Social Media Guidelines and Strategies
The responsibility to communicate research has not changed since the Morrill Act passed in 1862, but the methods have. Extension educators, in particular, may struggle to communicate with target audiences as communication channels change and devices proliferate. Incorporating new communication tools into everyday work provides an opportunity to streamline and repurpose traditional communication methods.
Think of using social media as creating a conversation — as much about listening as about generating content. Listening and interacting builds relationships that keep the audience coming back. Social media outlets help the audience grow as people share information with multiple and new audiences.
Before posting anything on a social media account affiliated with Kansas State University or K-State Research and Extension, familiarize yourself with these guidelines to successfully create an online community.
One Kansas State University voice
Although each unit operates its own social media outlet, all Kansas State University social media accounts are a voice for the university and for K-State Research and Extension. A central database for K-State Research and Extension social media accounts compiled by the Department of Communications and Agricultural Education ensures continuity in social media.
For the University's social media guide, please click here.
Before you begin
An effective social media presence requires careful planning. Keep the following guidelines in mind:
- Talk to your supervisor before starting a new social media account for your unit. Consult with the Department of Communications and Agricultural Education.
- Define goals. Who is your audience? What do you hope to accomplish? How will you track successes and progress?
- Develop a plan to keep content fresh. A successful social media account takes time to maintain and requires staff resources. Inactive accounts reflect negatively on K-State Research and Extension and the university. If you find it difficult to develop content, consult with communications staff.
- Don't try to do it all. Focus on one or two social media accounts, and manage those well.
Best practices for social media
The world of social media is evolving. The following practices can help ensure the best experience.
Follow the rules.
- Understand the policies of the social media outlet you are using. Read the terms of service.
- Follow Kansas State University policies. Refer to the Kansas State University Social Media guidelines.
Make it easy for people to find you.
- Increase exposure for your account by using K-State Research and Extension in the title and avoiding acronyms. In the section describing your unit, include a statement that acknowledges your affiliation with K-State Research and Extension and Kansas State University. Protect the K-State Research and Extension brand by using the official wordmarks and graphics.
- Choose an iconic, recognizable profile picture to make it easy for users to identify your unit. Use the same profile picture across your unit's social media accounts.
- Use hashtags so people can search for your content and to increase the reach of your posts. Only use hashtags on meaningful words, and try to use no more than three or four per post. Hashtagging every word could appear forced. Search for potential words to use and their popularity using www.hashtags.org, or research what similar units/groups hashtag in their posts. You can use hashtags in nearly all social media outlets. Examples of hashtags include: #KSRE #KState #Extension #CoopExt #Kansas4H #4H #wheat #obesity #water #health.
Create a management method.
- Designate at least two content managers to keep each social media account up to date. If applicable, use a general email address and phone number instead of an individual's direct line when providing contact information.
- Create a flexible schedule for posting timely content that is relevant to your unit. To develop a consistent flow of content, determine when and what you will post.
- Remember that everything you post is public, and the content reflects on K-State Research and Extension. If you are unsure about the appropriateness of material, check with your unit's supervisor.
- Use correct grammar and write in complete sentences when possible. Use appropriate capitalization, and avoid jargon or institutional language. Abbreviations are sometimes necessary to meet word limits, but don't overdo it. Do not use unprofessional abbreviations, such as "u" or "r."
Post content that is meaningful and relevant to your unit.
- Think about how the content might advance K-State Research and Extension’s initiatives and goals and those of your program focus team or local unit. Do not post about trending Internet memes, photos, or videos. Write in a manner that represents your entire unit. Use "we," "our" and other inclusive words. Keep content fresh. Provide regular and timely updates. Keep in mind what is appropriate for the specific social media outlet.
- Interact with users. Post content that encourages feedback and positive interaction. When possible and appropriate, include visual content — such as photos and videos — to increase engagement. Be friendly, helpful, and informative. Connect users with reliable, research-based resources, such as those from K-State Research and Extension, other land-grant universities, or government agencies.
- Link back to content throughout the ksre.ksu.edu and k-state.edu websites. When sharing news about your unit, provide a link to the university's news release or official announcement. However, if your local media outlet has a great story, link to that media outlet's story, if available. If a media outlet posts your column, radio program, or video, make sure and repost that to your social media sites.
- Have all the facts before you post. Double-check everything for accuracy. Link to your sources when possible, and give credit to other university units when you include their updates on your site.
- Correct errors quickly and visibly. Posts often include timestamps, and users will be able to see how quickly you respond.
Focus on K-State Research and Extension and your work.
- Refer your clients to content on the K-State Research and Extension website, especially on relevant topics and information your audiences need. We are part of a vast network of land-grant educators. Share the work of extension staff throughout the state and in other states. Groups such as eXtension and the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) have relevant resources.
- Respond to comments in a timely manner. Do not comment on legal matters. People may post negative comments on your social media outlet, so always respond professionally. Be respectful of others' opinions, and do not suppress disagreement. Use it as an opportunity to correct misinformation and turn a negative into a positive.
- Delete profanity and other offensive content.
- Follow the K-State Division of Communications and Marketing's social media policy on offensive comments. Consider posting this policy on your social media account to inform users:
Kansas State University welcomes participation through our social media channels and encourages you to interact with us often. We hope to provide a forum for dialogue among the many diverse voices of our university, and we encourage comments about the content you find here. Posts containing personal attacks, profanity, nudity, hate speech, or illegal material are prohibited. We reserve the right, at our discretion, to remove any post or to revoke a user's privilege to post to our page. Please be aware that we cannot immediately review every comment posted on the page. Opinions expressed in non-Kansas State University posts are not necessarily those of the university and its employees, and we cannot guarantee the accuracy of these posts. Posts are to be used only for noncommercial purposes. You may not solicit funds or promote commercial entities. All content posted by Kansas State University is the property of Kansas State University and is subject to copyright laws. For more information, please visit http://www.k-state.edu/copyright/.
Customize posts for the social media outlet you are using.
- Tailor the text for the audience. It is OK to post about the same topic on multiple outlets, but mix it up to avoid repetition. Do not link status updates to post automatically from one social media account to another.
- Remember that visuals and sharable images enhance audience engagement.
Track your success.
- Analyze and organize content. Use analytic tools to assess progress and keep track of posts that users respond to positively or negatively.
Ask for help.
- The Associated Press Stylebook provides guidelines for working with social media in the section titled "Social Media Guidelines."
- Contact staff in the Department of Communications and Agricultural Education. We're here to help.
Resources and People
Megan Macy, marketing specialist, firstname.lastname@example.org, 785-532-2110 (branding, print media, graphic and web design, social media management and crisis communications)
Lauri Baker, associate professor, email@example.com, 785-532-1140 (social media research)
Brad Beckman, video producers, firstname.lastname@example.org, 785-532-1161 (Pinterest, video, Youtube)
Dan Donnert, photographer, email@example.com, 785-477-8265 (video, Youtube, visuals, Flickr)
Jason Ellis, associate professor, firstname.lastname@example.org, 785-532-3428 (social media research)
Anne Rubash or Kim Baccus, Division of Communications and Marketing, email@example.com, 785-532-2535 (e-newsletters, blogs)