Social Media

Guidelines | Best Practices | Accessibility

Building a social media presence is an excellent way to extend your presence online and promote content in an environment that allows your audience to engage with the university brand. Review USC’s social media guidelines, best practices and accessibility.


Guidelines

USC academic and administrative units, including the individuals managing social media accounts for their respective organizations, are expected to adhere to the social media guidelines below. These are provided to protect the university while maintaining a positive means to promote your institution to your audiences while keeping USC’s Unifying Values in mind.

Protect the university brand.
The USC shield, wordmarks, and other official marks and logotypes cannot be modified or used for personal endorsements and trademarked names cannot be used to promote a product, cause, political party, or candidate. In addition, USC social media managers must comply with applicable university brand guidelines and standards when establishing a social media presence on behalf of their academic or administrative unit.

Review social media platform guidelines. 
Before creating a social media account, please review the respective platform’s guidelines and policies. Circulate the guidelines to anyone in your team who will help manage or approve social content. Below are guidelines from leading social media platforms:

On Facebook, LinkedIn, and future social platforms without description character limitations, please add this disclaimer: 
“All content posted on this channel, including videos, photos, opinions, third-party posts, and links to external websites, do not necessarily represent the University of Southern California’s academic goals or views.”


Getting Started

Develop a content workflow with assigned roles and responsibilities. 
Identify a full-time employee dedicated to managing your unit’s social media content and conversation monitoring. The primary user’s supervisor should have full administrative rights to all social media accounts. A content operations plan should include regular check-ins with the primary user’s supervisor to discuss the health of each respective platform. In case of emergencies, identify a backup administrator with the same access privileges as your primary user.

Note: While student workers may be used as primary users, they cannot be backup administrators.

Do not use personal emails and non-USC email accounts to set up institutional accounts.
If you are setting up social media accounts on behalf of your department, use your @usc.edu email whenever possible. Always keep up-to-date documentation of usernames and passwords and identify the people responsible for managing any accounts created; it ensures a successful transfer of administrative access if and when you are no longer responsible for updating the account. The LastPass Premium Password Manager is available to the USC community at no cost and is recommended by USC’s Information Technology Services.

Inform University Communications of the details of your new social media account. 
Contact University Communications social media with the name/URL of your new social media account and a listing of primary and backup managers. Your new channel will be added to USC’s social media directory.

Administrators of any official USC social media accounts may not engage in personal activity online while managing and representing USC behind university social media accounts.

Do not give control and use of your official USC social media accounts to anyone outside your business unit’s immediate communications team. 
If you are running a campaign where it is necessary to give control of your university social media account to someone outside your team (ex. takeovers), please email ucomm@usc.edu to set up a review of your campaign details for exception considerations.

Follow all copyright, fair use, and respect intellectual property rights.
Do not use assets that you do not have explicit permission to use from the owner.


Maintain and Protect USC’s Institutional Voice

As a representative of USC, avoid pranks and posts that could be misinterpreted. Ask your supervisor or a University Communications representative for guidance if you are unsure how to use voice and tone on social media.

Respect others. 
Social media sites are designed for two-way communication, and content contributed to a social media site may encourage comments or discussion of opposing ideas. As an administrator, you can and should respond when relevant, but consider how your response may reflect on you, your department, and the university. You may remove libelous or offensive comments by standards of the USC community, but do not censor posts you personally disagree with.

Be factual; stay accurate. 
Get facts straight before posting them on social media sites. Credit the original sources and review content for grammatical and spelling mistakes when possible. If you make an error, correct it quickly and visibly. This will earn you respect in the online community.

Be honest and transparent about your identity.
Because no individual departmental social media site represents all of USC, clearly link pages, account names, images, and content to a particular department or unit within USC. If using personal accounts in a professional context, identify your role within the university. Never hide your identity while promoting USC through social media.

Once you set up a social media presence, keep it active. 
Inactive accounts can give off a wrong impression. Instead, engage in a two-way conversation with your followers and strive to create a positive community.


Keep your Social Media Accounts Safe

Here are some tips to use when you are creating your accounts. Be careful not to reveal confidential or proprietary information about students, patients, staff, or faculty. We recommend reviewing best practices for account security at Information Security Tips

Adhere to all applicable university, federal, and NCAA privacy and confidentiality policies. All employees of USC are subject to FERPA, HIPAA, and other laws mandating the nondisclosure of personal information.

Be cautious of phishers. 
Phishing is the attempt to gain control of a personal or institutional social media site by deceiving a user into revealing the account’s username and password.

Actively remove spam that is posted on your page. 
Monitor your social media sites carefully to ensure you notice quickly if an unauthorized person gains access—the larger your audience, the more tempting your site becomes as a target.

Don’t advertise non-USC products or accept money to do promoted tweets.


Best Practices

When creating social media for your academic or business unit, consider these additional best practices:

Launch for success. 
A common misconception about social media is that people will automatically come if you create a social media account. Fill your new social presence with content so it does not feel empty. Remember, no one wants to move into a ghost town. When you launch, announce it through your traditional channels: email, newsletter and website.

Consistent naming convention.
As part of your operational plan, map out an appropriate naming convention consistent for your unit.

For example:  
twitter.com/uscalumni
facebook.com/uscalumni
youtube.com/uscalumni

Review content guidelines for each social media site to help establish your writing style and voice. Developing a style guide is highly suggested; it helps keep social media management regardless of the primary user.

Plan first. 
Consider messages, audiences, goals, and your content strategy for keeping information timely. It is time-consuming to maintain more than one social media site at a time, so choose carefully. Creating a content calendar can also help organize postings and ensure that you won’t forget to post new content.

Manage audiences frequently.
Connecting to other social media members and sites builds credibility and community but could also give the unintended impression that your site endorses a particular cause, group, or person.

Note: Carefully consider who you “friend,” “follow,” link to or allow into your site and to what extent you will allow comments.

Interact with your audience. 
Social media is meant for two-way communication. People Google or read the news to get information, but people visit social media sites to interact with other people. Welcome new audience members, respond to comments or follow up a posting with a question about the content. Engaging with your members will also make your site more valuable to them and keep them coming back.

Monitor comments.
Most people who maintain social media sites welcome comments—it builds credibility and community. Consider posting a disclaimer or comment policy to let audience members know what is and is not appropriate. On some social media platforms, you can set your site to review and approve comments before they appear. This allows you to respond in a timely way. It also allows you to delete spam comments and block individuals who repeatedly post offensive or frivolous comments.

Measure for results.
Use analytics and tracking tools to evaluate posting activity and interaction within a social media site. Most social media platforms now offer analytics reports that can be reviewed on the site or exported for further analysis.

In addition, link tracking services such as bit.ly can be helpful for tracking results. Reviewing these data will help you refine your strategy and better understand your audience’s preferences and behaviors.

Stay informed on platform updates.
Social media technology changes rapidly. Stay informed on the latest technological updates on the social media platforms, which includes community guidelines, user experience and image sizes

Connect to the community.
Help USC keep its online community connected. Please consider joining our USC Social Media channel on Slack and email ucomm@usc.edu to be added to the Social Media Council mailing list.


Accessibility for Social Media

Follow this guide to create posts that are accessible to followers with disabilities, difficulties or impairments with vision, hearing, cognition, or mobility.


Tools

Screen Magnifier
This is a software that magnifies the screen and displays a portion of it enlarged. People with vision impairments primarily use it and there are around ten times as many people who use screen magnifiers over screen readers.

Screen Readers
This is an assistive technology, primarily used by people with vision impairments. It converts text, buttons, images and other screen elements into speech or braille.

Captions
Provide content for people with hearing impairments and are used by people who process written information better than audio.

  • Closed Captions can be turned on and off and are designed to supplement dialogue with other relevant parts of the soundtrack. Such as describing background noises, phones ringing and other audio cues that need describing. This requires a sidecar file (a separate file uploaded to play along with a video.)
  • Open Captions are burned into the video file as text graphics and cannot be turned off.

Subtitles
This provides a text alternative for the dialogue transcribed into a language. Standard subtitles assume the viewer can hear the audio. For example, a phone ringing does not need to be included.

Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (SCHH)
Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (SCHH) are written for viewers who may not be able to hear the audio. SDHH contains information about background sounds and speaker changes, along with a translation of the script.

Switches
A switch is an assistive technology primarily used by people with motor impairments to access and control computers, smartphones, electric wheelchairs, smart home appliances, and more.


Text and Copy

Hashtags

  • Capitalize the first letter of each word, often called “camel case” or “camel backing,” to create more accessibility.
  • Do not lowercase all words in a hashtag. This does not cue screen readers that there are multiple words present and users will usually read the phrase as one long word.
    Do: #FightOn
    Not: #fighton

Fonts and Emojis

  • Use sans serif fonts such as Arial, Calibri or Open Sans for legibility.
  • Limit using multiple emojis consecutively.
  • Avoid using serif fonts and special fonts (Unicode text).
  • Do not replace words with emojis since these do not translate well to screen readers.
    Do: Happy Spring! Ready for some flowers 💐
    Not: 𝕙𝕒𝕡𝕡𝕪 𝕤𝕡𝕣𝕚𝕟𝕘! Ready for some 💐 💐

Graphics and Imagery

ALT Text Tags
Alternative (ALT) text tags are descriptions of images that are read aloud to blind users on a screen reader.

  • Adding ALT text allows authors to include pictures but still provide the content in an alternative text-based format.
  • When a page fails to load an image, alternative text will be displayed in its place.
  • Often used on websites and in emails, they are also essential to have on social media.
  • While many platforms attempt to autogenerate ALT text, it is recommended and extremely easy to input it at the time of posting and scheduling.
  • Do not repeat the caption as ALT text, the screen reader will repeat the content twice.
  • Repeating important details such as time is acceptable to do.
  • Use a brief but specific description of the image.

Editing Alternative Text on Social Media Platforms and Sites

  • Facebook
  • Instagram | Note: Instagram Stories does not allow this function.
  • Twitter | Note: You cannot edit a tweet once it has been sent out.
  • LinkedIn posts can add alt text when being created and after choosing the image. Word count is limited to 120 characters.

Digital Flyers
If posting an image of a digital flyer, always ensure contrast of the design considers colorblind viewers and that important details are contained within the caption and the ALT text.


Additional Resources