Writing for Social Media
The University of Southern Indiana has a social presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and TikTok. Social media allows the University to communicate its values and priorities, receive feedback from internal and external audiences, and build connections and a sense of belonging within, and beyond, the USI community. With over 95,000 followers across our six platforms, our reach is substantial, allowing us to build connections close to home and across the world.
Because each platform has a distinct audience (i.e., the USI masthead account has a large alumni following on LinkedIn versus a significant current student following on Instagram), writing on social media on behalf of USI should be reflective of the persona (Voice) of the institution. We ask you to have a designated voice and tone for social media which can:
- Give your content purpose, direction and a unique point of view.
- Help differentiate your account from peers and competitors.
- Create a sense of consistency and cohesion.
Always remember you are posting as a representative of USI. When in doubt, stay on the sides of clarity over cleverness, polite over punchy and empathy over apathy.
For institutional or departmental social media accounts at USI, being emotive usually means evoking some sort of positive emotional response. Simple, effective tactics to do so include:
- Using emojis, GIFs and exclamation points (sparingly).
- Including positive and encouraging language, tone and words.
- Referencing community members, partners and tagging them if able.
- Incorporating eye-catching visuals.
In this post, we highlight Tamia, a sophomore psychology major, in a series called #ScreaglePOV. This post includes encouraging language, references who makes us special (our students), incorporates a short, GIF-like video to catch and keep attention and uses emojis to keep followers engaged.
Homecoming is a big deal, and we wanted to make sure we put the spotlight on the 2023 Coronation Ceremony. To do so, we included positives from the day (Homecoming Coronation and a new attendance record), included photos of Court members, utilized fitting emojis and referenced our community who helped us celebrate.
Just because USI is an institution for higher education does not mean we have to write like a corporate entity on social media. We have a distinct personality, and it’s important we show it off because it’s what makes us special.
Here are some ways you can do so:
- Reply to, engage with and encourage others.
- Tag or mention accounts.
- Like, share and comment on content relatable to your account.
Ryan Reynolds, Editor-in-Chief of the Evansville Courier & Press, has “committed to the bit” of hating on the "Screagle" term (although he admitted he doesn’t hate it but is too far into his bit now to go back). We often engage back and forth with him on the topic of "Screagle" versus "Screaming Eagle." As you can see above, he poked some holiday fun at us, and we had to make a comeback. As you build personality through your account(s), you’ll notice there will be individuals who engage frequently, and you’ll learn more about them. If you’re able to engage in a friendly manner, do so. It adds to your personality and will likely keep that individual engaged in the future.
Sometimes, there are opportunities on social platforms where it’s appropriate to insert yourself in a conversation. In the example above, 95.7 The Spin, USI’s student-run radio station, tweeted a callout for TV show recommendations. This was the perfect opportunity for us to engage and plug our episode of The College Tour and provide a link to watch on Amazon Prime Video. Look for these opportunities where it’s appropriate to shine light on your offerings.
This is a hard concept to achieve, but if you’re able to hone in on your specialties and showcase them with effective, engaging content, it will be worth the work.
Use relevant, appropriate humor, style and personality to stand out in the overcrowded social media landscape. Focus on your audiences’ interests and showcase the specialties you offer. Lean into content that makes you, you—whether that’s archival materials from David L. Rice Library, faculty research, student work, or something else, ensure you’re highlighting what’s most important for your area and distinct audience.
On the USI masthead account and at USI in general, we’re big fans of the Cone, and we know it’s a unique, eye-catching landmark that sets us aside from other institutions. We use that to our advantage.
We quickly hopped on the opportunity to show off The Cone when the "It’s Corn!" trend was popular on TikTok and found this performed very well for us. Instead of "It’s Corn," of course we had to use "It’s Cone." An employee helped and gave us several fun clips to work with, and we ended on a call-to-action encouraging students to apply to USI for free during the College GO! Campaign in September 2022. Not only was this video on trend, but it also captured attention and ended on a relevant, important action item.
We often pride ourselves on the warm, welcoming environment we provide at USI. Two individuals who are well-known on campus in doing so are Donna from Starbucks and James the Bus Driver. In the two TikToks here, we used current trends and incorporated Donna and James related content. To this day, these two videos are two of our best performing on TikTok.
Like we said, we really love the Cone around here (so much we had to include it in a Valentine’s post). For Valentine’s Day in 2023, we created our own spin on the cringe-worthy Valentine’s memes. In the example above, you can see how we put a unique spin on our iconic landmark.
Tap into current trends and happenings, but make sure you’re not trying too hard to be “too cool.” Speak the language of your followers without using jargon that’s too obscure for the majority to understand.
On TikTok/Instagram, a common saying in 2022 was adding "weapon" following a word (i.e., "academic") to signify you're in the zone, dedicated to a particular task or doing. In this video, our students considered themselves “academic weapons” to prepare for midterms. Our following on TikTok/Instagram is made up majorly by current students and prospective students, so we engaged in language they are familiar with on both platforms.
If you’re not familiar, BeReal is a social media app that asks users to post unfiltered photos of themselves once a day. It makes users take a photo on their front and back camera and has a two-minute countdown to do so. It goes off at random times every day. Users cannot see their friends’ posts until they post (i.e., say they miss the two-minute deadline—then, they can post a "late BeReal." Until they do so, though, they will not be able to see their friends’ post for the day). BeReals disappear day after day. When the "It’s time to BeReal" notification goes off for the day, the photo from the day before will disappear and be replaced.
Though it doesn’t make since for the University to be on the BeReal app, we still want to take advantage of what it has to offer as our current and prospective students are frequent users. We asked followers on our Instagram Story to submit their BeReal campus photos for a chance to be featured on our platforms. They DM’d us photos, and we posted them on our Instagram feed. We utilized the same emojis used when one gets a BeReal notification to catch attention, as well as incorporated “BeReal” in the caption. This post performed 95% better than our other posts.
If you’re on Instagram, TikTok or Twitter, you know “Little Miss” and “Mr.” posts were very popular in Fall 2022. These memes, using colorful, emoji-like characters from the children’s book series, Mr. Men, were popular as social media users shared their defining characteristics. Of course, we had to hop on the trend to show off the Little Misses and Mr.’s of USI.
Always keep your distinct audience top of mind. What do they need, want or expect from your presence on social media? This is important to keep in mind when preparing content for any platform.
Ideally, your account’s primary goals—whether that’s raising the visibility and reputation of the institution, communicating important information on behalf of your college, department, etc.—should align what your audience’s needs. USI jargon and acronyms (i.e., UC vs. University Center, HRL vs. Housing and Residence Life, etc.) should be spelled out and explained to resonate with a broad audience.
Know your audience and create content that’s valuable to them.
Our audience on LinkedIn is primarily comprised of USI alumni, and they like to stay informed on University updates. This post, although not super colorful in terms of personality, utilizes a straight-forward voice/tone that is appropriate for the platform and message and keeps alumni engaged with what is happening at USI. Our audience on LinkedIn is not looking for creative, decorative language (compared to our audience on Instagram who looks for this)—rather, they’re wanting quick, easily-digestible information to stay in the loop.