Social media platforms provide a tremendous opportunity to promote the UW–Madison brand. Never before has there been such an immediate (and public) way for the university to reach key audiences and for stakeholders to access the university.
As such, university social media accounts pose many unique benefits and challenges. As with other forms of communication, content is the key. Keeping your accounts both engaging and professional requires significant time and dedication. Review the Brand Voice and Tone section for tips on how to represent the UW–Madison brand on your social media platforms. Before creating new accounts, be sure to identify your audience and establish a strategic content plan.
When posting on behalf of a university unit, be respectful, polite and professional. The university strives for accuracy and transparency at all times, including on social media. If you create a social media site on behalf of the university, you may use simple graphics that represent the UW–Madison brand. University Communications (firstname.lastname@example.org) can provide guidance with graphics and design. The brand and visual identity guidelines website provides information on logo permissions and standards.
Standardized UW–Madison social media profile photos (avatars) are available to campus units free of charge. Avatars delivered will be sized and formatted for optimal web viewing based on each social platform’s image specifications. Contact University Marketing to request an avatar.
Currently, the three major social media outlets for effective university communication are Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Twitter is an outlet for brief communication, often about up-to-the-minute news and takes on current events. Posts are limited to 280 characters and can include a link to a website and a picture or video.
Need a handle? Visit https://twitter.com/i/flow/signup to create an account. For extra security, set up two-step authentication, which requires anybody logging in to get a code sent to a linked phone number.
With a new handle in hand, or with one you now manage, one way to get started is to follow other university accounts and start engaging! Retweet content from UW–Madison or other accounts that might be of interest to your followers. Retweet with your own comment to add to the discussion.
When posting, tag other accounts by including their handle (including the “@” sign). Tagging another account will notify that account and increase the odds of them engaging with you and sharing your tweet with their followers. Tip: Starting a tweet with a handle, like @UWMadison, will make the conversation private between you and the other account, so your followers won’t see your post. An effective workaround is to start the post with a period before the “@” sign.
Tweetdeck is an effective tool for keeping up to speed with Twitter. You can view multiple accounts side-by-side as well as add columns for notifications, mentions, messages or just to keep tabs on another account of interest. You can also use Tweetdeck to schedule tweets for a later time. Tip: To reduce the chances of accidentally sending a tweet before you’re ready, enable the setting “Confirmation step” under your account. Then, you’ll need to check a box before you post, helping you proofread to make sure the post is right.
Twitter is by nature a quick-moving medium. Successful accounts post frequently and engage playfully but professionally with followers.
Media on Twitter
Photos or videos help draw attention to your tweet. You can add up to four photos to a tweet, although a single photo often makes for a stronger statement. Twitter will try to scale the photo to appear properly in a horizontal aspect ratio, but your photo will look best if it’s already horizontal. You can also upload an animated GIF. Twitter supports GIF, JPEG and PNG formats. Photos can be up to 5 MB in size, GIFs up to 15 MB when uploaded on the web, or 5 MB when uploaded on mobile.
You can upload a video up to 512 MB on the web, with a maximum length of 2 minutes, 20 seconds. You can edit the length of the final video within Twitter. Twitter accepts MP4 or MOV formats on mobile and MP4 on the web. Uploading a video to Twitter will always be better than linking to YouTube or another video site, because Twitter generally won’t display another site’s video.
Billions of people use Facebook, making it a rich outlet for sharing the university’s message widely.
To create or manage a university account, known as a page, you must have a personal Facebook account. Existing page admins can then assign you a role for the page, such as editor or admin. Or, you can create a new page.
A university page functions much like a personal account. You can post text, photos, videos and links to followers, those who “Like” the page and receive notifications when you post something. To get started, fill out the About page and put up an interesting cover photo (or video!) at the top of the page. Invite people to Like your page to get started developing a following.
When you paste in a link to a website, Facebook will auto-generate a preview of the content, including any pictures it finds at the site. You can modify this preview card, for example by uploading a different image to use. Tip: After Facebook has generated the preview card, you can delete the URL you originally pasted in. Users will still be able to click the card to reach the website and the final post will look cleaner without the web address.
Like on Twitter, you can tag other accounts in a post by starting with an “@” sign, typing in their name, and selecting the right account. Once you’ve selected an account to tag, the “@” sign will disappear, but the link to their account will remain. A tagged page will be notified that you’ve tagged them.
Media on Facebook
Like on Twitter, photos and videos can help make your posts more engaging or be worthy content all on their own. When making a post, selecting Photo/Video will pull up a wealth of options for standalone photos, albums or slideshows.
The video upload tool gives you many options to make the video as compelling as possible. You can include a short description about the video under details, move to “Thumbnail” to select the best still image to show before your video starts, and include captions by uploading an SRT file, which improves both engagement and accessibility.
As on Twitter, it’s best to upload a video directly to Facebook to maximize its reach.
Facebook is a go-to place to advertise, find and share events around campus and around town. When setting up a campus event you want to advertise, here are a few key tips:
- Keep the title short, so it appears better on mobile devices.
- Include an interesting, unique picture in the event details.
- Provide all the details any prospective attendee might need, including: time the event starts and stops, parking/transportation needs, whether food will be provided and whether children are allowed.
- In addition to inviting your page’s followers, invite friends and family who may be interested in attending — if they indicate they’re interested or going, others in their network will see it, spreading your event further.
- Ask managers of other, related university Facebook accounts to share your event as a post or in their events page. Share on other pages you manage.
- Post frequently in the event discussion. New posts send notifications to people who have engaged with the event, reminding them that it’s coming up and increasing attendance.
- Share a link to the Facebook event on other platforms, like your website or Twitter.
Our Events Toolkit has more tips on how to advertise your campus event.
Facebook Live lets you livestream an event, helping those who can’t attend still participate. Select the “Live” button to set up a livestream. Select where you want to share the stream (e.g. in an event or on a page you manage). Include information about what you will be streaming in the description box.
If you are using a phone for Facebook Live, it’s essential to use a tripod to keep the video steady. It’s also ideal to have somebody monitoring comments on the video as they come in.
After you end a stream, the video will remain archived and you can share it later to the page so others can come back and experience the stream on their own time.
Instagram is a great way to tell your story visually. If you need an account, you can sign up on the mobile app or at this address: https://www.instagram.com/accounts/emailsignup/.
Each post appears as a squared off image in a grid on your profile, although you can include multiple images or even a video in each post. As on other platforms, you can tag other accounts using the “@” sign. And hashtags and emojis are even more common on Instagram than on other major platforms.
Instagram does not allow you to share a link within a post, so it is not the ideal venue for directing your followers to a more in-depth story on a website. However, you can include a single link within your profile and direct followers to that link within your post. By updating your profile link as needed, you can work around this limitation imposed by the platform, but you should not assume that everyone will take the time to follow your profile link.
Unlike Twitter or Facebook, there is no built-in way to share other people’s content (i.e., you cannot “retweet” another account’s images). However, it can be great to repost other people’s images, although etiquette calls for acknowledging the source of the picture by tagging the account it came from, often preceded by a camera emoji.
Although Instagram can be viewed from a computer, and you can like, comment on, or share photos from the web, you can only upload photos and videos from a mobile app.
Social media accounts are powerful tools for your department or unit, but if they fall into the wrong hands, it can cause serious damage to the university and its reputation. By using this account security checklist, you can minimize the risk of unwanted users and keep your accounts safe and secure.
- Use strong passwords. The first step to account security is setting strong passwords. DoIT recommends that passwords should be at least eight characters long and contain numbers, symbols and capital letters. Avoid using the same password for multiple accounts, and never reveal a password in an email, text message or other form of digital communication. Get in the habit of changing your account passwords each school year, or whenever a staff member or student employee leaves the office. For more information on password security, see DoIT’s tips for protecting your NetID and passwords.
- Enable Multi-Factor Authentication. Multi-factor authentication, or MFA, adds an extra layer of security to your account login process. It combines something you know (your username and password) with something you have (a smartphone or authentication key) to verify your identity. This extra step helps to protect both your online identity and UW–Madison digital assets. Each social media platform has specific guidelines for setting up multi-factor authentication. To get started, use:
- Limit account access. Along with changing your passwords at least once per school year, you should always know who and what applications have access to your accounts. If you have a small team of social media contributors, Facebook and Twitter (through Tweetdeck or Hootsuite) allow you to set page roles and posting abilities without sharing passwords to each individual. Periodically sweep through third-party app permissions under your page settings and clear out any apps your office no longer uses.
- Secure your smartphone. One-tap access is convenient for capturing prime social media content at a moment’s notice, but account security is only as strong as its weakest link. Any smartphone with access to institutional email or social media accounts should be secured with a passcode and/or biometric authentication.