding the evolving world of social media.
If you have additional questions about setting up social media accounts for your department, or addressing any other social media concerns, please contact NMT’s Digital Media Manager, Benson Hendrix, at firstname.lastname@example.org.