"The keys to success in social media are being honest about who you are; being thoughtful before you post; respecting the purpose of the community where you are posting."
McGill’s Communications & External Relations encourages all McGill faculties, departments to become involved in using social media in communications with stakeholders. We provide guidance to McGill faculties on how best to use social media toward communications goals, as the manager/moderator of an account for department or faculty.
These guidelines cover the appropriate use by individuals representing their faculty, department or unit. They do not supplant any University Policies, Procedures and Guidelines. While intended to guide social media managers, the best practices cited here may also benefit student groups and individuals who maintain and monitor professional and personal sites.
It is recommended that before starting or continuing your social media activities you review these guidelines to ensure consistent standards are upheld in the use of these vehicles. These guidelines are intended to be a living document that will continue to evolve with community feedback. Be sure to check out our list of other helpful resources, including existing McGill policies, general basic tips for various platforms, and accessibility tips.
McGill Faculties / Departments / Units
If you are looking to create an account, info.communications [at] mcgill.ca (contact the Social Media Manager in Communications and External Relations) to discuss the social media guidelines at the university, as well as strategy, goals, messaging and best practices, and to request a McGill avatar.
CER will provide some training to new Faculty Social Media Managers.
Guidelines for using social media in the classroom
A helpful blog post from Prof. Chris Buddle.
Employees using social media
We encourage you to explore ways in which social media can help you do your job. Before you post, consider how what you’re doing will reflect on your professionalism and our collective reputation. When in doubt, talk to colleagues or your supervisor.
When considering opening a social media platform, make sure a strategy is in place for long-term maintenance with goals:
What are my goals?
Who is my audience?
What do I want to communicate?
Can you achieve your goals working with the Faculty rather than setting up our own channel?
What is the best way to reach my audience? What's the best platform for me?
Do we have the resources, both current and long-term?
How will we measure our success?
Ready to start?
Use common sense.
Be aware of privacy issues.
Play nice, and be honest.
What should you post?
Watch and follow other similar, successful pages. What types of things do they post?
- Interesting upcoming events (lectures, conferences, outings, etc)
- Great content is available from any of a number of McGill sources: Newsroom, The McGill Reporter, McGill News, McGill dans la ville, faculty newsletters, etc.
- Awards or kudos to people or groups in your faculty/department to celebrate your community
- (Good) photography and videos are a big draw
Use the 5-3-2 rule, which states that for every 10 posts you publish:
• 5 should be curation - sharing others’ content
• 3 should be creation - relevant content you’ve produced yourself
• 2 should be humanization - personal, fun and relaxed content that humanizes your unit.
What should you avoid?
- Sensitive or controversial topics (you may have strong feelings on a topic, but remember, you are representing your dept./faculty/university. (The collective does not have an opinion)
- Irrelevant viral posts
- Negative or derogatory content
- Posts with spelling or grammatical errors
- Inconsistent voice in your content. Your social media profiles are an extension of your unit, and although you’re restricted by the format of the social platform you’re posting to, you still have creative control over your voice and tone. When you’re planning out your social content, revisit your personas. Think about what they would be saying on social media and how they’d be saying it. Make sure that the content you publish stays as close to these styles and themes as possible.
- Posting the same message across social networks. All social networks are different. They speak to different demographics, and they each lend themselves to different content. LinkedIn is usually more copy-heavy and formal, Instagram is mainly visual and informal, while Twitter is more suited to bite-sized tidbits and emojis and GIFs. Tailor your content to suit each one.
- Unaccredited content. Next time you see some content you’d like to share, use it as an opportunity to connect. Click the “share” button on that content so that its source will automatically be included in your post. Alternatively, post the content to your profile and include the social media handle of the source
- Hashtag-stuffed content. If you stuff your social content with reams of irrelevant hashtags, then you’ll risk making your post unreadable, and diluting the importance of the more relevant ones.
Next time you post, do some hashtag research first to ensure that the ones you’ve selected are relevant to your audience, and to your content - and that you’re following up to date best practices.
In an emergency situation
It’s understandable that University communicators want to provide timely responses to their unit’s followers in the case of an emergency, however, best practice for Faculty/Department social media managers is to refer followers to the official response from Twitter via @mcgillu or from the McGill University Facebook page to ensure that only correct information is disseminated through the other University-affiliated accounts. Sharing information found online or not approved by the University may lead to false or confusing information reaching the community and spreading online. If you unintentionally post something online that is incorrect, correct it visibly and publicly as soon as possible.
Tweets and posts should be used verbatim from the main account (retweeted or directly quoted).
• Stop tweeting regular news items and turn off any scheduled tweets.
• Don’t retweet or share information from unofficial or unverified sources, including media.
ALWAYS be respectful. It's great to celebrate successes, not so great to be boastful, which is a turnoff in social media (as elsewhere). Want to let journalists know about your upcoming event? Let the Media Relations Office know and we can use our channels to advise. Do not spam journalists by directly tweeting to them about your news or event, as they usually won't appreciate it and it may reflect poorly on the university. On Facebook, do not delete or suppress comments just because they're negative. Correct misinformation but let valid criticisms stand. Don't get in a "bunfight" with your audience over an issue. On Facebook, feel free to delete spam, vulgar or irrelevant posts, or posts where an individual's privacy is compromised. Where possible, in the "About" section, post a statement on policy and goals of the page.
Remember: You're speaking on behalf of one of the world's top universities! Is your post error free (both factually and grammatically)? Proof and fact-check and proof again before you post. If you're at all hesitant, get a second opinion. It's easier to do it right the first time than to go back and undo. (For certain platforms, especially on Twitter where news travels quickly, it's better to clarify rather than delete, replying to the original incorrect information. That way, others who have retweeted will see the clarification.)
Social media is a two-way conversation. Check often to see if anyone is asking questions or commenting. Is there a valid complaint? Be present and responsive and you will gain credibility. If you don't know the answer to a question, try to find someone who can help. When responding to complaints, it's important to meet the customer on the communication channel where they reported the issue. By switching channels without their consent, you may put off the customer who's already frustrated.
(You'll soon learn that here is a difference between a "rant" and a real problem that can be resolved.) For valid complaints, ask how you can help. Ignoring some situations may make things worse.
“You are what you share.” ― Charles Leadbeater, We Think: The Power Of Mass Creativity
Your content does not always need to be original. See something from someone else that might be interesting to your audience? If so, remember to cite and link to sources. Remember to credit photographers. Follow other McGill groups on the various platforms to get ideas from them, but don't forget to "RT" or use the "share" buttons, crediting the original source.
Many units manage social media accounts at McGill. "Like" or follow their pages or accounts and posts and share them if they are appropriate for your audience. It's a great source of content and increases the visibility of everyone in the community. Bonus: Once you start to share, others will do the same with you. (See list of other McGill groups on our Directory page) Engage with the community to create buzz about your news or event. Having a big event? Consult with us or your Faculty to coordinate maximum exposure.
Feed your followers. A page or feed that's updated sporadically won't hold much interest nor gain you new followers. And, it reflects poorly on the University when unit/department/faculty pages are not maintained.
How much posting is enough? What is too much? Depends on the content or the platform you're using. Try it out. Are you getting responses or engagement? More followers? Losing followers? If, for whatever reason, you are no longer using your department/faculty social media account, disable, unpublish or delete your account, and let us know.
Exercise good judgment
Do not post confidential information about the University, students, alumni or colleagues. You are representing the University but ultimately responsible for what you post. Use good ethical judgment and follow university policies. Do not post photographs of people without their consent. Consult McGill's Computing Code of Ethics. Don't post anything that you would not present publicly. If you are using social media ambassadors, work very closely with them. A second pair of eyes on posts is always a good idea.
Choose the right person for the job
Success in social media requires the right personality. Select someone who enjoys interacting with others, has good writing skills and has experience on the platforms. Each account should have at least two (+) staff members as administrators and a central communications silent administrator. (Ensure that the sign-on credentials are transferred when someone leaves a position and that the log-ins are reset). If assigning casual employees or interns to update social media accounts, pay strict attention to their work.
Compose your posts carefully and thoughtfully. Could it in any way offend or harm the reputation of the university? Not sure? Ask us.
Copyright - Permissions - Citations
When using material from others (text, photographs, graphics) make sure to credit sources and link to original if possible. If not, cite the title, author, publisher and date. Permission will be required on copyrighted works. For more info on copyright check here. When sharing other's social media links, credit the original source. If using stock-type photos use an image that is available under a Creative Commons license (ie. Wikimedia). McGill insignia should NOT be used in social media channels without the University's consent.
Naming conventions / Cover photos
Account names should be as follows - if possible: "McGill" followed by the Faculty or Department (or group) name, ie. "McGill Faculty of Science" or "McGill Science"; "McGill Athletics" or "McGill OSS". As noted above, McGill's coat-of-arms, shield, or signature should not be used as avatar for the account.
Don't hesitate to ask. If issues arise, please contact us. We'd be happy to help!
Social Media Huddle
McGill social media editors meet monthly to share tips and information. Contact usinfo.communications [at] mcgill.ca ( )if you wish to join in.