Social Media Guidelines
Social media outlets provide new opportunities to promote the University and build relationships. This page will help you determine if social media is the right platform for your needs and offer guidance on how to manage your social media accounts for the best results.
All Penn State social media accounts are a voice for the University and for Student Affairs. Before posting anything on a social media account affiliated with Penn State, please familiarize yourself with our guidelines.
Let us know what you are doing so we can help expand your reach! Notify the Student Affairs Communications Manager whenever you create a new account or change account managers.
- Is a social media account right for my unit?
An effective social media presence requires careful planning. A successful account takes time to maintain and requires staff resources to develop engaging content. Inactive social media is confusing to audiences and reflects poorly on the University. Do not try to be on all platforms, it’s not manageable. Instead, choose one or two platforms to do well.
Before setting up an account, ask yourself these questions:
- What are your goals? What results do you hope to achieve?
- Who is the audience? What group(s) of people do you hope to reach?
- What social network(s) is that audience using?
- How will you measure success?
- How does social media fit into your existing communications strategy?
- Are there any similar existing accounts or larger umbrella accounts?
- Can you use an existing account with a built-in following to reach your audience?
- Do you have unique, engaging, shareable content?
- Who will manage the account(s)?
- How often will you be able to post?
If you are unsure if a social media account is right for you, or if you are not sure which social media platform is the best to reach your audience, please reach out to the Student Affairs Communications Manager for guidance.
- I’ve decided I need a social media account. Now what?
Setting up the account
- Use a generic e-mail, such as email@example.com, instead of a personal e-mail when setting up an account so multiple employees are able to access the account and it can be passed on if an employee leaves the unit.
- When naming the account, choose something that is easily recognizable as your unit. If you have multiple accounts, use a consistent name and handle across all platforms. Where possible, use Penn State instead of PSU.
- For unit or department accounts, use the appropriate Penn State shield social media icon on all pages to indicate your affiliation with the University.
- At least two staff members MUST have account passwords or administrative access to an account. (This does not include any students that may help maintain the account)
- Notify the Student Affairs Communications Manager with the name of the account, the page URL, and the name and contact information of the staff members who will be managing the account.
- How do I get the most out of my account?
Think of using social media as creating a conversation - it is as much about listening as about generating content.
- Post on a regular basis – Create a schedule for posting. Try for twice a week (or more frequently depending on the platform.)
- Abide by copyright laws – Give credit to sources of written content and images you reference or use. Make sure all images are taken by you or available for public use.
- Actively watch your page – Check your page at least once a day to monitor comments and posts.
- Track your success – Use analytics tools to assess your progress and keep track of posts that users respond positively to.
Tips for great engagement
- Be authentic – Bring some of your own personality to your posts.
- Be less formal – Use more informal language, but still be respectful and use correct grammar.
- Be accurate – Social media moves quickly, but if you are unsure of something, verify before posting.
- Be timely – Social media works best when it’s used for events and news as they are happening, not a few days later.
- Encourage discussion – Post content that encourages feedback.
- Interact with your audience – Listen and respond to comments, questions and discussions.
- Be a part of the community – Tag other areas, units, and departments when you mention them, share relevant posts from other pages, follow and like other people and pages. These actions go a long way in expanding your reach.
- Experiment – Test different times of day or different days for posting, test posts with and without images. Social media is a good place to try out new things because you can get feedback immediately.
- Include visuals – Whenever possible, use a photo, infographic or video with your post. Think of how you can show something with an image instead of text. (Photo resources are listed in the sidebar menu)
- Connect with others – Use hashtags and geotags to increase engagement, to connect to trending content, or to aggregate posts for an event or topic.
- Analyze – Pay attention to the kind of information your audience is interested in hearing about and adjust to include more of those topics or types of posts.
- Mix things up – Use a mix of scheduled posts and real-time posts.
- Link back to the website often – We want to complement our web content and drive web traffic, so whenever it makes sense, take people back to our site for more.
- Customize – If you have multiple accounts, vary your posts based on the platform. It is OK to post about the same topic on multiple outlets, but tailor it for the audience and the platform. Optimize your photo sizes and text for each platform. Do not link status updates to post automatically from one social media account to another.
- How do I handle negative comments?
People may leave a comment or post something on your page’s wall that is critical, negative, or offensive. Correcting a mistake, apologizing, and offering better in the future or providing information is often the best way to let the poster know you have heard them. Unless the post is profane, obscene, harassing, or threatening, it is not a best practice to delete it.
- Do not delete a negative comment. It draws attention, inflames the situation, and allows others to question your integrity.
- Handle negative comments and developments quickly and professionally.
- Encourage the poster to communicate via phone or e-mail to take the conversation out of the public realm.
- Responding to correct a mistake and let the poster know you have heard them or ignoring the post entirely are both appropriate options depending on the circumstance.
- Delete inappropriate comments, such as profanity, spam, racist or hateful language, or threats.
- Take a screen shot of negative posts, in case the matter is contested.
- Block users that continually post spam.
- Consider including posting guidelines on your page that explain you will delete inappropriate posts or comments.
- If followers are engaging negatively with each other, consider commenting to let them know you are monitoring and ask them to keep comments civil.
The Penn State social media office has more detailed information on when and how to react to negative comments. If you are not sure the best way to respond, contact the Student Affairs Communications Manager or the Penn State Social Media Office.