Best Practices: Social Media
Put your best foot forward in social media
Social media has its own rules—and it pays to know what they are. In general, follow these guidelines:
- Be authentic. Use marketing messages sparingly—unless you want your audience to tune out. Mix it up with content that engages your followers.
- Be personable. Just because you represent an official IU unit doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun. Lighten up—it’s social media.
- Be thick-skinned. Don’t take attacks on your unit personally. Try to correct inaccurate information or direct followers to someone who can help, rather than go on the defensive.
- Be responsive. If someone asks you a question or criticizes you, do your best to respond as soon as possible—it should take no more than one business day.
- Be curating. While you will need to be a content creator—especially when you start out—eventually you want to encourage your followers to create the content for you, thereby becoming ambassadors of your brand.
Choose the right length for your social media posts
Short is sweet on Facebook. Opinions vary on the specific length, but generally, copy should be less than 80 characters—that’s less than a maxed-out tweet! Keep videos to under two minutes, as people start tuning out after 30 seconds, and don’t attach your call-to-action only at the end because your viewers might not make it there.
Try using a hashtag, as we did in this Homecoming video.
Since it is primarily a visual platform, text should be kept to the minimum on an Instagram post. However, hashtags are an Instagrammer’s best friend. Try to use at least five, but use your best judgment when adding more. And, of course, only add hashtags if they’ll be useful in getting your message to a certain audience.
You can be a little more verbose on Linked In, but try to limit yourself to about 25 words. Make sure to include a URL that sends users to a place where they can get more information about your post's topic.
Snapchat is another visual channel—copy is often beside the point. If you select the text bar after taking a snap, it will give you space for one line of copy. You can “hack” that limitation by copying and pasting several blank lines from the Notes app on a smartphone and copying it into Snapchat.
The max limit on a tweet is 140 characters, but really, you want to keep it to 100 or less for maximum effect. Twitter also lets you include photos, GIFs, or videos in its native player.
Copy is pretty much non-existent here, with the exception of the video description and comments. Keep both short and sweet.
Picking the right multimedia elements
Facebook places a higher priority on videos and on curated news stories from other outlets. Photos also do well, but copy-only posts typically do not, unless you are using them to communicate during an emergency situation.
Instagram rewards those who post beautiful, dynamic images. While anyone can create an Instagram account, the administrator should be someone with a good eye for visuals and a smartphone with a decent camera. You can also post videos of up to 60 seconds.
Include a photo or video in every comment and share. You can also use infographics in data-heavy stories.
Snapchat is a photo- and video-first app. You can either send a "snap" to individuals or add them to your Users can add photos to story, which collects all of your content in one place. Every post—even those posted to stories—disappear off the app in 24 hours unless you save them to your memories album.
While copy-only tweets are perfectly acceptable on Twitter, those with photos or videos do better. Infographics are also a useful tool for explaining complicated or data-heavy stories, and aren’t too difficult to design thanks to low-cost, online tools.
YouTube is a video platform that also allows for live-streaming of events. Just beware of any background audio at live events, which can result in copyright issues and subsequent deletion of your video from YouTube.
Posting the best content
A variety of post types do well on Facebook. Some of the best are:
- Pride posts
- Humorous or emotional posts
- “Humans of New York”-style narratives
- Videos less than 30 seconds in length.
Remember that Facebook uses an algorithm where the success of one post can positively or negatively affect the success of your next post, so be selective about which content you post.
Typically, images of individuals don’t do well unless they’re striking portraits or feature A LOT of people in a group shot, which will encourage followers to tag friends in the image. Landscape and building images do well, but those should be tempered with images that show a “human” side to your unit.
Because Linked In is a platform used primarily by professionals, Industry insights, updates with links to stories, job postings, and list or best of stories tend to do best.
This platform is made for fun. Celebrities on campus, behind-the-scenes footage, and doodle contests (followers are asked to doodle an image in response to a question on the app) tend to do well. Users can also submit geofilters—a sort of artistic border or stamp for photos submitted in a particular area—but getting one approved by Snapchat be tricky.
You might be tempted to go with copy-only, newsy posts, but other types do better. Consider posting tweets with photos or videos, retweeting contests or polls, and using Buzzfeed-esque headlines (8 things you never knew about the School of Awesomeness).
Videos are all you'll find here. The ones that do best are how-tos, funny, or emotional videos.