Social Media Strategy 101

A brief guide for how and why to engage on social media


Social media enables you to share what is happening in your part of our College with the world, and, more importantly, lets you hear directly and immediately from students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni, fans and friends about what is important to them.

This two-way conversation is what makes social media different from other forms of institutional communications.

It’s important to have well-thought-out goals, strategies and tactics for your social media work. These are ours:

  • Listen, engage and learn
  • Share our College’s best content to increase brand awareness
  • Tell our story, our whole story, including our research

What are you trying to achieve?

Social media is a tool, not a solution.

What are you trying to make happen by posting to social media? Are you trying to attract or retain program participants? Are you looking for volunteers, study participants, donations, funding or to hire someone? Find your why.

Your why is your goal. Don’t go getting on social until you get this nailed down. And, once you’re on social, ensure that every single thing you do there is in service of your goals and only your goals.

If it doesn’t help you to achieve your goal, don’t post it.

Who are you trying to reach?

Once you know what your goals are, you’ll be able to figure out whose help you’re going to need in order to accomplish your goals. Those are the people you’re trying to reach.

They could be funders, elected officials, industry sectors, selected groups of people, students, prospects, alumni, friends, influencers, etc.

For example, if you’re looking to hire a new professor, researcher or Extension professional, you’ll need good candidates to fulfill your goal. The candidates themselves could help you, as could recruiters. So, your audience is prospective candidates and recruiters.

What do they want to hear?

The people you’re trying to reach want to hear about things that are important to them. They want to know “What’s in it for me?” So, tell them how what you’re doing is benefitting them. 

For example, tell them that youth in our 4-H Youth Development Program are more likely to be engaged in their communities, participate in science activities outside of school and go to college than are youth in other programs.

What do you need them to hear?

Purpose-driven stories

Then, combine that “What’s in it for me?” message that they want to hear with what we need them to hear: purpose-driven stories that are interesting, easy to follow AND

  • Take data and information and give it a personality, make it relatable.
  • Bring life and meaning to our brand and its values.
  • Forge a connection or bridge between the College and the reader.
  • Leave the reader with the belief that “the College (and its Units) improves my life.”

Story topics

The topics of those stories should be things that:

  • Are practical, research-based
  • You (or your staff, students, program participants, etc.) can speak briefly about
  • Are relevant, timely, interesting
  • Clearly support our mission
    • Our College and its Units are improving lives, growing our state, teaching others and/or inspiring people to make positive changes.
    • Our employees, volunteers, members and partners serve our state.
    • Our programs deliver University research to Nevada communities to address their needs.
    • Our programs empower people and communities to lead happier and healthier lives and make better-informed decisions.

Story format

And the stories themselves should be:

  • Tailored to your audience, the people whose help you need to achieve your goal
    • Who needs to know?
    • Who is affected?
    • Why should they care?
  • Well-told
    • Introduce characters, settings, challenge
      • Who’s involved?
      • What are they doing?
      • Where and when are they doing it?
      • What conflict or challenge are they facing?
      • Why does it matter?
    • Highlight benefits, outcomes
      • How did they address the issue?
      • What does it mean to the audience?
    • In our audiences’ language 
      • Clear, easy to understand

How do they want to hear it?

Once you know what your goals are, whose help you need to accomplish them and how to tell your story in a way that matters to them, your next step is to figure out where to tell that story.

Things to think about as you decide where to post

  • Where does your target audience go for info?
  • When is your target audience there?
  • What format do these platforms require?
  • Where should this story be shared internally?  

If you aren’t sure how to answer these questions, attend our College's monthly social media meetings. Email for more information.

Tips for all platforms
  • Be professional
    • You represent our College
      • You can bring people closer to us; you can push them away
      • Once something’s out on the internet, it’s near impossible to undo
      • So,
        • Be objective, research-based and informative
        • Be accurate. Proofread and fact check before posting
        • Be consistent in scheduling your posts
        • Be inspired by
          • Following and engaging with your audience and your colleagues
          • Using social media resources from:
            • Our University and College
            • Other agencies, such as 4-H
            • Social platforms
  • Be original
    • Post original content relating to you, your programs, your expertise
    • Use original images, they’re the most engaging for viewers
    • Ask for permission to use others’ stuff, and give credit
      • But, only use others’ stuff if it’s relevant to us, makes us look good
      • Our platforms should be about us
  • Be searchable and findable
    • Hashtags for joining conversations:
      • Highly recommended: #UNRExtension
      • If relevant: #Nevada4H, #LivingWithFire, #NevadaMasterGardeners
      • Best practice: hashtags your participants search for, follow, use
        • Ask them
        • Google it
      • Avoid: hashtags made up of jargons, acronyms, abbreviations and/or things we use internally
    • Handles: See List of College social media accounts
    • Add social media links to
      • Profile pages
      • Program pages
      • Email signatures
      • Marketing materials
      • Program materials
Tips for specific platforms
  • Add a location
  • Visual content performs best
  • Text performs well, if it’s engaging. If it’s too long, people likely won’t read it
  • Post about once a day during your audience’s peak hours
  • Post photos that tell a story
    • Active participation
    • Good lighting
    • In focus
  • Be short and sweet
    • Include in the description
      • Who
      • What
      • Where
      • When
      • Why
  • Post frequently, particularly during live events
  • Tweet a lot
  • Use only a couple of hashtags
  • Be short and sweet
    • Leave room for retweets and modified tweets (RTs, MTs)! 
  • Use short, clickable links at the end of your tweet
  • Tweet facts, statistics and news using text, links, images and videos
  • Post less frequently than other platforms
  • Professional content ONLY
    • Job postings
    • Success stories
    • Thought leadership
    • Professional and research news
    • Articles by qualified specialists in respected fields
  • Join, engage and network with relevant groups

What do you want them to do with what you have told them?

A clear purpose is a valuable guide. Start with the “Why?” 

Before writing a word, identify your primary goal. What do you want to accomplish with this story? What should happen as a result? Is your story meant to inform, educate, entertain, influence, report, etc.?

Constantly ask, “Does including this help or hinder my goal?”

Goal: Getting people to do the why.

How will you know if you’re successful?

  • Determine and capture metrics
  • Evaluate and repeat
    • Was your story heard?
    • What can you do better next time?

What are the rules and resources for this?

Expand the menu on the left side of this page for a list of University and College social media resources. Be sure to check out the list of College social media accounts and list of resources sections in the College social media policy.

Who is on your social team and how can/will they help?

  • Social isn’t for everyone
  • Going it alone is hard