Social Media Guidelines

Social media can be a powerful tool to communicate your message, create relationships, broadcast multimedia, and learn from professionals. This online guide provides useful techniques and helps you get started with social media. If you have any specific questions, need help with an unaddressed topic, or have additional information that you would like to share, please contact us. (Note: these guides were last updated in July 2018.)
Prepare a Social Media Plan
Before setting up your social media channels, it’s important to have clear goals and expectations. The following questions can act as a guideline for getting started:

  • Who is your audience? This should be the driving question behind your social media strategy. Sometimes, you’ll have multiple audiences (e.g. Undergraduates AND Alumni)
  • What do you want to accomplish through social media? Set tangible, achievable goals.
  • How do you want your audience to respond?
  • Have you integrated social media into your larger communications plan? Social media should be complementary to your website and other marketing materials.
  • Which social media platforms are right for your department? Do research and learn about the various social networking sites, then decide which one is best suited based on your audience and goals, as well as the type of content you’re producing (e.g., if your unit has lots of visually engaging content, consider Instagram)
  • Do you have a plan of action for monitoring and moderating conversations on your social media page, positive or negative?

While these questions are meant to help you get started, a more formal social media plan can help you formulate your overall approach and involvement with social media. For assistance creating a social media plan, please contact us. You can also read these relevant articles for more information on social media planning:

How To Create A Social Media Marketing Plan – Hootsuite Blog

Creating a Winning Social Media Plan (2018) – Sprout Social

Social Media Strategy & Template – CoSchedule

Please note that these articles are merely starting points – please reach out if you have questions when creating your social media strategy.

Start an Account
When applicable, your University social media accounts should not be tied to an individual e-mail address, so it is recommended that you create an organizational or “functional” e-mail address. You can setup a shared account (e.g. UChicagoDeptSocialMedia@lists.uchicago.edu) — simply create a closed, private mailing list and use this as your social accounts’ primary e-mail address. This approach both creates a central address for your social media accounts and establishes a backup mechanism where a group of people in your department can access your accounts. The following are additional guidelines as you start to set up your accounts:

  • Creating an account that is representative of a University unit or department should be done with the approval of your supervisor.
  • Keep your contact information accurate and up-to-date.
  • Carefully manage your account’s password – be sure to change it on a recurring basis, and have your account passwords stored in a secure file.
  • Use careful consideration in choosing a name or title for your social media channel. In some cases, such as Facebook Pages or Groups, the name of the channel may not be changed once it has been created. Take into account the words, phrases, and nicknames that your target audience may use when searching for you with a search engine. Department Acronyms are fine for handles (@UChicago on Twitter, for example), but your account names should be clear and easily searchable (example: University of Chicago Social Media Account, not UCSMA)
  • Use appropriate University of Chicago or department branding. Visit the Identity Gudielines for more information.

Contact us if you need help establishing your social media accounts and identity.

Establish Your Voice
Establishing a voice and tone is one of the most difficult parts of creating a successful social media account – it doesn’t happen overnight. To discuss ideas or get help with your brand voice, contact us.

When many people ask how to “use” social media, what they often mean is how they should sound, or what style of writing to use. While there is never any universal answer to this question, here are some tips to get you started:

  • Your target audience will be more likely to interact with your content if it is presented with a casual, personable voice – but keep in mind, you are representing the University, so a level of professionalism is necessary. It’s important to find the line between personable and unprofessional.
  • Multimedia posts almost always perform better than simply text. Share media such as photos, videos, audio, or existing relevant articles in your posts.
  • Be helpful. In many cases, social media communicators are the new customer service representatives. If you can’t answer a question, refer the user to someone who can, or a different website.
  • Try to be consistently responsive. Direct replies and comments should be met with some form of response or acknowledgement, when appropriate. Every bit of feedback is a measure of success for your social media campaign.
  • Your social media voice should exemplify a consistent, discernable personality. The essential goal is to post like an individual, in order to make users feel comfortable interacting with your content.
  • Respect copyright laws. Always give credit and link to your sources.
  • Be Transparent. Acknowledging and correcting mistakes promptly will help maintain your rapport with your readers and, in some cases, even strengthen it.
  • Remember that you are speaking to a group, not just a collection of individuals. Adopt a more communal voice that sounds reasonable to the diverse backgrounds that compose that group. Refrain from broadcasting private issues and topics.
  • Have a sense of humor, when appropriate. Readers skim online, and they’re much more likely to click on or share something that’s amusing. That said, not every topic lends itself to humor. Be selective in when you add humor to a message – in particular, sarcasm is not always clear online.
UChicago Branding on Social Media

When you represent the University of Chicago on social media, there are number of visual and naming elements that need to be designed and selected for each social channel. Familiarize yourself with the identity guidelines by visiting the Identity Guidelines, which provides information about the University’s chosen typefaces, wordmarks, and colors.

As you begin to setup and design your accounts, keep in mind how your accounts appear visually. Avatars should be simple, clear, and high resolution. Remember that many users will see your icon on a mobile device – be sure that your image looks good in a variety of formats.

Some sites like Twitter and Facebook allow you to add Cover Photos, or large banner images to keep at the top of your profile. Be sure to have images that are ideally sized for each site. Every platform has different image size guidelines, so keep those in mind when creating your account’s appearance. Visit the official UChicago accounts for examples of how this might look.

For channel-specific guidelines, please see the “User Guides” section below.

Contact us if you need help creating your social media identity.

Social Media Policies
Social Media Policies

Use social media responsibly and effectively by acquainting yourself with social media policies at the University and external websites.


The University of Chicago

The University of Chicago Employee Handbook


Every individual social site has their own guidelines and terms of service. Be aware of these on each site as you use them.

Events and Social Media

A key component to organizing your event should be building a social media presence. Your audience is already using Facebook and Twitter to stay in touch with the people, organizations, and issues it cares about. By creating a social media buzz around your event, you can instantly connect your audience to related content, generate a dialogue during the event, and increase overall participation. The following pages will help guide you as you begin to plan and promote your events.
Using Facebook for Events
The Facebook Events application is one of the platform’s most powerful tools, but there is an art to using it effectively. Learning the advantages of public versus private events, as well as how to send updates and ensure RSVPs, can determine event turnout and success. This can help increase event registrations, provide attendees with more advanced planning, and then allow them to upload photos and memories after the event has ended.

It is recommended that you review this guide’s Facebook page as a primer to the content on this page.

Before the event:

  • Create a Facebook event and invite your organization’s “friends.”
  • As the event nears, you can send important updates or reminders to everyone you’ve invited, or tailored messages to those who’ve RSVPed “yes” or “maybe.”
  • As the administrator of the event page, make sure the page settings allow people to post comments and pictures, which will make the page more dynamic. Doing this could even generate some great content after the event that you can use for post-event marketing efforts.
  • Make sure your event is set as public and that people invited can invite other friends.
  • Update the status on your organization’s permanent Facebook page to direct people to event details.

During the event:

  • Update your organization’s Facebook status telling friends the event is finally here, and let them know how they can follow on Twitter.
  • Notice anyone else has updated their status to do the same? “Like” it. This will push it to the top of people’s news feeds and let your Facebook friends know that you’re ready to engage.

After the event:

  • Thank people for coming! Send your Facebook event list a thank you for making the event a success, and include any relevant links, or the event’s photos, video and/or audio.
  • Encourage the Facebook event RSVPs to post their pictures, which you can share on your organization’s Facebook or webpage.
  • Direct people to friend your organization’s Facebook page if they haven’t already. A good way to do this is to post your own pictures of the event on your organization’s permanent Facebook page, and send a message to your event RSVPs sharing a link to the album.
Using Twitter for Events
Using Twitter for an event can allow you to connect with larger groups of people and increase awareness of your group’s message. Networking at specific times through the use of hashtags also helps develop a stronger relationship with your audience, as well as enhance your authority. This may include tweeting from live events, conducting interviews, real life meet-ups (also known as “tweetups”), and much more.

It is recommended that you review this guide’s Twitter page as a primer to the content on this page.

Before the event:

  • Before even sending out invitations, come up with a Twitter hashtag for your event.
  • Announce your hashtag at the same time you announce your event and in any post-event promotion.
  • Encourage people to follow and use the hashtag to keep up-to-date on any developments.
  • Embed a Twitter widget on your department or event webpage and be sure to configure it using your event’s hashtag. Visit the Twitter Resources page for implementation instructions. See the #uchicaption website for an example of this technique.
  • Use the hashtag yourself! The best way to promote a hashtag is to post relevant information incorporating it. For instance, any new speakers being added to a lecture series, fun tidbits about the kinds of things people will experience there, pictures from last year’s event, important reminders, etc.
  • Encourage discussion and feedback by asking questions, such as, “Weather says 60 degrees on Sunday: too cold for outdoor #ZenMed?”
  • Leading up to the event, your hashtag page will provide you with insights about what people are talking about and what they hope to get out of your event—so make sure you’re following it regularly.
  • Co-brand your event by using the UChicago hashtag (#uchicago) along with your event hashtag. This way, anyone already following #uchicago on Twitter will also see information about your event.

During the event:

  • Promote your event’s hashtag by creating signs that show users which hashtag to use for your event. Download the Hashtag Sign PDF to instantly create a sign, then print out the signs and hang them up on doors and walls.
  • In your welcome address, announce that you will be tweeting live, and remind people what the hashtag is.
  • Encourage people to tweet their observations, opinions, or pictures during the event. When people tweet live, they promote your event for people back home who may want to sign up for next year’s event.
  • If your event is a conference with several lecture topics, you could even promote new (very short!) hashtags for each topic (and make sure people are using both when they tweet). For instance, the Humanities Day keynote speaker could be tweeted as: #HumDay #Key. This promotes smaller discussions and more targeted feedback.
  • Follow the hashtag yourself. You can get immediate feedback on successes and issues, so you can respond in real-time (e.g., keynote speaker inaudible to the folks in the back? Fix the mic now!).
  • Tweet highlights and pictures throughout the day.

After the event:

  • Tell people how big a success the event was (and thank them for coming and following on Twitter). How many people showed? What was accomplished? How cool was that keynote?
  • Direct people to your organization’s website or mailing list to stay tuned for next year’s event details.
  • Reply to individual’s tweets, by answering questions or pointing them to relevant information from your event.

User Guides

Facebook User Guide

Facebook is the world’s most popular social network with over two billion users worldwide. Educators and campus communicators around the world use Facebook Groups and Company Pages to share information and create conversations. Meanwhile, organizations interested in spreading their message are increasingly using Facebook’s powerful advertising platform to effectively reach wider audiences.

Note: This guide assumes a basic proficiency with Facebook and focuses on managing Facebook department pages, not personal pages. If you need help setting up a Facebook profile or Company Page, contact us.

Why Facebook?

Facebook is the world’s largest social media platform — if you are including social media as part of your communications plan, it is very likely you will want to include Facebook. Facebook allows you to post a variety of media, such as photos, videos, live videos, and more. It also has a robust targeting system, allowing you to reach a specific audience more effectively. This guide will help you set up a Facebook presence and help you determine how to maintain that presence.

Page Information: The minimum requirement for setting up a Facebook page

Complete your page’s Page Info section to provide essential information your followers need to know – this is basic, up-to-date, accurate information so your users can reach you. This includes the following:

  • Location of your department/organization on campus
  • Contact information (Phone, Email, etc)
  • If applicable, hours of operation (e.g. if you provide in-person services)
  • A short description of what your Org does and what function your Facebook page serves
  • A clear, recognizable “profile” picture (typically a logo, minimum 360×360 pixels)
  • A clear “Cover Photo” (the image along the top of your Facebook page) that visually represents the personality or function of your org (minimum 828×425 pixels)
  • Take a look at the main The University of Chicago Facebook page – try and model the information provided here.

Best Practices – Posting to Facebook and Maintaining Your Page

To have an effective Facebook presence, you must find the optimal frequency and content of your messages. Facebook’s algorithm analyzes each post for a number of factors including if a post is from a “friend” or from an organization, how frequently you are posting, and crucially, how Facebook users respond to your posts. Facebook’s algorithm puts more emphasis on messages from a user’s friends and is more particular about posts from organizations. The goal for a successful Facebook page is to find the “sweet spot” in terms of how often you post, and what you post about:

Post Quality & Frequency

  • The best way to develop a strong Facebook page is to share quality messages. Quality, in terms of Facebook’s algorithm, is judged by “Relevancy” — essentially how many people that react (“engage”) with your posts in some
  • Sharing posts that get engagements (“Likes,” “Comments,” “Shares,” etc) assures your messages are seen by an increasingly larger audience.
  • Whenever possible, try to include visual with your posts. On Facebook, photos and videos have more “stopping power” than just text posts. Each audience is different, so try to share different kinds of messages — photos, videos, links —to see what type of post and what kinds of topics are interesting to your followers.
  • Facebook gives priority to posts that get more engagements and comments, but also actively suppresses posts that “bait” users to take an action — g. messages that say as “Like this post if…” or “Comment with…”. Avoid explicitly asking users to engage, and find more organic ways to get followers to take an action.
  • Facebook allows posts from friends and family to be seen more frequently than “Brand” posts – so we recommend having a small ad budget to help your content reach its desired audience. Facebook ad budgets do not have to be large — putting one dollar on each post can make a real difference.
    • Facebook is very sensitive to pages that post too much — this is especially so for brand If you post too frequently, Facebook’s algorithm will show your posts to fewer people. Post too infrequently, however, and your organization will have difficulty maintaining and growing your following.
    • Your post frequency will depend on how much content your unit produces. If your posts are getting little to no response, consider being more thoughtful about how often you post, and at what time of the day and week you are posting.
    • Be prompt when it comes to responding to questions and comments. You don’t necessarily need to answer every comment on every post, but when applicable be sure to monitor and respond appropriately. This frequency will also vary greatly depending on your unit’s activity on Facebook.

Pages vs Groups — Two Ways to Connect to Your Facebook Audience

Groups are another type of Facebook page that allow communities to share messages amongst each other in both public and private forums. Groups can be a great tool to listen and interact with your followers, as opposed to sharing more institutional one-way messages to your audience on an official Company Page. As an individual you can join groups on Facebook, and as an organization you can establish and moderate official company groups. Depending on your long-term goals, you may want to consider leveraging Facebook Groups in conjunction with your Facebook page.

Here are some differences between pages and groups:

Pages are used to represent an entity – such as The University of Chicago. Page Posts are what you see in most often in your Facebook feed, and the most common way brands use Facebook.

  • Pages are essentially profiles for organizations, where you can post AS your organization, as opposed to an individual affiliated with your organization.
  • Pages allow you to post in essentially the same way that regular users do – you can broadcast news, videos, photos and text messages publicly to followers that have the potential to be seen by larger audiences.
  • You can put money behind your messages to allow them to reach a wider audience of your followers as well as people outside of your page’s community, but page posts are also monitored closely by Facebook’s algorithms.

Groups are similar to online message boards or forums. They are places on Facebook where users can freely post as individuals about a subject. Although any member of a group can post messages, organizations and individual moderators within the group can control who is permitted to join. In most cases, Groups are better suited for internal communications or closed communities. Groups function well as a tool that works alongside of, but not in place of, an official Company Page. Please contact us if you are considering creating a Facebook Group.

Other Facebook Applications

In conjunction with Facebook’s primary function to connect individuals within online communities, there are applications within the Facebook platform that augment and facilitate these functions. Some are listed below:

Messenger

Facebook’s Messenger function allows users to directly and privately communicate to individuals and companies. It is up to your organization to decide if this feature is valuable. You can disable it or easily add automated messages if your department does not have the time to manage one-to-one conversations online. Contact us if you need assistance determining your Messenger strategy.

Advertising

If you are putting in an effort to post on Facebook more than once a week, a modest advertising budget will make sure your efforts are being seen. Visit Facebook’s Advertising Page to read more about how they can support your efforts. Facebook assists users in creating ads by helping you determine your goals and suggesting ad types to reach those goals. Facebook offers many tools to help ensure that the right people see your messages, but it also provides a lot of options. If you are considering using Facebook Ads, we would be happy to help you get started — please contact us.

Analytics

To help you understand the health of your organization’s Business Page, Facebook provides an “Insights” tab that details your page performance. A large amount of data can be exported into a .CSV file or Excel document within the Insight data Facebook Insights, but these exports provide a lot of detail — please contact us if you have questions on what and how to report on your Facebook page’s performance.

Other Helpful tips can be found in Facebook’s Help Section. Contact us if you have any questions about using Facebook, or if you have feedback on this page.

Twitter User Guide
Twitter is one of the fastest and simplest microblogging websites. Whereas Facebook’s strength lies in connecting with people you know, Twitter’s strength is capturing the “buzz” of the moment using tweets, links, trends, and hashtags.


Twitter 101

  • Hashtags (using the number sign with a word directly following it, such as #uchicago) automatically create a link in Twitter that compiles all the tweets mentioning the topic. You don’t have to register a hashtag with Twitter; just start tweeting it.
  • Hashtags count toward the 140-character limit on Twitter, so keep it short and obvious. For instance, in promoting the event “Zen meditation at Rockefeller,” you could use the hashtag #ZenMed.
  • You can use the hashtag in the context of what you’re tweeting. An example: “Find your inner Buddha during #ZenMed. Only 4 more days to sign up! http://tinyurl.com/22tr4r3
  • Or you can use it at the end of your tweet … “Finals week getting you stressed? Chillax: http://tinyurl.com/22tr4r3#ZenMed #uchicago”
  • Pick out relevant terms from the Twitter Glossary

Getting Started

  1. Go to https://twitter.com/signup and enter your name, e-mail, and preferred username and password, then click “Create my account.” Try to pick a username that is short, easy to remember, and contains words or names users might search for you with.
  2. Twitter will send you an e-mail. Confirm and activate your new account by clicking the link in the e-mail.
  3. A page will appear that says “Find sources that interest you,” with lists of suggested users to follow, broken down by area of concentration. Click the “Follow” button to follow users that interest you. Click “Next” when you’re done.
  4. The “Contact Import” page will appear, allowing you to find people in your e-mail address book on Twitter. Click “Next” when you’re done.
  5. Go to your account settings to add a profile picture, bio, or website URL, or to adjust the design of your profile.
  6. Type and publish your first tweet! Tweets must always be 140 characters or less, which includes all links, usernames, and hashtags.

Best Practices

  • Accounts must be set to either public or private—there is no way to display tweets to just a handful or users. Tweets from private accounts will not appear in search results and users must request permission to follow you.
  • Tweets that begin with another user’s Twitter name—also known as “Replies” or “Mentions”—will only appear in your feed, the mentioned user’s feed, as well as the feeds of anyone who follows both you and the mentioned user.
  • If you need to share private or personal information with another user, always send a Direct Message (DM) instead of a public Reply. DMs are only viewable to you and the other user, and can only be sent to users that follow you back. For safety, never share sensitive data on any social media platform.
  • Retweets (RT) are one of the easiest and most popular ways to spread information through Twitter. Simply click the “retweet” link under a tweet you would like to share with all of your followers. It will appear in your feed regardless of whether other users follow the user who posted the original tweet.
  • There is no limit to how often you can or should tweet. Develop a flexible posting schedule that complements the times your target audience is the most active. (Tweets are now limited to 1,000 per day. Information can be found here.)
  • It is important to avoid any overtly “spam-like” behavior. Here are some suggested techniques to avoid while using Twitter:
    • Repetitive or misleading tweets
    • A “robotic,” or impersonal tone of voice
    • Over-reliance on Trending Topics as tweet subject matter
    • Never replying to users
    • Using third-party applications that send an automatic DM any time a user decides to follow you.
  • If you mention a user in a tweet, and they do not respond or decide to follow you, do not continue to actively pursue them.
  • Twitter is meant to be informal. Take note of the type of language and attitude that elicits the most responses.
  • All University policies concerning plagiarism, profanity, obscenity, and discrimination are applicable as you represent the University of Chicago.
  • Identify alumni by degree and year using UChicago style. Arrange multiple degrees in chronological order, from earliest to latest. For example: “Janet Davison Rowley, PhB’45, SB’46, MD’48, named ’11 #UChicago Alumni Medalist.”

Tools & Resources

There are many third-party applications that can be used with Twitter, making it easy to broadcast live events, host contests, pull data for research, and much more.

  • Always use a URL shortener when linking to an outbound web page. With only 140 characters per tweet, every word and letter is very important and some URLs can be very long. Twitter now has their own short URL service, t.co, and there are many more, such as bit.ly (which features it’s own Analytics tools), tinyurl.com, and goo.gl.
  • Photography (especially mobile photography) is increasingly becoming one of the most popular uses for Twitter. Free-to-use sites such as TwitPic, yFrog, and Plixi provide easy ways to upload photos and sync with your account.
  • Twitter 101 For Businesses – Twitter has created this helpful collection of documents for marketers and companies hoping to maximize the success of their campaigns, featuring more best practices, a “Twitter Glossary,” advertising information, and more.
  • Some of the more popular Twitter applications include:
    • Official Twitter Apps – Depending on different technology needs and preferences, Twitter has developed an application for almost everyone. In addition to a variety of mobile apps, those using Mac OS X version 10.6 “Snow Leopard” or newer may download the desktop application version of Twitter from the Mac App Store.
      • Mobile: Twitter currently features official mobile apps for iPhone & iPod Touch, iPad, Android, Blackberry, and Windows Phone 8.
    • Echofon – Another free Twitter client that synchronizes your computer and mobile device, ensuring that you never see the same tweet twice. Echofon is available as a plug-in for Firefox or as a Facebook App.
    • Mobile: Echofon is currently available for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.

Analytics

Many third-party Twitter applications and URL shortening services (see above) feature built-in analytics tools. However, Twitter does not currently offer any official analytics tools, except for selected users. There is speculationthat Twitter is currently developing these types of tools and will soon unveil them for all users. Other popular Twitter Analytics tools include:

  • Twitter Counter – With this tool you’ll be able to find out more about followers, friends, tweets, absolute and relative growth, as well as analyze trends and export data into a .CSV file.
  • Tweetstats — This is the best way to find out how many times you tweeted daily or monthly, as well as learn more about your replies and mentions.
  • Tweetreach — Tweetreach creates graphs and pie charts that analyze your tweet types and how many times they’ve been viewed using any and all Twitter applications.

Examples on Campus

The following are a few examples of Twitter at the university. Contact us and let us know of some good examples of Twitter on campus.

  • The Pritzker Podcast (produced by students of the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine) maintains a lively, yet casual Twitter account where they hold discussions that help inform the content of their podcasts.
  • The University of Chicago Magazine’s Twitter feed features retweets of news and information from all over campus. This provides a snapshot of what’s going on in different University departments, and helps other campus communicators who may not have as many followers.
  • The Chicago Manual of Style (published by the University of Chicago Press) provides writing tips, news of interest to copywriters, and promotions, all with a sense of humor. It also pays attention to others’ loving mentions of the Manual and retweets them.

Help and Feedback

Contact us if you have any questions about using Twitter, or if you have feedback on this page.

YouTube User Guide

 

YouTube is the second largest social network on the planet – with nearly 2 billion monthly active users, only Facebook has a larger audience. YouTube is a video viewing and sharing platform where users can create channels, subscribe to other users, and interact with/comment on videos. YouTube can be considered a hybrid between a social media network and a search engine – only Google has more search queries per day than YouTube. Due to this, YouTube requires a different approach than other social media networks.

Note: This guide assumes a basic proficiency with YouTube and focuses on managing a brand channel page. If you are a campus unit considering starting a channel, please reach out to the University Communications office, as many units simply have a subsection on the main UChicago channel.

Why YouTube?

Because of its size and functionality, YouTube is single best place to post videos online. Almost 5 billion videos are watched on YouTube every single day. If you are making video content that is meant to be seen by an online audience, it should be going on YouTube. 

Your YouTube Page

In addition to following University Branding Guidelines, is important to make sure that your page is organized in a way that viewers will recognize it as a place for quality content — it must be organized in a way that is most useful to your potential audience. Success on YouTube is drawing users to your page to watch a video and then keeping them on the page to explore more brand-owned content. To draw in an audience, and retain that audience, take these basic steps:

  • Maintain Your Profile Appearance: Like any social account, it is essential to have your profile picture, bio, associated links and other sections completed. This bare minimum of establishing your YouTube presence tells potential users that you are legitimate, and allows you an opportunity to talk about your brand, and set audience expectations for what type of video content they can find on the page.
  • Featured Video: This acts as an introduction to your brand, but it can also be used to highlight a recent or important feature of your brand. Make sure this video — which appears prominently on your home page, represents your organization effectively.
  • Playlists: Creating channel playlists on YouTube is a way to categorize your videos so users can quickly find the types of videos they are searching for, and it allows them to view more videos on your page that share similarities. When coming to your channel, these serve as the primary way for viewers to find specific types of videos. Examples: Lectures, Interviews, Content Series, etc.

The above three steps are essential to your YouTube success. The video-specific criteria outlined in the following section will help you build upon your established YouTube channel.

What Makes a Good YouTube video?

Videos on YouTube have customization options that make content more effective and easily discoverable. Since YouTube is explored like a search engine (and often as a search engine), your video content may be difficult to find without applying some basic user-friendly standards.

The more thoughtful you are in how your YouTube videos are described, categorized, and appear on the site, the more likely YouTube users will find it and choose to watch it.

To note, all of the below notes are steps you can take any time after a video has been uploaded — including videos that are years old, and videos that have already been viewed many times on YouTube.

  • Create Descriptive, Searchable Titles: Make sure that the subject of the video is very clear from its title – but keep it simple. Much like the headline of a webpage, this is the easiest way your video will be found. Think about the video’s topic, then work backwards to apply a title based on how someone might be searching for your video.
  • Permit Closed Captioning: ADA requires that our YouTube videos have captions available. For both the hearing impaired and those who don’t want to turn the volume on, captions are a must for YouTube videos. These can be added to videos as they are being created, but it is more effective to add captions within YouTube itself. You can add captions within YouTube by upload a transcript (an .srt file) or allow YouTube to create them automatically.
  • Add Appropriate Tags: Tagging things on social categorizes them to be discovered, grouped with like content, and “suggested” to YouTube users who are viewing similar videos. Words and phrases associated with your video should be added as tags to any YouTube video. Apply as many tags as possible to your videos so long as the tags are accurate for the video you are sharing. Adding popular tags that are irrelevant to your video will hurt your video’s ability to be found.
  • Choose a Good Thumbnail: The image that appears as the “still” of your video in search is crucial. This image should be captivating and interesting, accurately represent what the contents of the video feature, and work in tandem with your headline. A bad thumbnail is a clear sign to YouTube users of low quality because you did not take an additional 30 seconds to select a thumbnail, and therefore not worth their time. YouTube automatically selects a thumbnail from the middle of your video, but often another one of the options YouTube provides is a better option. Look for imagery that features a close-up of a person or the object the video is about. If there is not a good thumbnail option, you are also able to create your own image and upload it as the thumbnail option.
  • Detailed Description with Standard Messaging: This section is where the video can be described more in-depth. Paragraphs explaining more about the video can be used, and it is the best opportunity to succinctly describe some further detail about the video that may not be evident in your headline. While it is less influential than the headline, a good video description helps immensely for people searching for your video content. Do not be afraid of a long video description (2-3 paragraphs is acceptable) so long as the first two sentences effectively describe the video. (Think of it as a subhead). Also consider a brief “Call to Action” at the bottom of each of your videos that describers your program and provides a link to more information. The Video Editor function within YouTube allows you to make “batch” changes in which you can add an identical closing “About Us” sentence to multiple videos simultaneously.

If you are having difficulty deciding how to title, tag, and describe your video content, the best thing you can do is some first-hand research on YouTube itself. Look at how peer institutions categorize similar videos — and more importantly — type in search words that you think fit your video content, and see what YouTube suggests. Click on the most most-popular videos in those searches and look how they are tagged, what their headlines and descriptions look like, and consider how you might adjust your YouTube headlines to improve and iterate on what YouTube ranks as its best.

We encourage some units to leverage the main UChicago YouTube page, managed by the Office of Communications, to host your video assets. If your unit has, or plans to upload a large amount of YouTube content and would like to host your own YouTube page, please let us know so we can support your page, and help with meeting these above standards.

Instagram User Guide
What is Instagram?

  • Instagram is the most visual of the main social media platforms, as the channel is driven by photos and videos.
  • Instagram has the youngest audience of the four major social media platforms, as well as the fastest growing audience.
  • Nowadays, users can go to Instagram to follow their favorite companies and brands, who have interesting visual content to share. For our purposes, think of it as a way to showcase the most unique visuals from your department.

Note: If you need assistance setting up an Instagram Profile, please contact us – these guides assume a basic level of proficiency. 

Setting up your Instagram Profile

There are a few things to keep in mind when creating your Instagram profile.

  • Your page’s name and handle (@name) should be simple and easily searchable for users – e.g. (UChicago, not uofc, etc) as this is how most users will find you on the platform.
  • Instagram, like Twitter, uses circular profile images, so make sure that the image you use will appear well in a circular crop.
  • Your page’s bio should be informative, but succinct. Try and encapsulate what your page is in one to two sentences
  • Instagram allows you to put one link in your bio. This can be a link to your department’s website, or if you’re promoting a specific event, you can post about it with “Link in Bio.”
  • Try and include a hashtag in your bio as well. If you don’t have a unit-specific tag, simply use #UChicago.

Setting Up Your Department’s Instagram Presence

  • What to post: Instagram’s audience is generally under the age of 35 – it’s important to take this into account when posting content to your Instagram followers. What type of content would a younger part of your general audience like to see? Keep this in mind when curating content for Instagram.
  • If there are specific ways you think your department could collaborate with the main University of Chicago Instagram page, please contact us.

Instagram Posts

The most common type of post on Instagram are regular photos – these are the kinds you see in your feed. Think of Instagram as a platform for “visual storytelling.” Some best practices:

  • When possible, use a square-cropped photo. This not only fits best in the feed, but your Instagram Page automatically creates a grid of photos, all square-cropped.
  • Try and establish visual guidelines or a general theme for your page. This will help you decide what types of photos you’ll be posting on a regular basis.
  • If possible, try and post at least 2-3 times per week. Instagram is a quick-moving platform, so you should post frequently to keep your audience engaged. Instagram’s algorithm isn’t completely based on chronological order, but it is more time-based than platforms such as Facebook or LinkedIn.
  • Captions can range from short and witty to long and informative – whichever fits the particular post best. (For example, a post highlighting a historical event might have a longer, more informative caption, whereas a glamor shot of campus might lend itself better to a short one-liner caption).
  • Hashtags can help users find your posts. Don’t go overboard, but feel free to add multiple hashtags to your posts so that more users can find them. When in doubt, always add #UChicago!
  • Try and tag each of your posts with a location. Instagram’s geo-tagging feature is very robust, so you want to be included in any location searches when applicable. When in doubt, use “The University of Chicago” location.

Video Posts

Instagram may be known for photos, but it is also a popular video platform as well.

  • The maximum video length on Instagram is 60 seconds – whether this means creating shorter videos or making a shorter cut of an existing video, take this into account.
  • Make sure that the “pause” screen of the video is something aesthetically pleasing, as that will be the image that remains on your page even when the video is not playing.
  • A vast majority of Instagram users are experiencing your content through their phones – as a result, make sure that your video doesn’t rely on audio (it can have some, but assume that most viewers won’t listen, only see)

Instagram Stories

Another popular way to post on Instagram is Stories. These are shown in the small circles at the top of your screen on the main feed.

  • Stories only last on your profile for 24 hours, then they disappear (you can, however, “pin” these stories to your profile, so that users can see them anytime – just not from the main feed)
  • Stories can be more off-the-cuff, as they’re meant to be more authentic and real-time.
  • Stories have lots of features you can add, such as GIFs, locations, hashtags, stickers and polls – if you plan on using Stories as part of your social strategy, we recommend experimenting with all of the different features.
  • Are you familiar with Snapchat? Instagram Stories are essentially Snapchat for Instagram!

More on these and other Instagram topics can be found on Instagram’s very useful Help Center.

 

Help and Feedback

Contact us if you have detailed questions about your Instagram setup or strategy.

Podcasts User Guide
An Introduction to Podcasting

Podcasts are digital audio files made available on the Internet for downloading, typically as a thematic series. Interested listeners can “subscribe” to future episodes which are then received automatically. At least 112 million Americans listened to a podcast in 2017 — up 11% from the year, [Forbes] while user appetite for podcast content continues to grow. Media giants including The New York Times and ESPN have begun regularly producing podcast-exclusive programming.

The medium has become a preferred content format for both creators and listeners because podcasts are cost-efficient to create and distribute. Additionally, its recurring “serialized” programming model and audio-only format allows users to receive and consume content passively and for extended periods without requiring active “screen time”.

Because of a low production barrier of entry and audio-only format, a podcast’s quality and consistency can vary significantly. To produce a high-quality podcast, it is in a creator’s best interest to make an initial investment in equipment, software, and training to assure that their end product stands out. 

Starting a Podcast

There are some excellent resources available for learning about starting a podcast, including Transom.org and networks including The Association for Independent Radio.

Successful podcast programs rely on consistency— in both the quality and frequency of output. Before you “hit record,” make sure you have addressed some basic questions:

  • What greater story do you want to tell?
  • Why will people want to listen, and will they want to keep listening?
  • Who is the main audience for the podcast and does that audience have a potential to grow?
  • How long will the show be? (10-15 minutes, 20-30 minutes, an hour plus?)
  • What will the format of the show be? (A one-on-one dialogue, a narrator-driven story? Will it feature multiple segments, or is it simply one long interview? etc.)
  • How often will your podcast be published? Weekly, bi-monthly, monthly, etc.
  • How do you plan to promote your podcast? Both within your professional network, as well as a wider listening audience
  • What are you going to call your podcast?

Pre-Production:

Podcasts are best delivered regularly and episodically, so before you go about creating a single piece of audio content, it is best to build initial guest lists, sketch out a general narrative concept, or story collection, and thematic or topical groupings that will be the backbone of your program. Consider how many episodes to produce based on these planned outlines and set about a schedule of producing and releasing content prior to releasing any single episode.

It is also important to think about where and when you will record your podcast. It is always advisable to conduct interviews in-person and to do so in a location that has minimal background noise and echoes. Conducting and recording interviews over the phone or through online services like Skype are not uncommon in podcasting, but you will find that face-to-face interviews deliver better results in terms of both audio quality and quality of discourse. 

To establish a consistent audio brand, consider featuring music within your recording, specifically in the intro and outro of your program. (Free Music Archive is a great resource, or you can ask musically gifted friends or colleagues to compose something original).

Equipment:

To assure quality output, it is recommended that you invest a small amount of money into audio recording equipment, namely: a field recorder, headphones, and microphones. There are numerous audio editing software options available, from the basic (Audacity, Garage Band) to the advanced (Pro Tools, Adobe Audition). Hindenburg is an audio production app which provides a simple interface specifically designed for editing podcasts.

Audio editing might be the trickiest component of podcast creation, as it requires both technical skills as well as the ability to craft a story. If you have specific questions when it comes to the recording and editing process, please reach out to the Communications Office.

Distribution and Audience

Web Hosting:

Because podcasts are distributed digitally they need to be made available online through “Host Sites.” Some podcasts platforms require you to upload audio files, but most services stream your podcasts through RSS feeds provided by host sites. One host site recommended is Libsyn, which provides a quality user experience and basic download data for a reasonable price.

Podcast Platforms:

To draw an audience to your podcasts, they must be featured on as many podcast platforms as possible. Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play, and Spotify are the most popular applications at the moment but there are new sites that are also emerging. Most recently, music streaming service Spotify has introduced podcast offerings. Once you submit your RSS feed to these sites, each time a new podcast is uploaded to your host site, those episodes will automatically populate. Of podcast sites that do not use RSS feeds — SoundCloud is one of a handful of sites you should consider uploading audio files directly to. 

Growth & Promotion:

To grow a listening base, a podcast must be easily found. Platforms have different ways to determine what appears in user searches, but all use the same two factors: Relevance (search terms, titles, tags) and Quality (user ratings, recency, and downloads). Tactics can be employed to affect all of these factors: 

  • Search Relevance: Within your podcast hosting site, take the time to include detailed episode descriptions that use key terms and phrases associated with the content subject matter, and liberally apply appropriate content “tags”.
  • Name/Episode Title: A memorable name and unique episode titles will differentiate your podcast from similar content and allow users to find your podcast easier.
  • User Ratings: Podcast apps rely heavily on user ratings to determine quality content — even the most popular podcasts programs will regularly solicit favorable user rating and reviews on social media, and within the episodes themselves.
  • Downloads: While it is difficult to directly affect download rates, you can increase your podcast’s listenership by actively promoting your podcast through direct peer and association connections, through broader email communication, and by seeding your content into appropriate social media conversations — especially Twitter.
  • Recency: Episode popularity will inevitably decline over time, so it is best to space out your podcast recordings on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis with the goal of establishing a publishing cadence that your listenership can rely on and anticipate.

Getting Your Podcast Project Started

The information provided above is a very high-level introduction to podcasting. If you are interested in beginning your own podcast, or have questions about setting up or distributing podcast content, we encourage you to contact the Communications Office for assistance.

The News Office also manages the UChicago Podcast Network, a collection of podcasts on campus, in an effort to better support audio content from multiple campus partners. If you would like more information about the UChicago Podcast Network, please contact the News Office.

LinkedIn User Guide
What is LinkedIn?

  • Linkedin is different from other social media platforms in terms of the platform’s users as well as its purpose.
  • LinkedIn is a professionally-geared platform, and its audience is reflective of that (older than other platforms, and they come to this platform looking for business-type content).
  • While LinkedIn originated as (and still is today) a job search and networking site, it has evolved beyond that.
  • Nowadays, users can go to LinkedIn to follow their favorite companies, who can publish news and updates regarding their work. For our purposes, think of it as a way to showcase the best things about your place of employment.

Note: If you need assistance setting up a LinkedIn Profile, please contact us – these guides assume a basic level of proficiency.

Personal Profiles vs Company Pages

There are two main types of LinkedIn accounts – Personal Profiles and Company Pages. As the name implies, your Personal Profile is your own, individual account to represent yourself. A Company Page is what you should use to represent your department (e.g. University of Chicago company page). Users can be assigned as admins/editors of Company Pages – so you must have a personal profile if you want to manage your department’s Company Page. Your personal profile must be attached to a certain company in order to manage its page.

Company Page Functions

Company Pages have multiple functions for both company “insiders” and “outsiders.”

  • One of the main purposes of Company Pages is for individual users to link up their accounts with these pages (e.g. John Smith works at: University of Chicago). Through these links, users can identify individuals who work at different companies and connect with coworkers and colleagues. Encourage your employees to add the appropriate current employer.
  • Additionally, Company Pages allow outsiders to stay updated on what is going on within the organization. For somewhere such as The University of Chicago, this is very important — there are always outsiders interested in the work going on here, hence why it is important to have a thoughtful presence on the LinkedIn platform. Sharing relevant content will keep outside users interested in your company.

Company Page Overview/Appearance

  • The “Overview” section of your Company Page is the easiest place to edit the most front-facing aspects of your LinkedIn Page.
  • Both Profile Photos and Company Logo Images should be 300 x 300 pixels at minimum.
  • Cover images should be 1500 x 750 pixels at minimum.
  • Ensure that your page’s information sections are completed (“About Us”, etc.) ­— this allows LinkedIn users to find your page more easily as well as bolsters your profile’s appearance.
  • Ensure that your page’s name includes all necessary information – spell out acronyms, include “University of Chicago” if appropriate.

Job Page Overview (Optional but recommended)

  • This section is not necessary to run a successful LinkedIn page, but if your department does have frequent job openings, it is a good idea to keep this page updated. Doing so will keep followers more interested if they see potential jobs popping up often.

Life Page (Optional but recommended)

  • The “Life” section of your Company Page is a great place to feature people instead of things at your workplace. Emphasizing your company culture or notable individuals in this section gives outsiders a better look into the company.
  • Highlight the people in your organization, their accolades, successes, experiences (The softer side of LinkedIn)

Affiliate Pages (Requested by UChicago)

  • If you are creating a Company Page affiliated with The University of Chicago, we request that you connect your Page as an “Affiliate” of the official University of Chicago LinkedIn Page. By doing this, your page will get more exposure due to the main page’s following, and specific departments will be more easily found from the main page.

Groups (Optional)

  • If there are notable and highly active LinkedIn Groups specifically associated with your unit, please include them in this section. This may not be applicable to all pages.

Showcase Pages (Optional, not recommended)

  • Showcase Pages are ways to features specific Campaigns, or divisions within your unit
  • Due to the specificity of Showcase Pages, we advise that you avoid this section when just starting up a LinkedIn presence. Reach out to us if you’d like to discuss use of Showcase pages to help support specific initiatives or highlight individual parts of your department.

LinkedIn’s Help Section is an excellent resource – click here for more info on Company Pages. 

Setting Up Your Department’s LinkedIn Presence

  • Update your personal profile to say that you work for your organization/department.
  • Whoever owns or runs your Company page can add users as an Admin. If you are unsure of who this person is, or need to set the page up yourself, visit Linkedin’s Help page.
  • Make sure your department’s page is connected to University of Chicago’s main page as an “affiliate.” Showcase and affiliate pages are extensions of your company page. More info on these can be found above – even more detail is available here.
  • What to post: LinkedIn has a different audience compared to the other social media platforms – it’s important to take this into account when posting content to your LinkedIn followers. It is a very professional and business-like platform, so use content that will play well to that type of audience (big announcements, learning & professional development resources, interesting research, etc. are a few examples).
  • Your post cadence on LinkedIn should be different from a high-volume channel such as Twitter, particularly because users aren’t often spending a ton of time on the platform. A good number to shoot for would be posting one or two times per week on LinkedIn (an ideal number is three to five per week, but this may vary depending on your department).
  • Job Postings are an integral part of LinkedIn. Consult with your team if a job posting for your department makes sense for LinkedIn.
  • If there are specific ways you think your department could collaborate with the main University of Chicago page, please contact us.

More on these and other LinkedIn topics can be found on LinkedIn’s very useful Help page.


Help and Feedback

Contact us if you have detailed questions about your LinkedIn setup or strategy.