Social Media Guidelines

Basic information

  • Owner(s):
  • Applies to:
    • Full-time faculty
    • Staff
    • Current Students
    • Emeritus
    • Part-Time/Adjunct
    • Instructor
  • Approved by:
    • Communications & Marketing
  • Issued: April 10, 2015
  • Last updated: May 14, 2018

Your guidebook for sharing Calvin's story through social media.

Introduction

Calvin College is always on the move. We’re a community set on learning, on application and on wholehearted living, and this active environment puts us in constant conversation. Though many exchanges happen in person — from the classroom to the coffeehouse — we’re also sharing our experiences with one another via social media. It’s just one way our individual stories come together to tell Calvin’s story.

Recognizing that the story we tell on social media is incredibly important, Calvin’s communications and marketing team provides the following guidelines as a resource for college-related social media efforts. Of course, we realize that social media is not about perfection, but about authenticity. So rather than consider the following a list of rules to follow, please use this document as a guide to better tell your Calvin story in an authentic way.

Content and target audience

The Calvin College social media profiles serve primarily to promote the college to our prospective audience, which is made up of students, families, and connections through our alumni network. We promote the college to this audience by reporting on campus stories and events after they have taken place, or by reporting from those events in real time. Our aim is to share with our prospective audience the life and experiences of current students and our community, driving our prospective audience to take the next step toward choosing Calvin in their college search process.

With our platforms targeted to an outward audience, internal messaging (promoting events or messaging to current students) is unlikely to be promoted on our platforms. If you believe your event should be promoted to our prospective audience, suggestions can be submitted to Natalia Connelly at nc34@calvin.edu. Suggestions should be accompanied by a compelling case for promoting your event or story to our prospective audience. These will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

We also allow the college’s departments and programs to advertise through our social platforms using their own budget dollars. Costs are varied, but targeted social media advertising can be achieved with as little as $50. With this approach we work directly with the program or department to create an advertising strategy that aligns with their goals and adheres to our social media policy. These too are considered on a case-by-case basis.

Should you want to establish a regular presence on social media for your organization or department, we recommend starting a new social media account. See below for instructions and best practices for how to do so.

Associated policies

In your work with social media, please be aware of the following pages and policies that guide and govern Calvin’s identity and community.

New accounts

One of the esteemed greats of communication, Marshall McLuhan, believed that “the medium is the message.” In other words, the tool (think Instagram, Twitter, a written note or a billboard) by which we distribute content (words, images, video, etc.) will inevitably affect the message we are sending.

Because of this reality, it’s important to choose your tool wisely—and sometimes that may even mean choosing a tool outside of social media. Here are some questions to help you decide whether you should start a new social media account:

  • Who is our audience?
  • What information does our key audience desire from us?
  • Where and how do they obtain their information?
  • What are the goals of my group, organization or department?
  • How might social media tools help us accomplish these goals?
  • How might tools outside of social media help us accomplish these goals?
  • Do we currently have the resources to commit to using social media on a regular basis?
  • Would we be able to guarantee long-term resources for social media?
  • What, if any, other efforts might suffer due to shifting resources for social media?
  • Could the content we want to offer be shared through existing social media accounts?
  • Is my offering or product one that will grow both organically and through marketing?
  • If a platform offers multiple ways to engage (ex. Facebook group, page or event), what are the advantages of each format?

Discussing these questions can often bring clarity on the importance of social media for a group, organization or department. If you would like help in determining whether social media is strategic, in light of your goals, please contact us.

Tips and tricks

Enjoy these tips and tricks to make the most of your Calvin-related social media presence in some of today’s top channels. Looking for more information? Let’s get in touch!

Facebook
Social network featuring profiles, pages, groups and events
  • Use a visual with the majority of your posts, whether an engaging picture or graphic.

  • Optimal times to post on Facebook are 9 a.m.–11 a.m. and noon.* However, Facebook analytics on your account can help you hone in on the best times to reach your specific audience.

  • Some posts can be scheduled ahead of time to market key events and deadlines, while other posts should reflect a current event or news story. (Do monitor scheduled posts carefully to avoid inadvertently posting irrelevant content during a holiday or other major event.)

  • Keep the text content of the post minimal, but use engaging, call-to-action language.

  • Create variation in your content. Posts can be a mix of videos, articles, inspiring quotes and events.

  • Utilize hashtags but keep them to 1–3 per post. Engagement drops considerably if too many hashtags are posted.
Twitter
Online conversation tool limiting posts to 140 characters or less, identifying both individual users and organizations by handles (i.e. @calvincollege)
  • Whenever possible, include a link to more detailed content.

  • The optimal time to post on Twitter is 10 a.m.–noon.* However, Twitter analytics on your account can help you hone in on the best times for your specific audience.

  • Some posts can be scheduled ahead of time (we recommend plugg.io) to market key events and deadlines, while other posts should reflect a current event or news story.

  • Create variation in your content. Posts can be a mix of videos, articles, inspiring quotes, events.
Instagram
Mobile image service providing photo-modifying filters and a place to showcase and browse visual moments in time
  • Create variation in your content. Share photos and videos of people and events specific to your organization or department.

  • Give the photo context by using your caption text well.

Hashtags
(for all above platforms)
  • Determine consistent hashtags. Avoid creating random hashtags for each post.

  • Utilize key college-wide hashtags:

    • #CalvinCollege
    • #WeAreCalvin
    • #CalvinK4L (alumni)
    • #CalvinKnights (athletics)
    • #CalvinBound (admissions)

Design

With the increasingly visual nature of social media, you may find a need to incorporate elements of graphic design into your social site. Though our team avoids the creation of logos for individual groups or departments, favoring a stronger overall Calvin brand, we do have resources available for your graphic design needs. First, we offer visual guidelines for the overall look and feel of Calvin imagery. Second, we offer a graphic design request form for significant design needs (including large social media campaigns). Third, we welcome the opportunity to discuss brand-consistent design, even in small projects. Feel free to run your self-created social media design projects by us at marketing@calvin.edu for recommendations.

Questions

Natalia M. Connelly

Natalia Connelly

Writer and Editor of Digital Media
Full profile

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