Social Media

Use of Social Media

At Southwest Minnesota State University (SMSU), we recognize that social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Instagram have become important and influential communication channels for our community. To assist in posting content and managing these sites, the university has developed the following guidelines for official and personal use of social media. These policies and guidelines apply to university faculty and staff, and can be used in connection with social media accounts associated with schools, colleges, departments, programs and offices.

Jump to: General | Getting Started | Naming | Moderating Twitter | FacebookYouTube | Blogging | LinkedIn

General Guidelines

  • The purpose of using these communication channels on behalf of SMSU is to support the university’s mission, goals, programs, and sanctioned efforts, including university news, information, content and directives.
  • Prior to engaging in any form of social media involving SMSU, you must receive permission from the supervisor as appointed by your department head and notify the SMSU Communications and Marketing office.
  • When using an officially recognized social media channel, assume at all times that you are representing SMSU.
  • Confidential or proprietary university information or similar information of third parties, who have shared such information with you on behalf of SMSU, should not be shared publically on these social media channels.
  •, as well as SMSU’s main social media accounts may choose to post university-related social media content generated by faculty, staff and/or students. SMSU’s main social media accounts can be accessed through the Communication and Marketing Web site, and include:
  • Exercise discretion, thoughtfulness and respect for your colleagues, associates and the university’s supporters/community (social media fans).
  • Avoid discussing or speculating on internal policies or operations.
  • A healthy dialog with constructive criticism can be useful but refrain from engaging in dialogue that could disparage colleagues, competitors, or critics.
  • Be mindful that all posted content is subject to review in accordance with SMSU and MnSCU employee policies and editorial guidelines. 4
  • Please refrain from reporting, speculating, discussing or giving any opinions on university topics or personalities that could be considered sensitive, confidential or disparaging.
  • SMSU logos and/or visual identity cannot be used for personal social media without university permission. Please contact Communications and Marketing for assistance.
  • Your personal social media account is not an appropriate place to distribute university news. If you have University information and news that you would like to announce to the public or media, please contact the SMSU Communications and Marketing Office.
  • SMSU does not monitor personal websites but will address issues that violate established HR, Editorial, Graphic, Licensing and Social Media guidelines.
  • SMSU encourages Faculty, Staff and Students to use social media but reminds users that at any time they can be perceived as a spokesperson of the University and encourage users to keep that in mind.
  • If you wouldn’t put it on a flier, carve it into stone, or want it published on the front of local newspaper, don’t broadcast it via social media channels.
  • Social Media platforms are not like a website; they enable two-way communications with your audience. To ensure this interactivity, make sure you are providing fresh, relevant content and actively listening to the conversation and contributing to the dialogue.
  • Someone on your team needs to check the sites you establish at least once a day for comments and to engage your followers.
  • Social Media is about creating community and trust; please identify who you are and who you represent on the official platform by providing your full name and title and affiliation with SMSU when possible depending on the social media platform.
  • Make sure you are posting a variety of relevant, valuable and engaging content. Examples include articles, links, photos, videos and events. Always secure permission before you post.
  • Remember you must first build trust with your audience, which takes time. Once trust is established you will begin to see community involvement grow. Don’t give up; just remember that most social media accounts don’t immediately become successful or popular; it takes patience and persistence.

Final Thoughts

If you have any doubt or questions about posting content on these social media sites, please consult the Communications and Marketing team.
Due to the evolving nature of social media, the policies and guidelines are subject to revision by the Communications and Marketing team. We also welcome feedback from the campus community.

Getting Started

If you are thinking of creating a new social media account that will be associated with Southwest Minnesota State University, please contact the Office of Communications and Marketing for assistance with strategy, set-up, naming, and use, etc.

Tips for getting started:

  • Create a personal account and spend some time learning how the site works.
  • Look at what other colleges or other similar groups have done to be successful.
  • Read recent articles on social media. (The Communications and Marketing team can also direct you to helpful articles.)

Please note: To be listed on the university Social Media webpage, please work with Marketing Communications and follow the guidelines outlined here.

Naming Guidelines

Some of the social media platforms will allow you to change your name after the accounts are created (Twitter); some do not (Facebook). Naming is important in helping people find you and in helping people understand who you are and what you represent. Naming your social media channel is very important. Please note, that you will not be recognized as an official communication channel of the university unless you adhere to these naming guidelines.

Please make sure that SMSU or Southwest Minnesota State University is listed prior to your school, college, department, program, office, organization, or student run organization. SMSU reserves the right to ask you to delete a page or surrender a page/account name that is determined in appropriate, unfitting, or more suitable for another entity on campus. Consult with us first to help you select a name that is fitting for your goals.

Facebook- SMSU or Southwest Minnesota State University [insert name]
Example: SMSUToday
twitter- SMSU[Insert Name] or SMSU_ [Insert Name]
Example: SMSUToday or SMSU_News
YouTube- SMSU[Insert Name]
Example: SMSUMustangs

University marketing taglines may not be used by departments, programs, offices, clubs or individuals. (i.e., Mustangs For Life, Believe in Brown, Where you belong). The general rule is to accurately represent yourself or your entity to your potential audience and not mislead or misrepresent your purpose, your program, or your goals. Squatting on names is frowned upon in social media. Be considerate of who might best be served by a username and if it is not you, then choose something else.

Moderating Comments

When managing a social media site, it’s helpful to have clear guidelines for moderating comments. Please feel free to use the following to moderate comments on your site, and to post these guidelines to your website or social media account when appropriate.

SMSU Guidelines to Moderating Comments

SMSU encourages our fans, followers, and friends to share their thoughts with one another by commenting on a story, feature, tweet, or post that speaks to you. We encourage lively, thoughtful and civil conversation with the following guidelines:

  • Comments must be relevant to a topic discussed and to the point.
  • Keep your comments clean and constructive.
  • Posts that are off-topic, abusive, contain profanity, are threatening in tone or devolve into personal attacks will be deleted. Period.
  • Excessively long comments—as determined by the site’s editor—are subject to editing for length, clarity and space limitations.
  • Anonymous comments will not be published.
  • Please do not post links unless you identify, by name, who you are and explain where your link goes, especially if you are a for profit organization. This is to distinguish spam from legitimate opportunities for the SMSU community
  • SMSU reserves the right to review all comments and remove comments that violate any of the conditions noted above

Guidelines for Individual Social Media Websites

Please refer to the guidelines below if you are managing or considering creating a specific social media account. These provide more detailed information on the culture, logistics and best practices of individual social media websites.

Twitter Guidelines

If possible, use a professional photo of your face for your avatar. Show people who you are, and please smile, everyone loves a friendly face. Try to avoid a generic campus photo for the avatar. If you’re not sure what to use, just ask.

  • Include a short bio.
  • Always include a URL, to your school/college/program/etc website. If you do not have one, then use
  • Contact Communications and Marketing for a background image.
  • Concentrate first on establishing who you are, begin to build trust.
  • Avoid posting more than 3 items in 24 hours, unless tied to a specific promotion.
  • Post at least 3 to 4 times per week.
  • Use the @username when replaying or referring to other twitter members and @SMSUToday or #SMSU when referring to Southwest Minnesota State University.
  • Retweet as often as possible, provided the content relates back to your goals. For example, if someone says how much they love your program, retweet it.
  • When composing your tweets, read them back to yourself and if it wouldn’t be interesting enough for you to click on them, someone else probably won’t find it interesting either.
  • Always spell check your tweets before sending them. But remember that twitter allows for shorthand. “Tomorrow” should be “tmrw” to conserve characters. With public twitter accounts, the record of your tweets is stored in the Library of Congress. Remember that when considering a tweet.
  • Leave enough characters empty in your post to allow someone to easily retweet it. Try to stay around 120 characters, so someone has room to add “RT @username:” to the beginning.
  • Be sure to follow back your followers. But take the time to look at each profile; you do not want to follow spammers, robots, or questionable profiles advertising casinos, clubs, or bars. You should always follow SMSU and other Southwest Minnesota State University twitter accounts.
  • An individual should own your twitter account; this ensures a consistent voice for the account.
  • Generally speaking, the majority of your tweets should be replies to others, followed by your own updates, retweets, and posing questions to your audience. (Roughly 50%/45%/4%/1%)

Facebook Guidelines

If your primary audience is external, please create a “Fan” Page.

  • If your primary audience is internal, please create a “Group” Page.
  • Please do not create “personal” pages for official school, college, department, program, office, organization, or student run organization Facebook pages. DO not create pages with SMSU as the first name and a group name for the last name. Example SMSU Als.
  • Make sure at least one person is identified and responsible for your Facebook page. This will establish a consistent voice and accountability for updates/moderation.
  • Customize the page as much as possible but adhere to logo and graphic style guides so your fans know you are affiliated with SMSU.
  • Always include a URL to your school/college/program/etc website. If you do not have one, then use
  • When composing status updates, read them back to yourself and if it wouldn’t be interesting enough for you to click on, someone else probably won’t find it interesting either.
  • Always spell check your status updates before sending them.
  • Avoid posting more than 3 things in 24 hours
  • Post something at least 2 times a week
  • Use the @ symbol when referring to other Facebook members and @SMSU when referring to Southwest Minnesota State University.
  • Use the Logo guidelines as set by SMSU Communications & Marketing
  • Select a profile and cover picture that speak broadly about your school, college, department, program, office, organization, or student run organization.
  • Be honest with your audience about how you moderate your page; refer to the Moderating Comments guidelines below.
  • Actively build your page by adding photos, videos, event postings etc.
  • Make the SMSUToday and other SMSU pages a “Favorite Page” of your department, program, office, organization, or student run organization

YouTube Guidelines

  • SMSU maintains an official YouTube channel SMSUMustangs. Athletic videos are on the channel SMSUAthletics and SMSUFootball. All official SMSU videos feed to the Video section on Contact SMSU Marketing and Communications for assistance with creating videos for your program or department, we use them on program webpages and can now host them on

Blogging Guidelines

  • If you blog, inform Communications and Marketing, we can help generate interest and traffic.
  • Identify your audience, what are you trying to achieve with your blog, why would a visitor read your blog?
  • Don’t write a novel; keep your content scannable by writing short paragraphs, think of your blog as your web journal.
  • Break up text with headlines, sub headlines, bullets, images and more. Use of images within your post can draw your reader’s attention and add interest to your post. Remember, over use of images can take away from your post, but a single image is worth a 1,000 words.
  • Use bullet points or lists. Use formatting such as bold, capitols, italics, to emphasize points, but don’t go overboard. Using headings and subheadings throughout your posts helps to draw your reader’s eye down the post and helps highlight other sections. Your title describes your entire post, but a heading and subheading is a line of text that includes what the content below it is about.
  • Break down your blog into categories. Try to have one topic per post. This will keep your blog posts shorter and increase ease of writing.
  • If you allow comments, try to respond to them in a timely fashion. Don’t ignore comments visitors make.
  • Create good content. Keep your blog interesting by creating unique, useful, insightful content your readers can’t get elsewhere.
  • Remember blog entry titles are important. Your title is your first impression. Make it known that your post is relevant to your user through your title. Keep your title simple and grab your reader’s attention. Titles should describe what the reader would get in the post.

LinkedIn Guidelines

  • The main purpose of creating a presence on LinkedIn is to help foster professional communication between SMSU alumni and other SMSU groups and individuals.
  • Content should be relevant to alumni and include professional or career related activities and information.
  • The main SMSU LinkedIn site is maintained by Alumni Relations.
  • All subgroups formed on LinkedIn should include a link to the Alumni and Career Services LinkedIn pages.
  • LinkedIn Manager(s) must act as moderators for these pages and monitor them daily.
  • LinkedIn main pages should have fresh content posted at least once a week.
  • It will be the LinkedIn Manager’s responsibility to take on the role of moderator or owner, or delegate this responsibility to a person of their choice. The Manager should respond to questions and requests posted to the group.
  • The LinkedIn Manager’s role is not only to moderate, but to assist in making sure the relevant information on LinkedIn is included on the official SMSU website and vice versa.
  • When posting information about an event, include a link to the official group page that is hosting the event.

Again, social media changes quickly and we adapt as needed to these changes. Our guidelines changes as social media changes. Working together throughout the campus community can help us all communicate effectively using the best and latest tools available. If you are using other social networking sites for your SMSU entity, such as Foursquare, Pinterest, Jux, Google+ or others, we'd love to hear about it!

Contact Communications and Marketing with your questions and comments.

Last Modified: 2/28/17 9:33 AM