Social Media Best Practices
Using social media is just one way St. Lawrence University communicates and engages with fellow Laurentians, prospective students and their families, and others. Among all of the University's communications, social media is one of the most direct and conversational, which provides great opportunities for meaningful engagement. St. Lawrence University prides itself on being a strong and vibrant community that exists on campus and far beyond. Our social media should reflect this same sense of community.
The following guidelines were developed by University Communications for St. Lawrence University-related pages, groups and accounts managed by:
- Departments and Offices
- Athletic Teams
- Student Clubs and Organizations
- Alumni, Parents and Friends (Recommended but not required)
These guidelines do not apply to personal social media accounts. The University reaffirms its commitment to freedom of speech as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Branding Your Social Media Presence
Name Your Presence
On Facebook, the title of your page or group should include “St. Lawrence University” at the beginning of it to make it easier for people to search for and find it. Because several institutions are known to their communities as SLU, using “SLU” in place of “St. Lawrence University” is not acceptable, nor is dropping “University” from St. Lawrence. Please note we do not spell out “Saint” – always use the “St.” abbreviation.
Acceptable Facebook Page Example: St. Lawrence University Communications Department
Not Acceptable Facebook Page Examples: Communications Department at St. Lawrence University; SLU Communications Department; St. Lawrence Communications Department; Saint Lawrence University Communications Department
On Twitter, Instagram and other places with character limitations, please include “St. Lawrence University” in the description of those accounts.
Use of University-Owned Assets [Logos, Images, Video, Audio]
University Communications will provide departments with an acceptable logo to use as your profile picture. If you would like to use any other logos, images, videos, audio or additional content that is copyrighted or owned by St. Lawrence University, please contact University Communications at firstname.lastname@example.org. Per the University’s Visual Identity Standards, do not modify logos.
Maintaining Your Social Media Presence
Once content is shared online, it’s there forever. Be confident in the sources you are sharing from.
Social media users expect new, relevant content so plan to post ‘frequently’ - depending on the medium being used (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), that could mean several times a day or a few times a week. It’s easy to fall into a thought process where you are aiming to post a certain number of times per day. It’s much more important to post quality content your audience wants to engage with than it is to meet a posting quota.
TIP: Plan content ahead of time. Keep a document or calendar to keep track of ideas. As you learn more about the community you’re hoping to engage with and what kinds of content they most enjoy, the more ideas you’ll be able to generate. Share your content plan with your colleagues and ask if they have any ideas to add!
Post content when your users are more likely to engage with it. Use measuring tools like Facebook Insights or Twitter Analytics to monitor times of day and days of the week when you see the most and least engagement. Keep track of trending topics and if you have content that aligns with a subject, post it while people are discussing that topic. This will help make sure your content is getting in front of people when you need it to.
Many social media sites offer users the opportunity to schedule posts ahead of time. Using these features is not considered a best practice and in some cases, could affect the number of people who see your post – particularly on Facebook. It’s important to be in these social spaces and readily available to interact after you’ve shared content with your audience.
TIP: Set aside time not only to create posts for social media, but to respond and react to your community’s questions and comments. Users expect responses quickly, so prepare yourself to monitor and check in with content for the hours after you’ve shared it.
It’s more important to post correct information than it is to be the first to post about it. Take the time to confirm the facts and information you are sharing and proofread your captions and double check proper grammar, punctuation and spelling usage. If you are sharing content someone else created, make sure you give them the appropriate credit.
TIP: Everyone makes mistakes now and then. If you share something and find an error in it, some platforms (Facebook) allow you to make small edits so make the correction. In some instances, members of your community may point these errors out to you. Be sure to thank them for pointing it out and adjust if you are able to do so. We don’t recommend deleting your post and reposting it except in extenuating circumstances (e.g. content meant for a personal social media presence was shared in error on a department or organization’s account).
Social media are not meant to be used as a one-way communications highway. You’re building a community. You want your audience to like your content but you also want them to comment, share, ask questions and hopefully contribute their own content. You also want to build a space where you are giving back to that community. Like other Facebook pages and follow other Twitter accounts and engage with their posts. Like and share posts shared with your page or account.
TIP: Follow other university pages, accounts and people and share their content when you think it fits in best with your content approach. We can all strengthen each other’s social media presence by sharing or retweeting content from each other’s accounts.
For example: If you’re managing a Facebook page and another St. Lawrence University Facebook page has shared a link to an article that you think is also relevant to your page’s audience, share the link directly from that other page instead of creating more work for yourself by uploading the link to your page.
If you want to share other people’s content on a platform that doesn’t natively allow sharing of content (like Instagram), or if you would like to share content shared on one medium to a different medium (like if you want to share an Instagram photo on Facebook), make sure you get permission to share another account owner’s content before posting it on your own and make sure you give them credit in your caption/post.
Managing Your Social Media Presence
Designate Social Media Managers
Administrative rights to each social media account should be granted to a minimum of two people. One person should be designated as the primary administrator who is responsible for posting the content, while all administrators should be involved with the strategic planning of the content being shared. This structure will prevent multiple people from posting content simultaneously while ensuring there is a consistent voice for the account so any administrator can take on posting responsibilities in the absence of the primary administrator. If student interns are assisting with the management of your social media accounts, make sure a faculty or staff member has administrative rights. [Remember, students graduate and leave campus!] If possible, create a shared email address, username, and password so the account is not tied to a specific individual.
We expect every person who is responsible for a St. Lawrence-affiliated social media presence to be attentive, courteous, reasonable and understanding. Refrain from the use of obscenities and other inappropriate remarks that could be construed as offensive or inconsiderate. Alcohol shouldn’t be featured, nor should anything else inappropriate/illegal: drugs, nudity, and sexually-explicit content. Make sure you are keeping personal and professional accounts as separate as possible. Also, be cognizant when sharing content that others have provided you, particularly on Twitter. Make sure before hitting that “Share” or “Retweet” button that the content is aligned with St. Lawrence’s guidelines and best practices, as well as the goals of your department.
Establish Community Guidelines
We expect every person interacting with your account to show you the same respect and courtesy. We encourage you to post community rules for your page whenever possible. For example, the St. Lawrence University main Facebook page’s “About” section includes the following:
"St. Lawrence University's social media accounts are online communities for our prospective students, current students, families, faculty, staff, alumni, friends and fans. We welcome people to post photos, engage in discussions and ask questions of each other and of us; we will do our best to respond in a timely manner. Social media is designed to be a social space, and it is likely people may share views and perspectives that differ from your own or don’t align with the University’s mission. While we believe in everyone’s right to free speech and encourage Laurentians to engage in constructive and respectful dialogue, we do not tolerate messages that attack or uses pejorative or discriminatory language with reference to a person or a group on the basis of who they are (e.g. their religion, ethnicity, nationality, race, color, descent, gender, or other identity factors). We also do not tolerate messages that include vulgar language, contain advertisements/spam, are off-topic, infringe on someone's rights, or are a violation of law. We reserve the right to remove these messages. Repeat violators of these guidelines may be removed or banned from any University-owned social media accounts where the violations have taken place. We thank you in advance for helping us make this space one that best reflects the Laurentian spirit."
Maintain Confidentiality and Respect Copyright and Trademark Laws
Do not discuss confidential or sensitive internal issues online without authorization. Be conscious of the laws and regulations governing the privacy of student education records (FERPA), protected health information (HIPAA), personally identifiable information, and private information about colleagues. Do not post confidential information about faculty, students, alumni, or other employees.
Also, be mindful of copyright and trademark protections that may limit what materials you use online. This is especially important with pictures, which may require you to confirm that the people in the photo consent to the use of their image and to determine whether it is clear who owns the picture. It is not okay to copy photos or logos from the Web and post them to your social media pages without permission from the owners.
If you have a question related to copyright and trademark laws, email email@example.com.
How to Handle Negative Comments
Have a plan for responding to negative or inaccurate comments. Sometimes the comments just need to be monitored and you’ll need to tune in and listen; other times it’ll require a response. In some cases you’ll be their initial contact with St. Lawrence in regards to their issue so it’s important to show them you’re interested in resolving the situation and that you care. If they ask a question you don’t know the answer to, let them know you’re finding out for them and will be in touch – and then follow through.
Do not delete a social media post or comment just because it’s negative. Correct any inaccuracies they’ve made in a positive and polite way and point them to additional resources if you know of any. If they continue to be an issue, contact University Communications for advice on how to respond.
How to Handle Emergency/Concerning Situations
University Communications and the Emergency Planning Team ask that during an active emergency on campus, all social media accounts associated with St. Lawrence, with the exception of the main university accounts operated out of University Communications, refrain from posting until the emergency is over.
If you come across a post related to a member of our community’s health, safety or security, or a post that is perceived as a threat to the University, bring it to the attention of Safety and Security immediately by calling 315-229-5555. Get a screenshot of the post for the record. Once you have saved the screenshot and shared the information and post with Safety and Security, delete the post. Do not attempt to contact the person/entity who created the post.
If you identify an issue related to other concerns (facilities, technology, etc.), please contact the appropriate office.
Get Answers to Your Questions
Take advantage of the University’s resources and expertise regarding social media and coordinate with University Communications to get off on the right foot. Contact Amelia Jantzi, Assistant Director of Marketing and Content Strategy, for guidance.
Updated March 2021