Overview: Social Media at Cedarville
Social media has redefined the way Cedarville University markets and brands itself and communicates with our various audiences. In turn, social media continues to reshape the way in which Cedarville’s constituents — prospective and current students, parents, alumni, donors, colleagues, and others — communicate with us and with each other.
Together, conversations and posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms have enormous power to influence the image and public perceptions of our University. Social media posts are often perceived as more authentic and credible than information from official, traditional media. Social media generally costs nothing (or little) to users and has virtually no barriers to entry. With its base in user-generated content, social media provides a platform for individuals and groups to exercise considerable influence, create perceptions, and define the tone and terms of discussions.
Cedarville University is an active participant and voice in those conversations, creating communities that extend far beyond our physical campus. Cedarville supports the use of social media by employees to connect with prospective and current students, parents, alumni, donors, colleagues, and other constituents.
The purpose of this handbook is to provide Cedarville staff and faculty members guidance, policies, and best practices on how to use social media in an effective, strategic, and intentional manner, consistent with the University’s larger mission and goals. If you have further questions about a social media initiative or continuing your existing outreach, please contact us. We’re always willing to consult with you and provide guidance. As social media and technology trends change, we will update this handbook to reflect those changes.
We are very open to your feedback, suggestions, and best practices. Please email us, call us, or stop by. We're here to assist you in your marketing and communication needs.
Here to serve.
Cedarville University Marketing
For more information, contact the Marketing Department.
In light of Cedarville’s mission and your role as a believer in and follower of Jesus Christ, always let Scripture guide your social media conversations. Here are just some references to consider:
- Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person (Col. 4:6).
- Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear (Eph. 4:29).
- A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly (Prov. 15:1–2).
- A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit (Prov. 15:4).
- Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels (2 Tim. 2:23).
As a Cedarville employee you’re a brand ambassador for the University 24/7, even when you’re “off the clock.” Consider the following:
- Your Social Media Posts are Public. As a social media user, you need to be aware that online communication is considered public. Privacy does not exist in the world of social media. Think about what could happen if a post becomes widely published and how that may reflect both on you and the University. Search engines archive and display content years after it is created, and your comments can be forwarded or copied. So, please always use caution, wisdom, and discretion in your social media posts.
- Your Personal Social Media Use Reflects on Cedarville. Even when using your personal social media accounts, your online conduct reflects back on the University. Employees, of course, have the right to participate in social media using personal equipment on their own time. However, you are expected to never post any content that would be potentially embarrassing or considered offensive. Your personal posts and comments must be clearly identified as your own. If you are writing about your professional work for Cedarville University, clearly identify yourself and your role.
Planning Your Social Media Outreach
Manager Approval: Discuss with your manager how you plan to use social media to further your department’s work for the University.
Review: Read through Cedarville University's Social Media Policy.
Notify: Inform Cedarville's Marketing department about your plans to use social media by filling out our Social Media Account Registration form. Look through the Social Media Strategy Worksheet to help identify your goals and track success. Submit the registration to keep Marketing aware of your plans.
Define: Consider each of the points under "Your Strategy" below to create and refine your goals and strategies.
Create: After defining your goals, create your page and begin communicating. Please provide marketing with the username and password, and notify us of any changes. Marketing — along with Information Technology — can provide assistance with setting up your account or deleting an old one, if needed.
Support: Marketing can assist you in answering any questions related to social media best practices and planning.
Already Have an Account? Please use our Social Media Account Registration form to notify Marketing of any existing University social media accounts to evaluate strategy, goals, and overall brand image of the University.
A successful, strategic social media outreach should consist of the following steps:
Choose the specific platform or platforms that reach(es) your target audience(s).
Engage your audience(s) in an authentic, relevant, and compelling manner.
Sustain your outreach with consistent, regular posts.
Share your plans and ongoing efforts with Marketing.
Evaluate your efforts on a regular basis to determine what is and isn’t working.
Consider these elements when you create a social media strategy for your department, event, or program. At this point, it's very likely that your program or department already has some social media presence. If so, you can evaluate, plan, and re-focus (as needed) your existing accounts.
Team: Identify who will have primary responsibility for populating, maintaining, and monitoring your social media presence. Ensure they have the time and enthusiasm needed for success. List the team members.
Primary Goals: Set your primary goal. Are you trying to communicate a campaign, promote general information about your department or program, communicate with alumni, etc.? Define goals for your social media presence.
Measuring Success: Determine how you will measure the success — or lack of success — of your social media strategy. Consider some ideas: increased traffic to your website, more frequent or intentional communication with prospective students, networking with colleagues, etc. List how you plan to measure success and the tools you’ll use to track that success.
Audiences: Identify your audience to help you tailor your content, choose the right tools, and provide what they want or need. List your primary audiences.
Current Conversation: Listen! Survey the social media landscape for the “thought leaders” in your field. What are people already saying? What are people saying about you? Who is saying it? List the topics, people, and sites that are leading the conversations that are relevant to you and note what they are doing — both correctly and incorrectly.
Content: Identify the content you have available to share. Is it primarily news, research, events, or networking information? Photos? Video? List the content you will be sharing via social media channels.
Name and Design: Identify a simple and descriptive name for your profile that clearly identifies your affiliation with Cedarville. Remember to request assistance in designing a cover image, if needed.
Evaluation: Set a timeline for when you will conduct an evaluation of your site’s success, using the goals and measures identified above. At that time, be prepared to realign your site’s content. Ongoing evaluation should also be part of your strategy. Define your timeline.
What to Post
We encourage you to post content related to University programs, services, and alumni, student, or community ventures. Examples include, but are not limited to:
- Spontaneous, fun “slice of life” moments that convey a sense of the Cedarville life and community
- Human interest items or unique campus happenings
- Announcements of upcoming events (CU Friday, theater productions, concerts, etc.)
- Links to videos about Cedarville programs and highlighting student activities
All Cedarville social media presences should have a consistent look and feel, including use of the Cedarville logo. Please refer to our University Logo Guide for details. If you need assistance creating a customized profile picture or identity, please submit a Design Service Request.
An overarching theme of all of our Cedarville social media sites should be consistency. All social media platforms must be used consistently and regularly in order to be effective.
Always verify your facts before you post them online. If the accuracy of a fact is doubtful, verify it with an authoritative source. If you cannot verify a fact, then don’t post or share it.
Quality and Style
Review content for grammatical and spelling errors. This is especially important if you are posting on behalf of the University in any capacity. For reference, please consult the Cedarville University Style Guide.
All social media platforms are distinct and different entities, with their respective styles, rules, expectations, and audiences. What works when posting to one doesn't necessarily hold true in posting to others. This should be evident in all your social media posts. It’s important that your posts reach the right audiences and are relevant and meaningful to your recipients. In the sections to follow we will consider best practices for optimizing your posts to the major social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Marketing staff members monitor official University social media channels regularly during office hours and periodically at other times. However, you, as a Cedarville staff member, play an important role as additional eyes and ears for the University. If you see any social media post that concerns you or that you think is positive for Cedarville, contact the Marketing Department (Send Email).
Finally, here are some specific guidelines when using social media in you role as an official representative of Cedarville University:
- Let Marketing know about your social media outreach by filling out the Cedarville University Social Media Account Registration form.
- Share content with Marketing that may be of more general interest to the larger Cedarville community and appropriate to also post on Cedarville’s main social media accounts (Facebook.com/cedarville and @cedarville).
- Protect sensitive or personal information, or any information embargoed for future public release.
- Monitor user comments (if enabled) on a consistent basis. Immediately remove, block, or otherwise hide inappropriate or abusive comments.
- Notify Marketing of negative, inappropriate, or abusive comments.
- Be accurate in the information you post. If in doubt, leave it out!
- Post information that is within your or your department’s area of expertise and authority.
- Correct any mistakes and openly acknowledge any mistakes.
- Be considerate of your audience’s time, patience, and attention.
- Honor copyrights and trademarks for all images, brands, logos, etc.
- Use official Cedarville email addresses (firstname.lastname@example.org) and set strong passwords for your accounts.
- Personalize your posts; tell Cedarville’s story from your perspective and in your words.
- Emphasize the positive elements of your story, and focus on being encouraging and building up your readers and followers.
- Clearly identify who you are and the University department, program, or group you represent.
- Post and share public news and information.
- Be mindful of how your posts may come across to others, either intentionally or unintentionally. If you’re concerned about how a post may be interpreted, it’s probably best not to post it. When in doubt, leave it out!
- Compartmentalize; i.e., assume that all content you post will only be of interest to the audience(s) you’re trying to reach, and not share content with Marketing content that may be of wider interest to the larger Cedarville community.
- Announce news or information that is private, confidential, or embargoed.
Comment on work-related legal or policy matters, unless you are an official Cedarville spokesperson for the matter and have the permission and authority to do so.
- Comment on specific political issues and elected officials, or endorse/oppose candidates running for elected public office. Doing so could jeopardize Cedarville’s tax-exempt status.
- Criticize other groups, organizations, or people.
Post comments that are negative, sarcastic, or angry in tone, or use angry words.
- Endorse, advertise, or sponsor any third-party group, organization, or person unless you have official permission from Cedarville to do so.
- Respond directly to negative, inappropriate, or abusive posts, or directly engage those who are posting such comments. Instead, forward and report all such comments to Marketing to address.)
- Use humor that could be considered crude, inappropriate, derogatory, or demeaning to individuals or groups.
Using the Major Social Media Platforms
In this section, we offer guidance on effectively using the major social media services to reach your intended audience(s). This section is intended as a broad overview, not an exhaustive tutorial of each service. In each section, we include links to third-party articles that will help you learn more about each service and its features.
Audience/Reach: One of the largest and most well known of social media platforms, Facebook is ideal for reaching parents, alumni, and other supporters of the University who make up the majority of active Facebook users. There are likely fewer prospective and current students who use Facebook on a regular basis. That demographic — teens and college-age 20-somethings — have moved on in large numbers to platforms like Twitter and Instagram where they don’t feel that their posts are monitored by their parents (yet).
Type of Post: Facebook is a great avenue for posts that are a little bit longer, meatier in substance, and use some combination of text, images, and video.
- If you’d like, Facebook can act like a mini blog, with the emphasis on the “mini.” Think about stories and short moments that will connect with your audience and keep them in the loop.
- Let your Facebook statuses highlight the most noteworthy moments of your week. Share a human interest story or a time when you saw God move that week. Continue asking yourself the question: “What makes Cedarville, and our role within it, unique?”
- We recommend posting large groups of photos — for example, from an event or function — to the photo album feature within your Facebook Page or Group.
- Videos, if available, can also be posted to your Facebook Page or Group.
Photo albums and videos provide strong visual interest and give your followers more reasons to interact with your page and adds “look-back” value to your page.
Post Frequency: Posting at most two or three times a day is considered appropriate. Don’t “over post” on your page as this will flood your fans’ Facebook News Feeds and risk annoying them.
Types of Accounts: There are three types of Facebook accounts.
- Pages: These serve as the best way to represent your unit within the University. They generally represent an official body of the University.
- Groups: Groups should represent non-official Cedarville entities. They are typically used to organize a group of people joined by a common interest, cause, event, ministry, or program.
- Personal Pages: These are for individual use only and may not be used to as an official voice of the University.
Username: Facebook gives users the ability to create a custom URL for a page (e.g., facebook.com/cedarville). Create a logical, custom Cedarville-related username to help users find your page. Visit facebook.com/username to set this up.
Student Groups: Student groups wishing to promote Cedarville missions trips and other programs are encouraged to set up a Facebook group (or a blog for longer posts).
See this article for more a lot more information on getting started on Facebook and best practices for more effectively using your existing account.
Audience/Reach: Twitter is hugely popular among teens and college-age 20-somethings and provides a great platform for reaching the younger audiences of prospective and current students. Twitter is used to capture authentic, spur-of-the-moment observations and events as they’re unfolding. Among its younger users, Twitter is perceived as more authentic, less commercialized, and best of all, less monitored by parents!
Type of Post: Brevity and clarity are the hallmarks of Twitter posts, or “tweets.” As a “micro-blogging” platform, Twitter allows you to send brief text-based messages – a.k.a. “tweets” – to other Twitter users, known as your “followers,” who’ve subscribed to receive your updates. Twitter famously limits your posts to a maximum of 140 characters, which is easy to keep track of as you’re tweeting because the service tracks your word count as you type. Twitter is also useful for posting images from the camera on your smart phone, tablet, or other mobile device. Images can be directly uploaded to Twitter from your mobile device if you have the free Twitter mobile app.
The main goal of your Twitter account is to capture events as they unfold and deliver quick, engaging accounts of Cedarville University life.
Another goal is to generate compelling “re-tweetable” material. Re-tweets by your followers and other users are a good indication of the level of interest your tweet has generated. This does not mean that you want to re-tweet everything that comes your way via a mention or hashtag. Instead, the goal is creating great tweets for our followers to retweet to communicate a positive image of the University as a whole.
Elements of a good Tweet: When tweeting, be as clear and concise as possible and make sure to always include:
- Twitter handles: Other users’ Twitter handles (beginning with the “@” symbol) “tag” other accounts in your posts. For example the sample tweet “Just saw @DrThomasWhite in @RinnovaCoffee @cedarville!” tags three different Cedarville-related Twitter accounts. This creates an connection between your account and the user account(s) you've tagged.
- Hashtags: Include a hashtag (#) and a brief term in your message so it will appear in Twitter searches. For example, the tweet “100 Days until I go to @cedarville #cedarville2018” will be retrieved in the results for a search in Twitter for the term “cedarville2018.” It’s recommended that you use a Cedarville-approved hashtag, or develop a series of your own hashtags to use consistently for your department. This article covers the use of and best practices for hashtags in depth.
- Shortened URLs (if including a link): To conserve space and make every one of those precious 140 characters count, it’s best to use short URLs to reference any links to websites. Take, for example, the tweet “Arts Madness is coming @cedarville March 28 - Register now: cedar.to/artsmadness.” The “shortened” URL, cedar.to/artsmadness, points to the much longer URL, http://www.cedarville.edu/Event/Arts-Madness.aspx. While third-party URL shortening services like bit.ly are available and acceptable to use, we encourage you to use Cedarville’s own URL shortener, which results in a shorter Cedarville-branded URL.
Images are recommended, but not mandatory for Twitter posts.
Post Frequency: Like Facebook, posting two to three tweets per day is acceptable. The key is consistency in tweeting, so your followers know when and how often to expect your posts.
Username: Twitter limits each account name to 15 characters, so be concise when creating a username, or “handle,” for your account.
See this article for more more information on getting started on Twitter and best practices for more effectively using your existing account.
Audience/Reach: Due to its exploding popularity, Instagram is now being heralded as the “new Facebook.” (Ironically, Instagram is actually now owned by Facebook!) Instagram is an online photo-sharing and social networking service that enables its users to take pictures (and short videos) with mobile devices, edit the images using a variety of mobile apps, and then share the images on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media services. Like Twitter, Instagram is heavily used by large numbers of our prospective and current students. Therefore, Instagram is a necessary service to use to reach these audiences effectively.
Type of Post: A distinctive feature of the Instagram service is that it’s exclusively for use on mobile devices, like iPhones, iPads, and Android camera phones. Instagram accounts can be accessed on a PC desktop or laptop, but the service is centered on the mobile devices used by teens and younger 20-somethings. Successful Instagram images should be consistent and high quality. Instagram is all about capturing authentic moments as they happen. It’s not a service suitable for posed, “grip and grin” photos. It’s much more fun to capture and edit the candid, spontaneous moments as they occur.
Creativity: A key is to have fun and be creative with your photos. Many Instagram-related apps are available for your phone or tablet. For example, you can stitch a series of related photos together with PicStitch, or add fonts with Over, or layer filters with PicTapGo. The creative opportunities are endless.
Captions: When you caption your Instagram photos, always apply the standard (similar to Twitter) of “short, sweet, and to the point.” In fact, for reference, use a caption that is about the 140 character maximum length of a tweet. Be sure to always use an approved hashtag on all of your photos and tag Cedarville as well as students.
See this article for more a lot more information on getting started on Instagram and best practices for more effectively using your existing account.
Social Media Design & Sizing Cheat Sheet [Infographic]
Social Media Examiner (We highly recommend you subscribe to their free e-newsletter.)