Skip to main content

This guide offers you guidance on best practices and strategy for your social channels. It is intended for all students, faculty, staff, and other official personnel who manage or contribute to official University of Massachusetts Amherst social media channels.  

Official UMass Amherst social media channels are defined as those that represent official UMass groups, departments, offices, etc. and have registered their social media channels with the Director of Social Media in University Relations. For example, registered student organizations (RSOs) are official entities of UMass. 

This guide applies to social media channels such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, TikTok, and Discord, and any other relevant social media channels identified by the university. 

This is intended to be a living document that will reflect UMass Amherst’s current needs and may be adjusted for future changes in social media.  

Planning Your Strategy: Should You Start a Channel?   

With the range of options and features available on social media, creating a strategic presence can seem daunting. However, by taking the time to identify your goals, the audience you are trying to reach, and the channels on which you will be active, you can lay the foundation for strategic social media activities.   

Goals   

The first step in planning your social media strategy is defining the goals of your social media presence. Assessing the larger goals of your group and identifying which of these may be facilitated by social media is a good place to start. When conducting this assessment, the following questions may be helpful:    

  • What purpose will my social media presence serve?   

  • Are the actions I want my audience to take best done on social media or on a website?  

  • What other channels is my group using to engage our audiences? How will social media integrate with these channels? Will social media add value or be redundant? 

  • Are there other groups on campus whose social media presence can be leveraged instead of creating a new one?  

Metrics  

Once your goals are identified, you’ll want to define what success looks like on social media. Understanding the core social metrics as defined below will make this task easier. While different channels may use slightly different terms to describe these metrics, they are the same across the board.   

  

Term

Definition

 Followers

The number of people who have opted in to receive updates from your account when you post, share, or otherwise engage in an activity.  

 Post Impressions  

 The number of times a post has been displayed. 

 Post Reach 

 The number of people who have seen a post. 

 Video Views  

 Number of people who viewed the video.  

Engaged Users

 The number of people who are interacting with your post through:  

  • Likes  

  • Comments  

  • Shares  

  • Link clicks  

  • Video views  

  • Swipes  

Engagement Rate

 The number of people engaged divided by the number of people reached.  

Note that a “success metric” will be defined by your goal setting. If your goal is to increase attendance for an event, you may gauge the effectiveness of your social media activity by how many people clicked the RSVP link in your Facebook post (such as engaged users). If your group is launching a new channel, success may be measured by an increase in the total number of followers.   

If your group already has a presence on social media, it is beneficial to do an audit of these metrics from time to time to establish benchmarks. More information on evaluating your social media activity is included in the Optimizing Your Strategy section below.  

Audience 

Identifying who you need to engage to achieve your goals is a crucial step in planning your strategy, especially since your social media following may include a wide range of individuals. Having a clear definition of your audience will help determine what channels to be on, what content to share, and what tone you should use, among other things. 

Choosing Your Channel  

The primary factor in selecting a channel is knowing how your audience uses social media. Many digital marketing industry organizations, such as Sprout Social, annually release findings on the most popular channels for key age demographics. These reports are a good place to start.   

Your office or area does not need a presence on every available social media channel. In most cases, operating multiple accounts that do not reach your key audience can drain your group’s resources without providing any benefit. Choose the channels that make the most sense for you and forget the rest. It is more important to focus on succeeding on one platform rather than create mediocre content on two.   

Descriptions  

It’s important to write a succinct description for each of your social media profiles so that your audience can quickly and easily see what your account represents. It helps to set up expectations. By mentioning “UMass Amherst” in your description, you are also adding another layer of credibility. Remember that descriptions are subject to character limit counts.  

Links  

Your accounts should link back to the UMass Amherst website in page or account descriptions. Accounts may link to a specific subdomain or directory as appropriate.  

Profile Photos, Cover Photos, Avatars, and Wordmarks  

Social media communications should adhere to the university’s tiered visual Brand Guidelines.

The institutional UMass Amherst wordmark as it appears on the top-level channels (UMass Amherst social media accounts) should not be used by other university offices, organizations, or initiatives. Rather, accounts may instead use their group’s wordmark or a photograph or image with the UMass Amherst wordmark in it.  

For additional guidance on avatars and wordmarks for social media, please contact MarCom

Protecting the UMass Amherst Brand and Reputation  

Social media has become a primary source of information for those engaging with the university. As a result, UMass Amherst social media channels have a responsibility to protect the brand, reputation, and voice of the university at all times.  

  • Focus on accuracy. Social media posts should accurately represent the information being communicated. Make sure text is spelled correctly and contains no grammatical errors. Any incorrect or false information shared previously should be corrected as soon as possible by account managers.   

  • Do not express personal opinions. Account managers should limit posts to information relevant to their campus groups and audiences. Do not use accounts to express opinions on university policies, operations, and personnel. Do not share or link to third-party content that may be in conflict with the university’s fundamental mission or values. 

  • Be respectful. Do not share video, images, posts, or comments that include vulgarity, racial slurs, trolling, or combative language, or language that may be considered defamatory or libelous. 

  • Use inclusive language. Communicating effectively acknowledges diversity, conveys respect to all people, is sensitive to differences, and promotes equal opportunities. 

  • Do not endorse. Accounts should not appear to endorse any product, vendor, cause, or political party or candidate.  

  • Do not use accounts for personal business or personal gain. Accounts should be used exclusively for university purposes. Do not use accounts for promotion of personal business or personal gain.  

  • Protect account credentials. Do not share the username or password used to access the account with any unauthorized person.   

  • Keep confidential information confidential. This includes ensuring that you’re abiding by all rules laid out by FERPA. Do not share student, employee, or alumni data; internal university business; or other confidential information. 

  • Accessibility. Social media posts should be accessible to all users. Best practices include use of alt text, text image descriptions, and captions. Videos posted to social media should include captions or audio descriptions. For further guidance, visit the university's accessibility website

Executing Your Strategy   

With your accounts created, it’s time to execute your social media strategy. Strategies for delivering your messages fall into three general categories:    

  1. Content creation  

  2. Content distribution and tagging 

  3. Community management

Content Creation  

Content can include these elements: video, image, infographic, photography, a blog post, live post, an animated gif, or simply a text post. Content can also come from different sources. Content that you produce allows you to tightly control messaging, while content produced by your audience (user-generated content) may carry your message in a less controlled but more authentic way.   

Some general advice for content creation:   

  • Keep it engaging. Your content must be attractive enough to draw the attention of your audience while they are using social media. This is especially crucial when you consider that your audience will likely be scrolling past scores of posts from other organizations vying for their attention.    

  • Vary the format. Generally, video content thrives on social media, especially ones that can be viewed on a mobile device without sound. Graphics or photographs are likewise formats that typically generate engagement.   

  • Post different content across each platform. Whenever possible, we don’t recommend posting the exact same content with the exact same caption across all platforms at the exact same time. You can share the same video on Facebook and Twitter, but change the description that goes with it and have them posted at different times. This can improve engagement and also give users a reason to follow you in different places. For this reason, we also advise against linking your accounts so that the same content goes up everywhere.   

  • Tailor your content and voice to the platform. As we’ve mentioned, each social channel differs slightly in its audience breakdown, voice, and tone. Something that may perform well on LinkedIn may not do so well on Twitter. Figuring this out is a mix of research as well as trial and error with your own audience. Try things out and assess which content performs well as is and which may need to be reworked.    

No matter what content creation strategy you use, your content should conform to the UMass Amherst Brand Guidelines. Additionally, the format of your content should be tailored to each social media channel’s standards and requirements. Channel-specific best practices for content creation are included later in this document.     

Content Distribution and Tagging 

Once you have generated content, you will need to create a distribution plan that ensures your content is being presented to your audience at the right time and in the right places.  

Scheduling  

Determining when you distribute your content can be a challenge. Keeping an editorial calendar is an easy way to add a strategic component to post scheduling. The basic components of the editorial calendar include the piece of content and the date(s) and channel(s) on which it will be posted.   

The frequency with which you post will depend on the amount of content you have and the channel to which you are posting. Overall, we strongly advocate for quality content over the quantity of content. It’s far more important for you to share things that your audience wants to see than to try to hit an arbitrary number.   

Please note: In moments of crisis or mourning, your best path to success is often silence. Knowing when to say nothing is just as important as knowing when to say something.  

Hashtags and Tagging  

Using hashtags allows you to tie your post to a larger conversation or group of content, which can increase its visibility. Hashtags are typically associated with campaigns (e.g., #UMassGives), events (e.g., #Commencement2024), long-term branding activities (e.g., #UMassProud), and local or national topics (e.g., #BlackFriday). For accessibility purposes, always write your hashtags in Sentence Case, #LikeThis, so screen readers can properly read your hashtags.  

In addition to hashtags, tagging other groups or users on the channel can help maximize the reach of your posts. Consider tagging those users who were featured in, or helped create, the content being posted. Tagging those groups that may be especially interested in your post can also expose your account to potential followers.   

Though you are free to create your own hashtags, the official UMass Amherst hashtag list is as follows:  

  • #DogsOfUMass  

  • #MinutemenMoveIn  

  • #SceneAtUMass   

  • #UMassAmherst  

  • #UMassGives  

  • #UMassProud  

  • #YouWereYouAreUMass

  • #UMass (insert year of incoming first-year class) 

Community Management   

Social media is unique among communications channels because it gives your audience an easy and instant means of engaging with your group.  

Providing Strong Customer Service  

 Regularly check in on your social accounts. Log in to your group’s channels at least once a day to monitor comments, direct messages and tags, and to respond or "like" the positive engagements directed towards your account.   

  • Keep track of trends and issues raised by the community through their feedback. This can alert you to key issues that may need to be tackled, and it can even be a great way to inform future content creation!   

  • When responding to a question, do your best to provide an accurate, timely answer. A community member’s interaction with your group is typically publicly viewable, so replying quickly helps them (and others) know that you value them.   

  • If the question directly relates to your area but you are unsure of the answer, it’s OK to say, “Thanks for reaching out. We are looking into this and we’ll get back to you with an answer soon!”   

  • If the question is unrelated to your area, it’s okay to direct them to the appropriate area by providing an email address, phone number, web page, or social media handle.  

Growing Your Community  

If you are starting a new social media account for your group, your initial community may be small. To help your channels grow, leverage your group’s existing communications or marketing channels.   

  • Social media: If your group has more established social media channels that speak to your target audience, you can suggest they follow your new channel through announcement posts or temporarily changing your profile image. For example, if you have a strong following on Twitter, but you’ve just launched a TikTok account, it’s useful for you to post about that on Twitter so your followers can join you there.  

  • Website: Adding or updating the social media buttons on your group’s website can direct visitors to your new social channel.  

  • Email: If your group has a regularly scheduled newsletter, consider featuring your new channel as a news item.   

  • Printed material: As with your group’s website, printed material offers an opportunity to include social channels along with more traditional contact information like phone numbers, addresses, and URLs.   

  • Events: Events offer many opportunities to direct attention to your social channels. Offering prizes or deals for interactions with your channels can spur many new followers. Event signage can also include social handles as well as relevant event hashtags.    

Commenting Guide 

Negative feedback is an inherent part of modern communication channels. Social media creates a two-way dialogue, which can provide opportunities to build trust, develop positive engagement, and highlight user-generated content. As a public university, we are responsible for respecting healthy public debate, even around topics that may be difficult or troubling. It is important to allow a free marketplace of ideas and allow these conversations to happen.    

In most circumstances, do not:    

  • Ban users from your page or account  

  • Disable comments   

  • Otherwise prohibit or shut down active discussions on your accounts 

However, consistent trolling; off-topic, threatening, or harassing comments; or advocacy of crime violates our social media policy, and the university has the right to remove such content from public view.  

Comments or posts may be hidden or removed if they:    

  • Reveal personal information about someone, including students, staff, or faculty members 

  • Are intentionally off-topic or otherwise unrelated 

  • Threaten, harass, or defame an individual 

  • Advocate a crime 

  • Include copyrighted or trademarked material 

  • Give the appearance of legal, medical, or financial advice 

  • Are considered spam, including advertisement or promotion of a commercial product, service, or individual 

  • Are duplicative comments by the same user or multiple users — these are viewed as spam. The first comment from the individual should be approved, however. In other words, if a user comments the same thing five times, you should approve the first comment and you may hide or remove the other four.   

If, after careful consideration and consultation with your supervisor, you decide to ban or block an individual, you must document it with a screenshot, time of comment, channel where the comment or post was made, handle and name of the user, and the offense. Retain this information for your records for at least one year. 

If you need further guidance on an issue, consult with the Director of Social Media in University Relations.

If you believe a post demonstrates a credible threat, immediately notify UMass Police via its nonemergency line at (413) 545-2121, as well as the Director of Social Media in University Relations. 

Please note that UMass Amherst as a public university is subject to public records requests under Massachusetts state law. You should preserve comments, even if deleted from public view, as part of your management practices. 

Measurement   

The first step in this process is to measure the impact of your activities. Each social media channel offers its own comprehensive insights and tools that allow you to analyze your social channel performance. We recommend a monthly review of the top and bottom performing pieces of content along with tracking engagement rate, follower growth, video views, commenting, and other applicable metrics.    

Analysis  

Once you have collected your data, you can draw insights from it through analysis. Sorting by engagement rates can identify content that is most successful at drawing attention. High impressions and reach can signify content that is shared frequently. Conversely, low impressions and reach suggest your post or content may not be relevant to the intended audience. Examining posts by type (e.g., video, image, text) may illuminate which format your audience prefers.   

Evaluation  

Evaluating your social presence involves comparing your analysis with your goals. If your goal was to increase attendance at campus events, but your analysis shows that posts with reminders about the event performed poorly, you can experiment with videos promoting the event rather than simple image-based reminders.  

Once your evaluation is complete, the cycle begins again by integrating your new insights into an updated social media plan. The availability of social media metrics allows for nearly unlimited analysis and evaluation. However, performing a routine social media audit once every three to four months takes advantage of a large data sample and prevents changes to your strategy that may have resulted from anomalous events in the calendar.    

Staying Current   

Staying aware of the latest social media developments can help your group decide whether to explore a new channel or content format. Many marketing industry groups and thought leaders offer free analysis of the digital marketing and communications field, including social media. Following these accounts is a great way to get the latest updates.  

Social Listening  

Hearing what people are saying about you and your brand is meaningful. Not only can it help you find great content that you can repost, it can also help you answer questions, engage with your users, or help you identify areas for improvement.   

How to embark on social listening:     

  • Social listening is easiest on largely public platforms, such as Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok. Search hashtags, locations, and keywords related to UMass Amherst or your specific department.   

  • Reddit is also another excellent place where you can listen in to see what people are saying about you. While we don’t recommend creating an account here for your office, you can check out the UMass Amherst subreddits to see what they’re talking about:   

  • r/umass  

  • r/umassamherst    

Channel Best Practices  

Best practices for social media channels are always shifting. You may reference places such as Buffer, Hootsuite, Sprout Social, Social Media Examiner, #HigherEdSocial, Social Media Strategies Summit, Higher Ed Experts, or your other favorite websites for the latest. Here are a few of our favorite guides to get you started.   

By Channel  

By Strategy  

 The UMass social team is here to help you. Please reach out to the Director of Social Media in University Relations or Marcom in University Relations.  

Resources  

Your social media account should be registered with the Director of Social Media in University Relations along with the name and contact information of the person who runs the account.