As prospective and current students, faculty, staff, and alumni increasingly rely on social media to communicate, many higher education professionals are using social media to advertise conferences and events, recruit prospective students, engage alumni, and leverage fund-raising efforts. This page provides broad guidance to the effective use of social media at Illinois.
Before You Begin
Social media is just one element in an integrated communications plan. Keep in mind that you are representing the University. Bring your personality to your professional social media postings, but leave personal postings to your own social media.
Use social media only if you have set time aside to:
- Create quality content to post regularly, avoiding over-posting
- Listen to your audience and interact and engage with them and provide content those audiences find useful. Remember that social media is a conversation, not a one-way broadcast
- Give up control of comments, especially negative feedback
- Promote the account in other communication formats
- Link to other relevant University accounts and actively follow them, rebroadcasting relevant info on your account/feed
- Set time limits as part of your daily routine.
- Keep up with rapid changes to social media. New services appear rapidly and older ones quickly vanish. Settings and policies also may change with no notice from the provider.
- Delete the account if it isn’t achieving its goals
Create a Social Media Communications Strategy
- Define your target audiences
- Define tactical activities
- Select social media based on objectives and audiences
- Establish metrics and desired outcomes
- Measure the results and return on investment
Create a Distributed Management System
- Use a common resource email mailbox so that team members or a substitute can update the account regardless of personnel changes, vacations, etc.
- Consult with your campus unit’s communications staff regarding how the feed fits into your overall communications
- Keep a contact list of who is managing what media to coordinate communications
- Use resources such as HootSuite (for Twitter) that allow multiple users to manage multiple social media accounts
Know the Risks
Be aware of the issues and consequences involved in relying on the use of third-party services for social media. Many vendors have poor or non-existent customer support. It is often difficult to find contact information to resolve problems.
- Keep the tone of postings conversational but professional
- Follow existing campus guidelines such as the code of conduct, ethical behavior, policies regarding the use of campus computers, sponsorships and advertisements, research rules, security issues, protection of confidential student information, copyright, etc.
- Think before you post. Remember that journalists and bloggers actively follow social media feeds. Once content is posted online it can be repeated and shared globally
- Follow the guidelines for the campus name by using Illinois or the Urbana campus – do not use UIUC in the name of your feed or account or in your content. More info. Examples:
- Public Affairs at Illinois
- College of xxx at Illinois
- Department of xxx at Illinois
- Don’t create logos to represent campus units - refer to your unit with text and use the Illinois logo. Read more
- Departments and other campus sub-units should acknowledge their college, school, institute, or major administrative unit in text, most commonly in the “description” section of the account/feed. Each college, school, etc., has different guidelines; consult with your unit communications staff
- Student groups should identify themselves as such and should not imply that they are official University source.
You may wish to create and post a policy regarding the type of commentary permitted on social media accounts. The posting policy currently used on the campus Facebook page is:
Your comments, links, photos, and videos are welcome here. All postings should be relevant to the University community and are reviewed. While creative and inventive postings are most welcome, if you wouldn’t share your comments with your family at a holiday dinner, you shouldn’t post them here. We will remove any postings that are offensive, inappropriate, contain insults, illegal suggestions, attacks, commercial advertising, self-promotion, spam, or solicitations. Comments posted here do not represent the opinions of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Social Media Directory
Join the Social Media Listserv
To subscribe to the Social Media Info Exchange listserv, go to https://listserv.illinois.edu/archives/socialmedia.html, choose "Join or leave the list" and fill out the form.
If you have news that you would like the main campus social media feeds to consider posting, please submit it using this form. The short URL for the form is http://go.illinois.edu/contactsocialmedia.
Using standardized Hashtags
When writing posts for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest, consider using a hashtag. Hashtags are used as keywords, so anyone doing a search for that hashtag may find your post. If possible, work your hashtag into your sentence (Welcome to the #ILLINOISfamily! #IlliniPride). Avoid using more than three hashtags in a post.