Social Media Best Practices

Social media is a powerful tool that helps to build brand awareness, raise visibility, and encourage conversation. However, keep in mind that an effective social media strategy takes time and energy. Consider these recommendations, get organized, and make a plan to ensure a positive return on the effort you put into developing your Colorado College social media presence.

Additionally, even if you already manage a presence on social media for your department, office, or program, it is strongly recommended that you review the “Before You Get Started” section and make sure you have considered all the recommendations listed. 

Be active. Being successful on social media requires time and effort. Make sure you have the resources to check in on each of your profiles at least a few minutes each day, and to post fresh content several times each week. Have a plan for summer and other breaks so accounts do not go quiet for long periods of time. Your profile is only as interesting as your last post; if that post is several months old, visitors will consider it out of date and irrelevant.

Be engaging. Don’t leave the "social" out of your social media. Listen to conversations, answer questions, engage with comments, and keep your account fresh with regular posts. It’s important to converse with your audience and address their needs directly. When your followers mention you on social media, engage with them whenever possible and appropriate to do so.

Streamline your presence. A successful social media plan does not require a presence on all platforms. When in doubt, pick the most appropriate platform and do it well. If you don’t have the time to manage all your current accounts effectively, consider deactivating or deleting the pages you no longer need.

Plan first. Make sure to review these important questions to ask yourself when planning your social media presence. Consider messages, audiences, goals, and your strategy for keeping information timely. Creating a content calendar can help organize your posts and ensure that you won’t forget to post new content.

Have clear goals. A successful social media strategy requires research, clearly outlined goals and objectives, and dedicated effort. All these should be in support of your area’s larger communications goals and the college’s overall mission.

Stay accurate. Get the facts straight before posting them on social media. When possible, link back to the original source. Always review content for grammatical and spelling mistakes. If you share something and find an error in it, correct it quickly and visibly.

Accept and monitor comments. Members of your audience may share stories or positive feedback, or ask questions that require a response. Some comments may not be positive, but that doesn’t mean they should be removed. Respond to negative comments professionally and by providing any additional information that may help resolve the issue. However, people consistently posting rude or argumentative comments (trolls) should not be engaged. Only remove comments that contain vulgar language, those that attack any one group or individual, and those that are obviously spam.

Be respectful. Anything you post in your role as a Colorado College employee reflects on the college. Be professional and respectful at all times on your social media accounts. Do not engage in arguments or extensive debates with negative commenters.

Protect the CC brand. Make sure you’re following the Social Media Guidelines in place for all institutional accounts, as well as the college’s Master Communications Plan, Editorial Style Guide, and Visual Identity Guidelines. Use the avatars and cover images created by the Office of Communications for each of your profiles (you can request these when you register your accounts). Templates to create graphics are available in Canva (reach out to the Office of Communications if you need help accessing Canva). Also remember that once content is shared online, it’s there forever, and that social media posts are available to the public, including the press. Conduct conversations in direct messages as if they were public; you never know who may screenshot and share a DM publicly.

Promote your accounts. Make it easy for people to find you on social media. Have icons and links to each of your accounts on your webpages and include them on everything you send out (email newsletters and updates, flyers, posters, etc.). Also make sure you’re listed on the official CC Social Media Directory (if you’re not, we can help with that). 

Measure the results. Make use of analytics and tracking tools to evaluate your posting activity and interaction. Knowing how your content is performing will guide when, how, and what you post. Each social platform offers varying analytics and measurement data that you can use to report on performance. Establish a process to track your performance over time and use the results to inform your strategy. Key terms and definitions:

  • Impressions are the number of times your content is displayed on social media. It reflects your brand awareness and serves as a base statistic for improving content posting.
  • Reach is the number of users who have seen your social media content, which measures the spread of the social media conversation and quantifies potential audience size.
  • Engagement Rate measures the interaction between your audience and the brand and demonstrates how people engage with your content (i.e. likes, comments, shares, retweets).
  • Conversions are the point at which your audience performs a desired action (i.e. clicking on a link to a website, subscribing to a mailing list).
  • Follower Growth tracks how many new followers were gained over a specific period of time. This is important for defining your social media account’s overall growth. 

Producing social media content can be a trial-and-error process. Try different types of content and messaging to learn what is most engaging for your audience. Keep your audience and these best practices in mind, and always ask yourself if the content being generated is helping to accomplish your goals.

Content Calendar

The best way to keep track of your content is to maintain a social media calendar — some type of document or spreadsheet that allows you to organize and schedule your content. A calendar helps you track all posts for the week/month/year and allows you to focus on the big picture rather than day-to-day posting. It will help you anticipate content, plan a good topic mix, streamline your workflow, and more effectively collaborate. There is no one right way to structure your calendar — what matters is that it works for you and your team, but a few key elements to include are:

  • date
  • key message
  • social media platform
  • link
  • assets such as photos, graphics, or videos

The more you learn more about your audience 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.

Frequency

There’s no right or wrong answer for how often you should post on each of your social media accounts, but audience members expect new, relevant content, so plan to post frequently. Depending on the platform being used that could mean several times a day (Twitter) or a few times a week (Facebook, Instagram). It’s much more important to post quality content your audience wants to engage with than to meet a posting quota, but if you are unable to post new content at least once a week, you should consider consolidating or deactivating your social media accounts.

Content Ideas

Make use of content you already have. Do you have an email newsletter with stories in it? Do you have great information on your website pages? Share that information in multiple social media posts. Also plan content around any events you will host, seasonal promotions, or other recurring themes in the academic calendar (for example, the beginning or end of a block, Commencement, etc.).

Reach out to other departments, offices, or programs on campus to cross-promote events or news that is relevant to both of you. Make sure to tag each other and share content to reach a wider audience. Once you have registered your accounts, be sure to tag the main CC accounts in the posts you would like shared to the main CC social media channels (this is especially true for Instagram Stories). Use the Social Media Managers Group to collaborate and brainstorm ideas.

Events or planned activities are a great way to generate content for your social media accounts. Promoting the event beforehand, covering the event live through Instagram Stories or video streaming, and sharing photos and video from the event after it’s happened are all great ways to increase brand awareness and drive people to your social media pages.

A successful social media presence has content that is visual, succinct, and consistent. When posting, always tailor the information to be platform-specific and avoid automating posts between accounts (such as automatically sending Instagram posts to Facebook). Treat each social media site independently, so you don't lose opportunities to drive comments or tag other users. If you plan to share the same link or image across multiple platforms, be sure to customize your messaging.

Messaging

When writing content for social media, always maintain a friendly and professional voice. The tone of your content should follow our brand attributes: intelligent, engaged, independent, and tenacious. Use language that is appropriate, inclusive (we, us, our), and representative of CC and its mission. Avoid using first-person pronouns, jargon, acronyms, institutional language, or abbreviations, all of which can be confusing to your audience, especially those who may be removed from the campus culture. Make sure to review the college’s Master Communications Plan for detailed information about tone of voice and writing style.

Hashtags

Hashtags increase awareness by putting your content in front of people beyond your immediate followers. They can also help unify a specific campaign or event. Hashtags are used most effectively on Twitter and Instagram. Avoid overuse of hashtags (maximum of three per post) and keep your hashtags short, memorable, and easy to read. Use capitalization when incorporating multiple words. Before implementing a hashtag, consider its potential lifespan and do a search across platforms to ensure it hasn’t been used widely.

The official hashtags for CC include:
#ColoradoCollege
#CCTigers

You only have a few seconds to catch people’s attention, and the easiest way to do that is through compelling visuals. Make sure you are familiar with CC’s Visual Identity Guidelines for information on the proper use of brand colors, typography, and more to maintain consistency. Consistency is key for establishing brand recognition and familiarity, which aids in strengthening pride and loyalty among all of CC’s audiences.

Photography 

Build photos or graphics at a 1:1 ratio and a 2:1 ratio (e.g. 1200 x 1200px and 1200 x 600px). Make sure you only post images on social media that you have permission to use, including those from fans. Followers may send you photos, and it’s always worth a direct message to ensure it you have permission to use it on your channel. Official college photography can be found in the Digital Asset Management system. If you need stock images, a variety of websites exist but it is imperative that you read all policies and guidelines regarding their usage. See the college’s copyright policy for detailed information about photo usage and resources.

Graphics 

Limit the amount of text that appears in your graphics. Capture people’s eye with a compelling and simple graphic or photo and include the detailed information in the copy/caption. Similarly, don’t just share a poster that contains a lot of text and/or QR codes; text embedded in graphics is not accessible and QR codes don’t work online. Leave lots of “safe space” around the edges of your graphics as social media platforms will sometimes crop images based on what type of device the content is viewed on. For specific graphic dimensions for each platform, check out this guide to ideal social media image sizes

Video

Shorter is better. If you have a longer video, use a short excerpt for social media, where attention spans are limited. Most videos on social media are watched on mobile devices with the sound off, so make sure to embed subtitles in your video for accessibility. Also, share video natively where possible. Uploading your video file directly to Facebook or Instagram provides a better user experience, plus platform algorithms promote native video more than links to a video on an external site like YouTube.

Images and videos used on social media should follow accessibility best practices. Make sure to consider the following when composing your posts and comments:

  • When text is used on a graphic, limit the amount of copy and use color combinations that meet color contrast requirements.
  • Alternative text (alt text) helps people visualize images. Take the time to describe what’s taking place in your images via the alt text options available in each social media platform. If using a graphic, make sure to include all text in the graphic within the alt text.
  • Video captions don’t just help people who are deaf or hard of hearing; they can also be helpful in no or low-sound environments and in assisting language learners.
  • Capitalize each word in hashtags to increase legibility for all users and compatibility for screen readers. For example, instead of #coloradocollege, use #ColoradoCollege.
  • Emojis are read aloud by screen readers. Be considerate of which and how many emojis you use and be sure to include spaces between each one.
  • GIFs are not read by screen readers, so limit the use of GIFs in posts and comments.

Make sure to follow the college’s copyright policy. This policy helps protect you against copyright violations in content creation and publishing. For example, it is a violation of the policy to take a photo from the internet that does not belong to you and post it without permission from the photo’s owner. This policy also protects your work and rights as an author or creator of images, art, documents, and other content.

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), and personally identifiable information. Do not post confidential or private information about faculty, students, alumni, or other employees.

Tutorials
Video tutorials for the Visual Identity Guidelines and Canva

Visual Identity Guidelines
Logo usage, typography, brand colors

Master Communications Plan
Tone of voice and writing style 

Editorial Style Guide
Standards for writing and punctuation 

Digital Asset Management
CC photo database 

Canva
Graphics creation; contact the Office of Communications to gain access to CC’s Canva account, including CC branded templates.

Copyright Policy

Campus Social Media Managers Group
Meetings and trainings for anyone who manages a social media presence at CC; contact Jessi Burns, content and social media manager to join this group.

Individual Consultation
Contact Jessi Burns, content and social media manager.

Make sure to register your social media accounts to be considered for inclusion in the college’s official Social Media Directory. Registering your account(s) not only gives you added exposure but also access to ongoing updates, assistance, and training opportunities. Once your accounts are registered, your content can be shared and your profiles can be tagged by the main CC social media accounts.
If you have questions about any of these best practices, or anything else related to social media, contact Jessi Burns, content and social media manager in the Office of Communications.

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Report an issue - Last updated: 03/09/2022