OSU Extension Service: Social Media Guidelines

Social media represents an array of innovative and powerful tools for interacting with Extension's many audiences. The potential for social media tools to provide education, to create communities of interest, to build relationships and to develop dialog continues to grow. Many Extension personnel, like people all over the world, are already using social media venues for personal and professional purposes.

This document has been developed to provide guidance on the engagement of Extension personnel in using social media for professional purposes, and to ensure the portrayal of a consistent and positive brand for Extension in the social media space.

For the purposes of these guidelines, the term "social media" is defined as any online medium that provides for user interaction, discussion and commenting (such as social networks, blogging, microblogging).

General Guidance

  1. All Extension employees using social media should maintain a clear distinction between personal and professional uses. Understand that some of your social media participants will recognize you as an employee of OSU Extension. When you are on a personal site, speak in the first person and clearly state that you are speaking for yourself and not for Extension. When your social media activity is observable by end-users, stakeholders and/or other professional audiences, your behavior should represent you well and reflect positively on Extension. When using social media personally, do not incorporate Extension's name into your username (NOT "Extension dude" or "Cherry Extension Lady"), and do not assert that you are speaking for Extension.
  2. Extension employees using social media for professional purposes should communicate appropriately according to the standards of the environment in which they're operating. Most social media environments are communities of peers, not classrooms with instructors. An important element of your credibility will be your ability to communicate authentically and respectfully as a member of the community. And Extension's credibility in the social media world, just as in the real world, depends upon your credibility.
  3. Extension employees serving as account administrators for social media efforts are responsible for ensuring proper branding, frequent maintenance and currency of information posted, and monitoring comments and posts by others (including external visitors) for professionalism. It is the responsibility of the account holder to closely monitor commenting and follow proper protocol for dealing with issues that may arise.
  4. For Extension employees using social media for professional purposes: submit your site to the OSU social media directory.
  5. Exercise caution when communicating with youth online. It is important that OSU Extension employees maintain professionalism when communicating with youth online, just as they would in the offline world. Only communicate on the topic of the OSU Extension program; personal communication may be considered inappropriate.

    Carefully select account administrators. All social media networks managed by Extension targeting youth should be managed by at least two adults – either extension staff members, or volunteers who have successfully completed the 4-H Volunteer Screening process and have reviewed the OSU Extension social media guidelines.

Naming Recommendations

Facebook

  • Site name: OSU Extension Service in Sample County (i.e. OSU Extension Service in Benton County)
  • Custom URL: facebook.com/OSUSampleCounty (i.e. facebook.com/OSUExtBenton)
    Visit Facebook to learn how to create a custom URL

Twitter

  • Profile name: OSU Extension in Sample County (i.e. OSU Extension in Benton County)
  • Username: OSUExtSampleCounty (i.e. OSUExtBenton)

About/Bio Recommendations

Facebook

The About tab on Facebook is a great opportunity to share a bit about the organization. And is also one of the only areas in Facebook that is searched by Google, so it's important it reflect the unique qualities and benefits of OSU Extension. At the minimum all OSU Extension pages should reference "Oregon State University Extension Service" to make the connection with the larger organization and the university.

Below is some suggested language that you can incorporate.

About

The Oregon State University Extension Service in Sample County provides practical education you can use to solve problems, develop skills and improve your life.

Company Overview

Created in 1911, the Oregon State University Extension Service provides the public with easy-to-understand, research-based knowledge through workshops, hotlines, 1,200 publications, online assistance, videos and more. It translates and adapts the research for practical, local uses by farmers, ranchers, foresters, families, gardeners, youths, seniors and coastal residents.

OSU Extension has faculty in each of Oregon's 36 counties and oversees 18,000 Extension-trained volunteers who spend more than 2 million hours helping about 2 million Oregonians each year. Together, these volunteers represent the equivalent of 1,000 full-time employees.

OSU Extension oversees the statewide 4-H program, which engages more than 100,000 school children in activities focused on areas like healthy living, civic engagement and science.

OSU Extension also trains the state's Master Gardeners, who are present in 29 counties and answer gardening questions at OSU Extension offices, farmers markets and workshops and also take care of educational gardens for communities.

Twitter

(About yourself/organization/program in fewer than 160 characters.)

The bio appears under your Twitter name and is a way for people to understand a bit more about your organization. It is important that this sentence at a minimum includes "OSU Extension." If you have space, we highly recommend including the URL to your or Extension's website (i.e., extension.oregonstate.edu)

Below is some suggested wording to include in your bio.

The OSU Extension Service in Sample County provides practical education you can use to solve problems, develop skills and improve your life.

People like to follow and engage "real" people. So if you are setting up a personal Twitter account, add something about yourself that describes you as a person, such as hobbies/interests, etc.

Photography Recommendations

Facebook

Profile photo: The ideal dimensions are 160x160 pixels and should be easy to recognize at a really small size. Using the OSU logo or "tag" is recommended.

Cover photo: In the new timeline version of Facebook you can include a large "cover photo" that adds to the design and personality of your page. This is a fun place to get a bit more creative, and to show OSU Extension in action. Including photos of people in this section is recommended.

Including photos on Facebook, both for profiles and within, increases the likelihood people will read your posts.

For all photos included on Facebook, include photo credits within the photo's description, for example: (Photo by: Lynn Ketchum)

Twitter

Profile photo: Your profile photo can be up to 700k in the following formats: JPG, GIF, or PNG. Remember, this image will often be viewed at a really small size, so something that doesn't have a lot of detail is best. Using the OSU logo or "tag" is recommended.

For personal Twitter profiles, we recommend you upload a photo of yourself. This helps establish trust and lets people see you as a real person and encourages engagement.

Background: The background image is a way to customize your Twitter profile and to give your page some more personality. Visit this article for reference on how to change your Twitter background.

NOTES

The fact that a particular social medium is not mentioned in this document does not mean that it cannot be used. This document will be updated as needed in order to provide the best guidance possible. If you have suggestions for additions or revisions, please contact Victor Villegas.

This document was based upon a similar publication authored by Elizabeth Gregory North, Max Malloy, and Travis Ward, AgriLife Communications, Texas A&M University and edited for use by OSU Extension based upon permission from Texas AgriLife.