Part 4: Build Engaging Content
This is the most exciting and creative part (we think) of social media. If you’ve done your research, then building content that is compelling, interesting and provides real value is where the real fun comes in.
Find your voice.
People connect with people, not brands. If you are going to cut through the online clutter, you have to think of your content as a form of entertainment or education. One of the easiest ways to do that is to think of your department as a person and create a tone of voice you can use throughout your content. Are you friendly? Quirky? Witty? Professorial? If the tonality is too dry or corporate sounding, people don’t connect with it and they will move on.
Once you get that tone down, write it down somewhere so you can hand it off to others to help with content development! Some ideas for tonality can be agreeing to:
- Use “we” instead of “I” or “me”
- Don’t refer to the unit in the third person
- Always acknowledge someone by their first name when replying back
- Use as few words as possible to keep it concise and witty
- Use jovial, friendly language
Check for spacing, spelling and grammar — it’s important! Please also follow our campus editorial style guide if you need a quick check. Spelling errors do happen, so turn it into a human moment if someone calls you out on it by thanking them and correcting it as fast as possible.
What should I post about?
If you’ve done your research and you know where to start, this will come easily easy because you know what your community wants, needs and the unique value you bring to the table. The ideas should start flowing! Here are some additional ideas for content sources:
- News and announcements.
- Achievements of your students, staff and teams.
- Behind the scenes looks at the work in progress. Look for places that the average person wouldn't typically have access to, such as research in the field.
- Staff profiles and staff Q&As.
- Highlights of events or key moments and celebrations.
- Use questions/polls functions within Facebook, Twitter and Instagram platforms to ask your audience for feedback.
- Tap into the UC Davis community by browsing hashtags like #UCDavis, #OurUCDavis, and #GoAgs.
- Participate in larger hashtag campaigns like #WomenScientists, #ThisIsWhatAScientistsLooksLike and #SciComm.
- Break apart white papers, email marketing newsletters, blog posts or magazine articles into several bites.
- Thread large thoughts together for a more comprehensive look or commentary about a topic.
- Themed posts around key campus moments such as Welcome Week, Picnic Day and commencement.
What not to post about.
We can think of a million things not to post about, but here are some of the no-brainers:
Information that isn’t meant to be public, such as confidential/proprietary information about UC Davis, its employees, students, affiliates, vendors or suppliers. Examples include personal student/patient information, strategies, legal issues, patents awaiting approval or published research that hasn't been published. This also includes personal contact information for anyone.
Stay away from copyrighted graphics or work that you don’t have the right to use. It’s OK to share content as long as you credit the owner accordingly in the post itself. You can’t grab any old image on the interweb and use it without risk of copyright infringement. Instead, tap into our UC Davis Photoshelter if you need images of UC Davis.
Be cautious with endorsements. It’s fine to share a project or collaboration but not OK to post overly favorable content about goods, services or political figures. It’s part of being a public entity that we don’t use our channels to favor a business, a product or a political candidate. Simply liking someone’s tweet, for example, could be interpreted as an endorsement.
Keep personal opinions about controversial topics off of your feed. Just don’t go there especially since you are representing a group of likely very different people. That’s not to say you can’t talk about controversial topics, but it should to be relevant and tied to research or your topic.
Flyers. We must stop posting flyers as our content visual for an event or forum. Instead, use photography. Fliers with text overlays are 1) visually uninteresting, 2) look like an advertisement, and most importantly, 3) are not accessible for site-readers.
Don’t host a contest or sweepstakes that haven’t received legal approval. Technically, it’s illegal. We have templated rules if you need them and it’s pretty easy. Just contact us and we can walk you through how to do it properly.
We welcome gut checks. If a potential post gives you pause, then you probably shouldn’t post it. If you need a gut check please email us or tap into our Social Media Braintrust workgroup. We are here to help!
Dip into user-generated content (UGC).
There isn’t a more authentic way to communicate your unit or department’s importance than by sharing real student or staff experiences. If you see people posting about your area/resource on social media, ask if you can re-share. A bonus is that student/staff features generally make people feel special and forge a positive association with you, your unit and UC Davis. Be sure to tag those that you decide to feature in your post to give credit for the photo and/or caption.
Be strategic with emoji use.
Consider the platform when deciding on whether or not to include emojis. For more professional arenas, such as LinkedIn, it’s probably best to steer clear of emojis. For platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, emoji use is ok as long as emojis match the subject matter of the posts. If you do use them, try to stick to a maximum of three emojis (and don’t overuse multiples of the same emoji). From an accessibility standpoint, emojis are hard to read, so don’t make your entire post just emojis.
Use hashtags strategically.
- Pick a few good hashtags. Selecting a handful of hashtags can add relevance and context to your content and inserts it into larger streams of online conversations.
- Do your due diligence. Check the hashtag before using it to be sure it is the kind of conversation you want to be included in.
- Use UC Davis hashtags. It is an easy way get your content into the UC Davis community consciousness. See our directory for the common tags used.
- Be strategic when creating your own hashtags. Research your hashtag before ever using it. It could have different meanings or use that you may not want to associate with. Avoid the temptation to create a hashtag for every program, event or campaign. Keep your list small and consider tags that could be applicable across multiple projects and campaigns. You want your hashtags to be equitable over time, and it takes time to build and have others use them, such as #OurUCDavis.
- Avoid adding too many hashtags. It can look messy and distract audience members from the main message you are trying to get across with your post. Keep hashtags limited to Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
Spell it out.
With the nature of students always coming and going at our university, we need to be clear about what our acronyms stand for. Limit using them if possible. Don’t refer to your unit with shorthand in a bio. It confuses and deters people from finding and following your account.
Photo and video best practices.
Successful social media visuals are focused on the quality of the story, not necessarily on the highest quality video or photo asset. Be sure to check out the overall UC Davis visual style tips.
Give your audience a view into your world with visuals. Photography, video, 360 photos and other visual elements like Boomerangs can help you tell a rich and immersive story. Look to craft visuals that include the viewer’s perspective in the shot and help the viewer feel part of the experience. Avoid “grip and grin” photos.
Be aware of usage rights. Do not use photos, videos, music, logos, clipart or graphics that UC Davis does not have the rights to use. Tap into approved photos from our Photo Collection.
Avoid text on graphics/photography. The flier that was created for the event does not belong as the graphic for social media. This is because graphics with text overlays are generally not accessible for site-readers. Secondly, these images consistently do not perform well with social media audiences because they look like ads. Instead, keep the copy about the event in the copy of your post, and use photography to show what the event will be like.
Focus on quality and not quantity. Avoid using photos and videos that are blurry, out of context or unprofessional. Use photos and videos that are clear and relevant to your topic area and illustrate your story. Low-fi content has a place on social media – especially in the Stories format – for those more authentic moments.
Avoid the smudgy lens. Be sure to clean the lens of your mobile phone for fingerprints before taking shots!
Framing and cropping. Be mindful of framing and/or cropping when selecting an image. For example, a vertical photo of a person on Twitter usually crops awkwardly and leaves the person headless in the news feed.
Focus on the details. Photography doesn’t have to be complicated. Use your phone (and the portrait mode if you have it) to take interesting and dynamic shots of the small details of an event or activity to change up your visuals. For example, a close-up of the rows of name badges, a pin on a lapel, close-up shot of hands handing out swag, etc.
Check the background. Review your visuals for any proprietary or personal information that might be in the background. Examples can be a license plate, a home address, a password on a sticky note or notes on a whiteboard.
Leverage the Stories format.
Stories — in Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook — are quickly taking over social media channels as authentic ways to connect and tell stories. The trick with these is to not over-produce and keep the content focused on the story.
Humanize them. When it comes to stories, people are a lot more likely to follow along if there is a person at the center of the narrative. For example, a takeover featuring a specific student or staff member that has something interesting to share is much more entertaining than a story that is all text.
Interactions = engagements. There are so many ways to spice up your stories with interactive elements across platforms. Don’t be afraid to throw in some questions, polls and anything else you deem appropriate for a story every now and then. This is an opportunity to make the two-way social media conversation even more intimate.
Stories best practices. Check out our more extensive section on best practices for producing stories.