Social Media

This page covers the following topics: Use the proper identities and icons, Provide a disclaimer and register your effort, Pay attention to how you conduct yourself, Pay attention to the content you provide, and Join the Facebook Conversation.

It's important to look for the best ways to engage new and existing audiences. Social media (such as Facebook, Twitter, and blogs) are engaging tools that have been growing in popularity.

So what social media should you use? What is the best way to reach your audience? How do you make your efforts worthwhile for your readers, Purdue Agriculture, and Purdue Extension? This page will help answer these questions and provide you with useful information that will help you reach new audiences to effectively communicate and market Purdue Agriculture and Purdue Extension. Purdue Marketing & Media also offers a Guide to Social Media that provides guidelines for the University — please note that registering your social media presence with us satisfies Marketing & Media's requirement.

Use the Proper Identities and Icons

In social media (and all communication) an effective, professional, and well-branded appearance is important. To foster consistency among Purdue Agriculture and Purdue Extension social media sites, we have developed profile pictures, plus the guidelines and etiquette for using social media.

Do not use these images as your personal profile picture on social media sites. Use them only for social media pages you administer for Purdue Agriculture, Purdue Extension, the Department of Agricultural Communication, or Agriculture Information Technology.

Remember the naming conventions for Purdue Extension county offices. Always list Purdue Extension first, then use a hyphen between Purdue Extension and your county name. Do not use any other punctuation and do not list the county first. Example:

Purdue Extension-Sample County
Purdue Extension-Tippecanoe County

Faculty and on-campus staff should also use these icons - choose the one that best fits your program. For consistent naming, we recommend that you list Purdue Agriculture or Purdue Extension first, then a hyphen, and then your name or program. Example:

Purdue Agriculture-Office of Academic Programs
Purdue Extension-Weed Science


Provide a Disclaimer and Register Your Effort

Purdue Marketing & Media requires all social media sites to include a disclaimer in the profile. For Facebook or Twitter pages, the disclaimer should be:

"Opinions expressed on this site may not represent the official views of Purdue University."

When you create an official Purdue Extension or Purdue Agriculture social media profile, register your effort with our social media directory.

Adding your social media presence to this directory helps us share your work with others and allows you to more easily keep tabs on others. Registering with our social media directory also satisfies the Purdue Marketing & Media registration requirement (so you don't have to register twice).

The full directory
The campus-based directory
The county-based directory

Social Media Guidelines

When you use social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) in your professional activities, it's important to observe general guidelines and remember basic social media etiquette. The sections below are meant to guide you. Broadly speaking, there are three things you need to pay attention to in social media:

  • How you conduct yourself
  • How you interact with others
  • The content you provide

Pay Attention to How You Conduct Yourself

Just like any setting, you must first pay attention to how you conduct yourself on social media sites. On social media sites, always remember to:

Use the right identity

Because we are part of a public institution, we strongly recommend that you do not obscure your identity using a fictitious, "character"-like name. Use the privacy settings the social media site offers to protect your personal information, but do not hide behind a false identity.

If you have a personal Facebook profile page, then you should administer a separate page for your professional activities. For example, you may have a personal profile page as Joe Boilermaker and administer another page as Purdue Extension-Sample County. If you are a Facebook page administrator, you have the option of making personal posts (as yourself) or of making professional posts (as the page you administer). You can go back and forth between these separate identities using the Account menu on Facebook.

Draw a Line Between the Personal and Professional

When you list your employer in your profile (personal or professional), anything you post can be linked to the agency or university.

And if, on your personal profile page, you "friend" colleagues or clients in Facebook or have them among your followers for Twitter, etc., be aware that your account is no longer just a private or personal account. Anything you post not only influences how others perceive you, your posts may also reflect on Purdue Agriculture, Purdue Extension, or Purdue University.

For example, if your Facebook profile photo shows you doing something, well personal, or if you post a status update or tweet that contains a complaint about monthly reports, a political comment, or even a derogatory opinion of another university's football team, that information can reflect poorly on you and on Purdue.

Protect yourself. Remember that your social media activity, whether personal or professional, is always public.

Use an 'Official' Profile Picture

If you are representing Purdue Agriculture or Purdue Extension, use the social media graphics we have created. Using these profile pictures on the pages that you administer maintains brand identity. However, never use these Purdue Extension or Purdue Agriculture icons for your personal use, nor use them outside social media.

Use the Official Name

Pay attention to the official names of the programs or areas you represent. In particular, don't forget the naming conventions for Purdue Extension county offices. Always list Purdue Extension first, then use a hyphen, and then provide your county name. Do not use any other punctuation and do not list the county first. Example:

Purdue Extension-Sample County
Purdue Extension-Tippecanoe County

If you'd like to include your program area or program, include it after your county name. Examples:

Purdue Extension-Sample County 4-H

Campus and statewide Extension faculty and staff also should follow these guidelines.

For other faculty and staff, list Purdue Agriculture first, then hyphen, then your name, class or program.

Purdue Agriculture-Office of Multicultural Programs
Purdue Agriculture-YDAE 460 (Agricultural Publishing)

Pay Attention to How You Interact with Others

The next step in social media is to monitor how you interact with others. On social media sites, always remember to:

Participate as a Peer

Most social media environments are communities of equals, not classrooms with instructors. An important element of your credibility is your ability to communicate authentically and respectfully as a member of the community. And the credibility of Purdue Agriculture and Purdue Extension in the social media world (just like they do in the real world) depend upon your credibility.

Engage Followers, Don't Promote

Research shows that 70 percent of Facebook users who "like" a company or organization do not believe they have given that organization permission to send them marketing messages. So do not just push out promotional messages to your friends and fans. Instead, engage them with questions, dialogue, invitations to comment, and useful information.

In the social media environment, think of yourself as a good host. You want to keep conversations going, not corner your guests with every sales pitch. If you're always selling and promoting, people stop coming to see you.

Respect Privacy and Safety

Do not post photos or identifying information about other adults unless you have their written consent (if needed, download the official release form here).

And never share identifying information about children (information that would enable a stranger to find them) on public pages or posts to public pages.

Be Vigilant and Responsible

Administrators for social media sites must be prepared to monitor comments and posts by others (including external visitors) for professionalism. At a minimum, site administrators should spend a couple of minutes at the beginning of each day monitoring social media activity.

If anyone posts something profane or inappropriate on your page, delete it without comment. Do not repost or retweet it, even to point out its errors. Doing so just spreads the negativity further and may even make it seem to have originated with you.

If someone repeatedly posts inappropriate content, block that person from using the features available on the site.

However, users will post comments that are critical of Purdue Agriculture or Purdue Extension. You should not immediately remove them from the page. Rather, respond to them in the same way you would respond to a person who visits or calls your office with a complaint or criticism. Address the individual's concerns professionally and courteously. To simply remove all dissent removes the social from social media.

The U.S. Air Force has an excellent resource about dealing with difficult social media visitors (PDF).

Stay Plugged In

Participate in other social media efforts that are relevant to your work. Write on their Facebook walls, comment on their blogs, post to discussion forums, and follow their Twitter feeds. Include links back to you (if it does not happen automatically, as it does in Facebook and Twitter). All these interactions will build visibility and credibility for you.

Be sure to monitor your messages. Being plugged in to social media means that you must respond promptly to comments on your wall, feed, or posts. It also means paying attention to what others are saying about you and reposting. If somebody reposts or retweets your information, be sure to thank that person - this is the social part of social media.

And be sure to register with and keep tabs on our social media directory.

Pay Attention to the Content You Provide

The last piece of the social media puzzle is to provide good content. On social media sites, always remember to:

Represent Purdue Agriculture or Purdue Extension

When you use social media for professional activities, be sure that your posts are valuable to your friends, readers, or followers. Make the information as complete and accurate as possible within the medium, just as you would in a face-to-face presentation. Remember, you are representing Purdue Agriculture or Purdue Extension.

Keep the following tips in mind:

  • Do not engage in arguments or vent frustrations. Communicate respectfully and positively with your contacts. Avoid political, religious, racial, or other comments that would reflect poorly on Purdue.
  • Keep your posts friendly and engaging. Behave just like you would in face-to-face interactions. This is your opportunity to put a human face on our organization in the social media space, so do not use overly technical or bureaucratic language.
  • Respond promptly and courteously. This is especially important if you are contacted by a member of the media. Many media professionals are monitoring social media for leads on stories, and this could be a great way for you to build relationships and visibility in the mass media, too. If you need guidance on handling a media request, contact Purdue Agricultural Communication.

Respect Copyrights, Intellectual Property, and Confidential and Proprietary Information

Do not share information, images, or other items that are copyrighted by another organization or are the intellectual property of anyone other than yourself unless you're sharing official Purdue news and information.

When in doubt, do not post it.

Boost Our Presence

Participate in social media in ways that add to Purdue Agriculture and Purdue Extension's popularity, credibility, and ratings. Here are some specific strategies:

  • "Like" Purdue Agriculture- and Purdue Extension-related pages in Facebook
  • List Purdue Agriculture and Purdue Extension pages in your Favorites
  • Follow Purdue Agriculture and Purdue Extension Twitter feeds
  • Subscribe to Purdue Agriculture and Purdue Extension blogs or RSS feeds
  • Rate and comment on Purdue Agriculture and Purdue Extension videos on YouTube
  • "Like" or comment on status updates in Facebook
  • Post your own images and videos and comments on Purdue Agriculture and Purdue Extension pages
  • Retweet Purdue Agriculture and Purdue Extension posts in Twitter
  • Add Purdue Agriculture and Purdue Extension videos and recordings to your playlists on YouTube
  • Participate in Facebook discussions

If a Facebook page already exists for a Purdue Agriculture or Purdue Extension program, or an account is already established for a program in another social medium, interact as a peer with your clients and participants on those existing pages instead of creating a new page. Using existing accounts will make those sites more active, and boost the visibility of your work as well as the program.

If you are extremely active on that page, contact the administrator and ask about becoming a co-administrator.

Check out the Purdue Agriculture and Purdue Extension social media registry to find out what already exists:

The full directory
The campus-based directory
The county-based directory

Provide Content Regularly

To use social media professionally, you need to participate frequently and meaningfully.

If you don't have new content, then consider posting a question that prompts others to participate and share information. But if you really do not have anything to say, do not post. You might check out some Purdue Agriculture and Purdue Extension resources that you can share, such as Purdue News, Ag Answers, Connections, or Making a Difference. Consider posting a story or page from these sites once a week or so.

Keep Content Interesting

Vary your posts to keep followers interested. Post newsy updates, share links to other Web-based resources, include photos or videos, ask questions, or request input or feedback. Post information that relates to issues current in other media, such as news or weather reports.

Keep Followers Engaged

When someone posts a question, answer it promptly and publicly where others can see your response. Other visitors may have the same question, and visibly interacting with visitors builds your credibility. Don't be discouraged if you don't receive responses to your questions initially. It may take time to build up some rapport with your followers.

Also, be sure to post engaging content. Social media is not one-way communication, so be sure to provide content that invites followers to engage with you and with others. Don't just post upcoming events or news releases.

Be sure to thank people for retweeting, or reposting items you have shared.

Provide Original Content

Write content specifically for the forum where you post it. Do not just copy and paste from other sources. One social media expert recommends beginning a Facebook post with a question that prompts a quick, easy answer from your friends or fans. Then, follow, within the same post or in a comment on it, with the information you want to share.

When you share a Web link, write a brief description of it in your post, along with the link. This way, you are telling your followers why you have chosen it for them and why you believe it is relevant to them, and not just launching them off into cyberspace.

As a user of social media, pay attention to messages that generate good responses and lively discussions on the pages and accounts you like to visit. Use those posts as models for constructing your own.


Join the Facebook Conversation

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Post interesting and relevant content
    • Upcoming events, deadlines, or classes
    • Education Store materials that go along with relevant issues
    • Third-party articles about Extension, agriculture, etc.
  • Repost comments by other users as status updates (if they have value)
  • Post photos and videos
    • People are more likely to respond to photos and videos than text status updates
  • Update your page regularly
  • Ask questions
  • Share stories
  • Like other pages
  • Use your page to sponsor Facebook Events

Adapted with permission from:

Texas A&M University
Elizabeth Gregory North
AgriLife Communications
January 6, 2009


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