Social Media Guidebook

I. Introduction

The University of Florida uses social media to engage in conversations with all members of the Gator community. Whether it’s staff, students, employees, fans or alumni; UF uses social media to find out what’s important to the entire Gator Nation and to share that information with each other and the world.

We have developed this guide to provide you the conventional wisdom regarding the use of social media. As with most conventional wisdom, especially as it relates to the ever changing landscape of social media, we expect this to be a document that changes over time to reflect those changes.

Our hope is that you will learn how to strategize effectively to ensure your social media channel is targeting the right audience effectively.

II. What is Social Media?

Social media is defined as the use of online tools and services that allow Internet users to create and publish content. Users with similar interests can interact in communities by sharing information and knowledge. Many social media sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, can serve as personal profiles where users can post information about themselves. Social media also allows users to gain support, share information with friends and increase existing networking circles. Popular social media websites include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, YouTube, Flickr and blogs.

How the University of Florida is using Social Media

The University of Florida is using many channels of social media to communicate and build relationships with our faculty, staff, students, parents, fans and friends. Social media allows us the unique opportunity to hear what our audiences are saying by conversing with them on any given social media channel. This type of two-way communication is a valuable tool UF is employing to receive instant feedback. Our main tools we use are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Like us, follow us and watch and respond as our content grows!

You can also join our Facebook UF Social Media Managers group.

III. Requirements Before You Start

Get Approval, Be Official!

In order to receive authorization to present a social media account as an official university activity, you must have approval from:

  • The vice president of your department or unit, and
  • The vice president for University Relations or his/her designee.

For detailed information about the registration / approval process and the policy itself, please visit the UF Social Media Registration web page.

Make A Plan
Define your goals

Clearly defining your goals can help you choose what social media channel is best suited for your primary objective. Think about your organization’s communications and marketing and how these social media channels will help you achieve your goals. Pay close attention to the level of available resources for your social media channel. Although they are free to create, successful Social media use requires time and attention. An inactive account that does not have a continuous stream of new and relevant content will atrophy and fail. If you find that you don’t have enough time to devote to the ongoing cultivation of a social media platform, consider instead leveraging another existing account: for example, a small department can funnel their message to the college’s account, a lab to their department’s account or a related student organization, etc. Once you determine your audience and message, you can then brainstorm which site would be most appropriate to accomplish this.

Determine a manager

Designating a coordinator role to one person in your department will ensure that you maintain a focus on your social media goals. This does not need to take up a significant amount of time, but successful maintenance of social media sites involve updating the content frequently, conversing with and engaging viewers and responding to relevant events or problems that may arise. You should update your site at least once a day. Assigning a backup person for this will ensure your accounts are managed when the primary manager is away, on vacation or is otherwise unavailable. While the social media site can be a department-wide collaborative effort, establishing a coordinator will allow for the messages to have cohesiveness and timeliness.

Determine a plan

What are your marketing goals and how does social media fit within those goals? Whatever your goals may be, clearly define them so you can always use them as a point of reference while you manage your accounts.

Listen and monitor

How comfortable and knowledgeable are you about the platforms and audiences? Take the time to listen to the different channels before engaging so you have a clear understanding of audience.

The right tool for the right job

Be aware of current and emerging tools, but try to consider ones that will further your marketing goals. Spreading yourself too thin can jeopardize your valuable audiences.

Identify yourself

Creating an account name that demonstrates your association with the University of Florida as well as your literal name is the best approach. For example, the UF Admissions Office aptly chose the Twitter name@UFAdmissions.

Most social media platforms allow the user to create a custom profile photo or avatar. Make sure your image demonstrates who you are. Incorporating the UF wordmark in your visual presentation is required. Finally, be aware that your profile photo will likely be reduced in size and converted to a square shape for the purposes of displaying in news feeds. The more complex you make the image, the less recognizable it will be.

Avoid the use of athletic marks. According to the UF Identity website, the athletic logo, trademark, mascot and name are reserved for use by the University Athletic Association and its entities.

Connect with your audience

It’s important to be available, helpful and friendly. Answer questions, and pose questions of your own. This interaction will help create a mutually beneficial relationship.

Launch & Adjust

Once you’ve gone through the first nine steps, you are ready to launch your social media site! Tell us about it, add other UF departments and begin to add your target audience. Go forward with your intended message and goals. If you see at any time you may need to adjust your objectives, refer back to the social media worksheet and you can rework your strategy.

IV. Best Practices for a Successful Social Media Presence

Be respectful.

The number one thing you never want to do is engage in an argument via a social media site. Remember, every thing you post is a direct reflection on the University of Florida. It is also hard to decipher the exact meaning of words that are typed. Someone may have not meant to be controversial.

Be transparent.

Being open an honest with your audience is the best policy. More times than not, people just want to know the truth. One way you can achieve this is by stating who you are, and that you are acting on behalf of your department. This can help personalize your department and the University of Florida as a whole.


Listen to what your audience is posting. This can help you reach your departmental goals and help you know how to best reach them and connect with them.

In addition to what your audience tells you directly, it’s also helpful to listen to conversations that people are having about you. 

Finally, listen to your peers and competitors. Determine how they are being successful online and what others say about them. You might discover useful things you can improve about your own accounts.

Be active.

Social media sites require constant monitoring and posting. As a rule of thumb, you will want to post once a day and several times per week. Your duty is to post content and interact with your audience often enough to keep them interested and engaged. Ultimately, if you are monitoring these accounts and responses on a regular basis, you’ll find your own sweet spot for post frequency.

Be timely.

Social media sites offer you the ability to share information instantly with your audience. If you are proactive in delivering information on current events or emergencies, your likelihood to gain respect and trust with your audience is drastically increased. Be relevant!

Remember, everything you do online can and will live forever.

Always take a moment to think before you post. Whatever content you are putting on your social media site will be instantly viewed by your audience, and then spread through their networks and even globally. Make sure you are sending the right message in an appropriate manner. If you wouldn’t want to read it on the front page of a newspaper, don’t post it!

Post and Comment.

It’s always important to post interesting content for your site, but remember to also comment on postings of others in your audience. This will also help create the conversation that social media sites allow between you and your audience.

Monitor comments.

It’s always a good idea to create ground rules for your site. If you explicitly state that any inappropriate or defamatory comments are not permitted on your site, you have the ability to delete the posts that have explicit content. Although this is the case, be sure to not over-abuse this privilege. Not all comments will be positive in nature. It is part of your job to respond to those in an appropriate manner that could help positively change the perceptions of audience members.

Separate personal from professional.

It’s important to remember to separate your personal live from your professional life. Most of the time the content you would share on your own site is not the best news to share on your departments site. Remember, appropriateness is key!

Be a valued community member.

It’s important to promote other departments at the University of Florida while also promoting yours. Even further, updating your site with interesting news, current events and facts that your audience might be interested in is a good idea. You don’t want to constantly talk about only your department. It could get a little mundane and seem overbearing. So make your site fun with a variety of content.

Don’t overdo it.

Be conscious of the time you spend on your social media site. Limit your time to posting comments, monitoring data, viewing related social media sites and responding to comments. It is also a good idea to have prior approval from your department supervisor. This will allow you both to lay some ground rules for how much time is appropriate; therefore, it won’t get in the way of your normal job duties.

Keep private things private.

The University of Florida and Shands respects and honors the privacy of it’s students and patients. When conversing with fans, friends and followers, it’s important to remember to maintain and protect their privacy. Be vigilant and aware of HIPAA and FERPA privacy requirements. If you have a question about these requirements, contact the UF Privacy Office.

Use common sense.

Need we say more?

V. Social Media Platforms


Facebook is a social networking site that connects people to other individuals. Organizations and brands are able to create pages and groups to also connect to these individuals. It is a network driven by status updates, games and applications, and content sharing such as links and photos.

Fan Pages vs. Groups

Fan pages typically work best for most uses. A fan page allows a brand or entity to connect with people without using a personal account. Applications can be added to increase personality of the brand. An example of a group is The UF Alumni Association interacts with many audiences through this page. A person can “like” the group and be able to see updates.

Groups are designed to be more personalized, especially around common interests a group may share. An example of a group would be the UF PRSSA group. Most members of the group are also members of PRSSA, which allows for the group creator to send e-mails in bulk.

Creating Your Account

To make your Facebook fan page, you can set it up from your personal account. To set up your account, follow theinstructions provided by Facebook. You will want to set up at least two administrators for this account, with one serving as backup in case there are access problems with the original account.

Creating a fake account as the administrator of an official Facebook page is strongly discouraged as it runs counter to Facebook’s Terms of Service.

Picking & Setting Up A Username

When choosing your username, make sure it is as literal and identifiable as possible. You want people to be able to search and find you. Don’t make it so abstract that they will not be able to become a fan of your page. For example, the University of Florida’s Facebook page is titled “University of Florida” and the url is

Avoid the use of punctuation in the username – although Facebook allows this, it can some times confuse link shorteners and links from shared content and thereby break the link.

Don’t hesitate to contact the UF University Relations Office if you have questions or need assistance in selecting a name for your account.

Once you’ve considered a name, go to and see if the username you chose is available. Remember, once you select a username it can not be altered. Learn more from Facebook’s Help Center.


Twitter defines their site as “an information network made up of 140-character messages from all over the world.” Essentially, Twitter is a short dialogue where people can post about anything, and have conversations back and forth. A tweet can be no longer than 140 characters.

The following are symbols and definitions that you should familiarize yourself with for your department’s Twitter account:


Also known as a Twitter handle. Must be unique and contain fewer than 15 characters. Is used to identify you on Twitter for replies and mentions.


The @ sign is used to call out usernames in Tweets, like this: Hello @Twitter! When a username is preceded by the @ sign, it becomes a link to a Twitter profile.


A Tweet posted in reply to another user’s message, usually posted by clicking the “reply” button next to their Tweet in your timeline. Always begins with @username.


Mentioning another user in your Tweet by including the @ sign followed directly by their username is called a “mention”. Also refers to Tweets in which your username was included.


To retweet, retweeting, retweeted. The act of forwarding another user’s Tweet to all of your followers. Someone else can also perform this action, which is still called a retweet.

Trending Topic

A subject algorithmically determined to be one of the most popular on Twitter at the moment.


The # symbol is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet.

A complete list of definitions can be found at Twitter Support.

Creating Your Department’s Account

The easiest way to set up your Twitter Profile is to first create an e-mail account for your specific department. You don’t want to use your personal account.

  • Navigate to, enter your Department’s name and click the yellow button on the right hand of your screen.
  • Fill in the first field with your Department’s name.
  • Select a username from one of the usernames Twitter suggests, or create one that best suits your Department. Try to make your username as short as possible – when others retweet messages from your tweet stream, the length of your name reduces the number of available characters in their tweet, which might mean they will cut out or edit your tweet to make it possible to send (which can result in an electronic version of the ‘Telephone Game’ of misunderstood statements)
  • Enter a password and make sure to document this for later use. It’s advised that your password contains letters, numbers, and symbols.
  • Enter the email address you made for your department.
  • Fill in the Captcha with the correct letters.
  • Pick sources that are related to your Department..
  • Search for the University of Florida, and begin following all of the current Twitter accounts affiliated with the university.
What is Wikipedia?

Wikipedia is a free, online encyclopedia that anyone with a wiki account can update and add information to from around the world. It has grown increasingly popular and is known as a go-to site for information. It is monitored for accuracy by all users and Wikipedia volunteers.

Visit UF’s Wikipedia page.

Wikipedia Best Usage Guidelines
  • If you would like to create a Wiki page on your department or yourself, it is best to write the proposal on one of Wikipedia’s “talk pages.”
  • It’s advised that people or departments do not write about themselves, eliminating any bias that may stand. Once you post the content it can not be taken down and anyone is allowed to edit the information.
  • Original research on Wikipedia is not permitted.
  • The only time it is permissible to edit content about yourself or your department is when it’s wrong, vandalism or a typo.
  • If you do wish to create an account, visit the Wikipedia Account Log-in Page. Comment and add to pages of your expertise or that you do research in, and link it back to the University of Florida and other valid sites for your references.

LinkedIn is a social networking site that users utilize to connect with their professional community. You can “link” yourself to contacts in past careers and your current career and update your contacts on new projects or ventures you have in the works.

You can create your account at It’s very easy to get started. Listed below are some ways LinkedIn suggests for you to best operate your account.

  • List all of your education and current and past positions on your profile.
  • Create a catchy summary paragraph with professional highlights of your career.
  • Make sure to add a profile picture.
  • Import your contacts from your e-mail address to instantly create your network. You can also check the list that LinkedIn will provide.
What is YouTube?

YouTube is a video-sharing website where users can upload, view and share videos from around the world.

What kind of content do we post?

The University of Florida’s YouTube channel serves to inform our internal and external audiences about research breakthroughs and interesting developments.

VI. A Thank You To Our Colleagues In Education

The University of Florida would like to thank Vanderbilt and Tufts University for their resources for creating our own social media guide. We borrowed heavily from these two sources. Thank you to Vanderbilt for providing us with the basic layout, and thank you to Tufts University for providing us with more information on specific social media outlets. We used their resources as a guiding tool and framework for putting together our unique handbook to help facilitate social media usage at the University of Florida.