Best Practices

A pair of hands working on a laptop computer. Social media provide a unique opportunity to share news and information, engage with a wide audience, and interact with your community. Following best practices and guidelines will help you better engage with your community, increase the value of your channel, and best represent Amherst College.

Ask yourself a few questions before considering a new account or platform.

  • What social media, if any, has already been established by colleagues or the College
     for this purpose? Answering this question will help you avoid duplicating efforts or mixing messages. In other words, what would set this account apart from existing College accounts?
  • What do you hope to accomplish with this social media presence?
  • What communications goals will this account help you accomplish that other media, such as a website, couldn’t?
  • Who is your social media audience?
  • What will your content look like? How often will you post? Do you have enough content for your presence to be consistent and sustainable? Do you have the time and the resources to create quality content on a regular basis?
  • Do you have the resources to monitor, engage with and respond to social media activity?
  • Who will manage the account? Is there a backup administrator in place? Please note: All Amherst accounts must be primarily managed by a staff or faculty member.
  • How will you measure the account’s success? In other words, a year from now, how will you know if the account is meeting or has met the goals you set? What will you do if your communications strategy does not succeed?

Use Amherst or Amherst College when naming your accounts and handle. 

This will help distinguish your account as affiliated with the College. If your department or unit name is too long to use in full form, abbreviate only when necessary. When possible, keep your handle and account name consistent across social media platforms. If your name or handle is an acronym, utilize your bio section to list your unit’s full title.

Use an Amherst social media icon. 

  • On social media, an icon (or avatar) gives an account a distinct visual identity. Utilizing an official Amherst icon allows users to easily identify the account as an official College account. To maintain brand consistency, we ask that all Amherst departments use social media icons that are in line with the College’s visual identity, particularly the official College colors and typefaces.
  • Our icons are designed specifically for the context of social media, where the full name always appears in text near the icon, and icons are displayed at very small sizes. Your icon will be designed to work well in either a square or circular format.
  • To request a social media icon, contact social@amherst.edu or fill out a Social Media Request Form.
  • Please note: The large “A” icon is reserved only for the main College social media accounts. Amherst icons aren’t available for individual or personal accounts.

Keep your bio and “about” information concise and up to date.

Your bio or “about” information is key to describing your unit’s mission and affiliation with Amherst. For Instagram and Twitter in particular, the bio is the first thing your audience sees when they visit your profile. Use this space to promote your account’s hashtag or tag @amherstcollege in the messaging. Make sure this section is complete with accurate contact information and a link to your website.

Interact with and monitor your community. 

Social media thrive because of the community’s ability to participate in the “conversation.” They are designed for two-way communication, which will encourage comments and discussion. Managing this community is an important and essential responsibility of an account manager. This includes responding to questions, engaging with the audience or handling controversies. It is a great opportunity to connect with the wider Amherst community, but in all instances, remember that you are communicating on behalf of Amherst College. Consider how a response may reflect on you, your department and the College. All account managers are responsible for monitoring conversations on their posts and in their messages.

While we welcome comments and messages across our platforms, Amherst reserves the discretion to delete comments that don’t conform to our guidelines, such as spam or offensive content, among other examples. (Our community guidelines can be found below.) Managers of official College accounts are expected to adhere to these community guidelines as well. Please keep in mind that we encourage account managers to not delete content simply because they disagree with the poster's point of view.

Should sensitive issues or comments arise on your account, please contact social@amherst.edu.

Be active, timely and consistent. 

Social media require frequent posting and diligent attention to remain engaging. Avoid posting content as often as you can or when your schedule allows. Rather, stick to a regular and consistent schedule that works for you and your content. As an example, you can choose to post every other day or every Monday, Wednesday or Friday. There is no perfect formula for how often you should post. But you should post consistently to keep an active account and deliver fresh content.

Use dynamic visuals. 

Visual elements play a vital role in enhancing social media content and audience engagement. To find photos of the Amherst campus and community, visit: 

An alternative may be to use images in the public domain.

Maintain Amherst’s visual identity.

The Visual Identity Toolkit (VIT) includes Amherst’s official typefaces, wordmarks and colors. The VIT lends a consistent look and feel to our messages, reinforcing the connection and importance of departments, groups and individuals to the College. This is particularly important on social media, where users often scroll through content quickly. When materials look “officially Amherst,” users can instantly identify the affiliation. 

In creating graphics and other materials for social media, managers should follow VIT guidelines. For more information about the VIT, visit the toolkit website or contact commassets@amherst.edu.

Make your content accessible.

Amherst College is committed to providing an environment in which all people have an equal opportunity to participate in the College’s programs, activities and services. Account managers have an important responsibility to make sure their account’s content is accessible. This includes: 

  • Captioning videos
  • Providing alternate text when uploading images
  • Limiting the use of emojis
  • Capitalizing each word in a hashtag

Visit our Social Media Policy for more details on social media accessibility. If you need further guidance on building accessibility into social media, please contact social@amherst.edu or fill out a Social Media Request Form.

Connect thoughtfully.

Connecting to other social media members and sites builds credibility and community but could also give the unintended impression that your site endorses a certain cause, group or person. Consider carefully whom you “friend,” “follow,” or link to.

Establish a backup administrator.

Be sure to add a shared departmental amherst.edu email address to your social media profile to ensure a successful transfer of administrative power for the day you may no longer be responsible for updating the account. If your department does not have a shared departmental amherst.edu address, establish a backup administrator (staff or faculty member) who has access to the account’s credentials.

Remember nothing is truly private on social media. 

Think about your comments, photos or other content before posting, remembering that anything you share on social media, even within closed networks such as direct messages, becomes or can become publicly available information. Your content can be stored and shared around the world instantly. If it’s not something that you would share with mainstream media, don’t post it on your site.

Separate personal from professional.

A single hand holding a cell phone. Content that you might share on a personal media site may not be appropriate for sharing on an official College site. Given the public availability of website information, it is also worth considering how you are represented on your personal site as it relates to your work at Amherst and how that personal site might lead to your being perceived in your role as a faculty or staff member.

For more on personal use, see our Personal Use Policy.

Be careful with confidential and proprietary information (including photos).

  • Use of copyrighted music, audio, photo, illustration, graphic, gif or video without a license of permission may expose Amherst College to financial liability for copyright infringement. Unless a license has been purchased for use of copyright material, media used on any College-sponsored account must have been originally created by Amherst College, must be in the public domain or must have explicit permission for use from the original content creator.
  • Do not include personally identifiable information that can be used to locate any individual without that person’s written permission.
  • Images posted on social media sites can easily be appropriated by those visiting the site. Take care in particular when using images of minors (including admitted students), not least because stringent legal requirements apply. Generally speaking, avoid using such images on social media unless you are absolutely sure they are your property, pose no risk to anyone and might be repurposed elsewhere without causing any harm.

When in doubt, ask. 

Contact the Office of Communications with any questions about social media at social@amherst.edu.