Best practices for managing social media 

Whether you’ve just started a new account for your department or you’re a seasoned social media pro wondering what to do about a tricky comment, the information on this page will help you align your SFU social media account with both industry best practices and SFU’s values.

Content plan

Decide what content you want to post or share and how much of each topic and format.

A good ratio is to share:

  • 25 per cent of your own content
  • 75 per cent of the content from your community and related information

Post on each of your networks throughout the week. It’s more important to post or share quality content than simply a higher quantity.

Starting frequency

  • Facebook: one to two posts/day
  • Twitter: three to ten posts/day
  • Instagram: one to two posts/day
  • LinkedIn: one post/day

Some channel analytics can show you when your audience is online. If possible, schedule posts around these times. Monitor your content to see how your audience responds to it. Adjust your content and posting frequency accordingly.

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Build your audience

To increase your followers:

  • Follow people in your target audience and like their posts
  • Follow stakeholders and influencers and share their content
  • Ask your audience questions and respond to their feedback
  • Monitor and apply trends
  • Buy ads or promoted posts
  • Use #hashtags to reach a wider audience
  • See what other SFU channels and universities are doing
  • Advertise your social channels on your website, posters, business cards and brochures

Posting guidelines

Here are some guidelines to consider before you post. Ask:

Does your contact have “IMPACT”?

  • Informative: It’s new information worth sharing
  • Meaningful: It solves a problem or addresses an issue
  • Pride: It builds pride in SFU, those involved or your audience
  • Awe: It inspires, surprises or impresses
  • Clear: It’s focused and concise
  • Timely: It’s related to current news or an upcoming event, or it just happened

Further considerations

  • Does this content build or uphold SFU’s positive reputation?
  • Is this content aligned with your department or faculty goals? 
  • Is your content written in SFU’s tone of voice: Positive, compassionate, witty, confident, conversational and/or concise?
  • Does your content follow the guidelines outlined in SFU’s Privacy Policy?
  • Does your content treat members of the public, students, staff and faculty with respect and dignity?
  • If your content is about a community that you aren’t a part of, are you using language that honours your subjects’ preferences?
  • Do your images, video or language reflect the diversity of SFU/its surrounding communities?
  • Does your content feature a variety of voices, perspectives and experiences from your faculty/department/program/community?
  • Could this content offend or do harm?
  • Is the content written with gender-inclusive language?
  • Could your visual content be considered tokenistic?
  • Does this content perpetuate stereotypes? Does it paint a community with one broad stroke?

You can check out SFU’s Editorial Style Guide for user-focused writing tips and the “Navigating equity, diversity and inclusion on social media” section of this page for more information about stereotyping, tokenism and gender-inclusive language.

Posting Checklist:

  1. Ask yourself, "what is the value I'm offering to my audience, or action I'd like them to take after reading this post?"
  2. Is this content "on brand"?
  3. Use diverse subjects and interesting creative (review what's been posted previous to make sure you're not posting too many of the same image or content types)
  4. Make sure you're not exceeding the daily frequency caps per channel (Daily: FB – 1-2, IG – 1-2, TW – 3-10, LI - 1)
  5. Double check that the destination URL is correct
  6. Double check spelling and grammar are correct
  7. Include SFU’s brand hashtag: #SFU
  8. Use campaign Hashtags if applicable: #ExampleCampaign
  9. Tag relevant influencers and/or collaborators: @Collaborator
  10. Include a "call-to-action" at the end: "To learn more, visit ________," "Participate by ____," etc.
  11. Have fun! Be creative, interesting, & compelling.
  12. Compare your content with a social media role model. Ex: NYT Twitter, NYT Instagram, NYT Facebook

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Engaging with your audience

Engaging with your audience helps increases awareness of your posts, builds trust and rapport, and generally helps others feel comfortable engaging with your content. The most frequent types of comments you’ll encounter are: compliments, complaints, questions, and misinformation.

We highly recommend referring to our social media decision tree when deciding if or how to respond to a comment. Below, you'll find some further considerations for you to keep in mind.

Before engaging:

  • Review SFU’s Social Media Moderation Policy
  • Seek to understand perspective
  • Always pause before replying. Ask yourself, “Is this within our sphere of control?”
  • Expect anything, private or public, to be shared
  • Respond in a tone that positively reflects SFU’s values
  • Don’t delete your content. Repost/edit if it’s a minor issue. If the issue is large, deletion can be seen as disregarding the issue/censorship
  • Use common sense and exercise discretion
  • Give the user an option to engage privately, especially when dealing with sensitive subject matter
  • Notify comms_marketing@sfu.ca if uncertain about a particular approach

When to delete, hide or let comments stand

In general, avoid deleting comments. The goal for our social media accounts should be to be as transparent as possible. When you delete comments, you run the risk of eroding the trust of your readers.

Delete or hide comments when they:

  • Break the community guidelines of the social media network. For example, they are offensive, defamatory or threatening
  • Include confidential information
  • Share photographs or video taken without consent
  • Are spam, or of a self-promotional nature unrelated to SFU

Let comments stand when:

  • They are entirely without merit or value
  • Responding would encourage further negative response
  • There is no value in replying to both the commenter and the wider audience

Information shared on SFU social media accounts is shared on behalf of the university. Staff or faculty members managing SFU accounts and sharing information to them are subject to all relevant SFU staff and faculty policies.

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In a crisis

A crisis might include dangerous weather conditions, an active threat on campus or a natural disaster. In the event of a crisis, suspend all planned posts and follow SFU’s main social media accounts and the #sfu_communicators Slack channel for information on what to share on faculty and departmental accounts.

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Navigating equity, diversity and inclusion on social media

SFU’s values and commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion should be represented in everything we do as communicators—including what we post on social media. Here’s an overview of topics such as stereotypes, tokenism, and gender-inclusive language.

For an even deeper dive into inclusive writing, we recommend checking out the Student Learning Common's guide to inclusive and antiracist writing.

Stereotypes

Put simply, a stereotype is an over-generalized belief about a particular category of people. In general, on social media—and in all our communications—we should strive to avoid perpetuating stereotypes that paint an entire culture, group of people or community with one broad stroke.

It is possible to unintentionally perpetuate stereotypes through both images and text. For example, not all First Nations wear headdresses, live in teepees or carve totem poles, yet these are the images that are often used as shorthand to symbolize Indigeneity on social media and elsewhere.

Before you post: look at your content with a critical eye and ask if you are making sweeping generalizations with either your images or your copy.

Tokenism

Tokenism refers to the practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort towards diversity or inclusion. Most often, you’ll hear this term referred to in the context of hiring: companies will sometimes hire just one candidate from an underrepresented group and continually point to that one employee to deflect criticism about the diversity of their team.

However, tokenism can also happen using images. For example, if a department only has one Black faculty member but that faculty member’s photo is used in all the marketing and imagery for the department to give the appearance of diversity, that is tokenism. If a single Black faculty member is constantly expected to speak on behalf of all Black people when it comes issues of equity, diversity and inclusion, that is also tokenism.

Before you post: ask yourself whether or not the images you’re using are an accurate representation of your faculty, department or unit.

Gender-inclusive language

Using gender-inclusive language refers to the practice of speaking and writing in a way that does not discriminate against a particular sex, social gender or gender identity, and does not perpetuate gender stereotypes.

You can make your communication more gender-inclusive by:

  • Avoiding gendered terms
    • E.g. say “humankind” instead of “mankind”
  • Ensuring that your language is inclusive of people who identify as nonbinary
    • E.g. say “Welcome, everyone!” instead of “Welcome, ladies and gentlemen”
  • Avoiding gendered pronouns
    • E.g. say “They will open the door…” instead of “He/she will open the door…”

Before you post: ask yourself if your content is inclusive of people from all gender identities.

A great guide to gender-inclusive language with many more examples can be found on the United Nations website.

Digital Blackface

Digital blackface” is a term used to describe instances where the anonymity of online identity is used to embody Blackness—and one of its most common forms is the excessive use of reaction GIFs with images of Black people. As communicators, it’s important for us to think about how something as simple as the use of a GIF could possibly enforce or perpetuate racial stereotypes. “We all need to be cognizant of what we share, how we share, and to what extent that sharing dramatizes preexisting racial formulas inherited from ‘real life’,” writes Lauren Michele Jackson in Teen Vogue. Learn more.

Further learning

If you’re interested in learning more about these topics, or other content considerations related to equity, diversity and inclusion, please visit the Resources section of SFU’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion website.

Some specific resources you may want check out include:

  • The Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion (CCDI): through SFU’s partnership with the CCDI, all faculty and staff have access to webinars, events and a knowledge repository that provide insight into the latest thinking about diversity and inclusion in Canada.
  • LGBT 101: This introductory course, created by Pride at Work Canada, helps set the foundation for an LGBT-inclusive culture. SFU employees interested in taking the course can register using the code “SFU10” to receive a 10% discount. Employees may also be able to use Professional Development funds or work with their departments to have the cost of this training covered.

If you would like further information or training on any of these topics, you can reach out to Rosie Dhaliwal, specialist, equity, diversity and inclusion in Human Resources, at rosie_dhaliwal@sfu.ca.

Delta Airlines: a case study in stereotypes

During the 2014 World Cup, Delta Airlines found themselves in hot water when they tweeted a photo that celebrated a team USA goal against Ghana:

The problem? They chose a photo of the Statue of Liberty to represent America, and a photo of a giraffe to represent Ghana—a country where giraffes do not actually live. In fact, the photo they used was taken at a wildlife reserve in Kenya.

After a number of Twitter users informed them of their error, Delta Airlines attempted an apology. Unfortunately, that apology had a typo in it:

Second time’s the charm:

This is a textbook example of unintentional stereotyping. While the folks at Delta Airlines may have meant well, in choosing this particular image, they painted all African countries with a broad brush and showed that they hadn’t done their research.

As communicators, we’re responsible for ensuring that our content doesn’t reduce a culture, a group of people or an entire country down to a single stereotypical image.

And despite their mishap, we actually can take a cue from Delta here—when they were informed of their error, they didn’t get defensive; they didn’t try to sweep their mistake under the rug by deleting the post and pretending it never happened. They simply apologized and took responsibility. (Although it’s always worth taking the time to proofread your apology before you post it.)

Accessibility in Social Media

Image Descriptions

Many platforms have a feature that allows the poster to add a description to a photo when posting to a timeline. This enables dictation services to describe the image (and is also a good SEO practice). This can typically be activated under the settings and/or media sections of social platforms. If the platform does not have this feature, add a description of the image in the accompanying caption.

Closed Captioning on Videos

YouTube and Facebook both have a built-in closed captioning system that will scan a video's audio and play it back in written form on the screen. Captions can also be added manually for accuracy — YouTube has a feature that offers caption writing, and Facebook has an option to add an ".srt" file which contains manually added captions.

Transcriptions

The internet is full of fun images — many of them in GIF or meme form. To enable everyone to get in on the joke, transcribe what's happening in the image or animation in the caption when possible.

Prompt Media in Caps

When sharing different types of media, precede the caption, post or image with what type of media is being shared. For example, when sharing a video to Facebook, type [VIDEO] at the top of the post to let users know what is being shared.

Hashtags in a Sentence

Hashtags are still a popular tool on social media and are followed by many users and should be written out in camel case (ex: #SimonFraser). Most dictation tools will not be able to read hashtags that are all in lowercase or all in uppercase, so avoid #SIMONFRASER or #simonfraser.

Different Types of Media

Keep the media types varied in all platforms. For example, in Instagram stories, create stories with text and also ones with audio or people speaking. Some disabled users will not be able to understand each type of media (and that's okay) but having various types of audio/visual formats will allow them to access more.

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