Social Media Guide

This guide is for HSU employees and student-employees who have a role in coordinating social media on behalf of units at Humboldt State University. These guidelines and best practices are meant to help you use social media effectively and responsibly by:

  • Complying with law and policy
  • Building community
  • Promoting your club/major/department (which also promotes HSU!)
  • Being consistent with Humboldt State University guidelines

This is a dynamic guide which Marcom edits as trends change. If you have questions about your area’s social media, you may contact Marketing & Communications at 826-5565 or

Compliance: 8 Things You Need To Know


Running an HSU social media channel brings serious responsibilities. It’s important to remember you will be held to high standards of inclusion, fairness, neutrality, as well as the University code of conduct. Humboldt State University is an agency of the State of California government and its property is state property.

Your channel not only represents your department-- everything you post reflects, represents, and belongs to Humboldt State University

1. Commenters, Moderators, Neutrality, and Freedom of Speech

This is a dynamic topic, and the laws are far from clear. The CSU errs on the side of free speech.

With few exceptions, we do not ban users, block comments, hide comments, shadowban users, or do anything that silences a voice in a space in which commenting is available. In other words, if you’re going to allow comments, you allow all the comments. Even so, Humboldt State reserves the right to moderate discussions on our social media channels and encourages speech that is thoughtful, on-topic, and engaging.

 Under very legally-specific circumstances, exceptions may include, but are not limited to:

  • Hate speech
  • Threats and personal attacks
  • Libelous comments
  • Commercial speech, advertising and spam
  • Political or partisan views
  • Commercial endorsements
  • Privacy violations

Contact Marcom before deleting a comment. 

2. Consent

Privacy matters. If you’re posting a photo of someone who can be identified from the photo, you are required to get a signed model release from that person. It doesn’t matter if it’s on campus or off, on private property, or in public. It’s the law, and it’s also just a nice thing to do. 

Photographs of minors should generally be avoided. Parents need to sign consent forms on their behalf. Here is HSU's Model Release Form. 

The good news is, HSU has over 3,000 photos that you can use for HSU-related promotional purposes. These professional-quality photos are from campus, field trips, and our community. They feature people who’ve signed the model release. Each photo is metatagged so you should be able to find what you need.

3. Accessibility
Any video you post must have an option to turn on closed captioning for any audible communication. Subtitles are preferred, but if all the words appear onscreen in a way that ensures someone with impaired hearing still receives the entire message, you should be fine. This may change as screenreading technology develops and as more devices come into compliance with subtitle metadata. Please use descriptive metadata if the platform provides that functionality. 

4. Copyright
Making a video? Sharing a meme? Using a photo from the internet? We want all HSU-generated content in compliance with copyright laws so that artists, musicians, and content creators can control (and get paid for) their work. Be sure you have permission to post someone else’s work and give credit where credit is due. Copyright laws apply in social media just as they would elsewhere. This includes memes, background music for videos, photos from newspapers, and everything else that you didn't personally create from scratch. 

5. Resources: Logos, Brand Standards & Guidelines
Consistency counts. Do people use Founder's Hall or Founders Hall? Is the mascot Lucky The Logger or Lucky Logger? What font does HSU usually use? These questions and more are answered in the HSU Editorial Style Guide.

Use of University logos and visual identity on social media channels must comply with wordmark and graphics standards. Download Humboldt State logos, wordmarks and more here.

It is your responsibility to familiarize yourself with HSU crisis communication. Whether it's a criminal investigation, a public health issue, a natural disaster, controversy or any other crises - the rules change immediately.

6. Hashtags

Use #HumboldtState every time. It's the smartest way for would-be fans to find you. Use other hashtags if you like, but always include #HumboldtState. 

7. Appropriate Use of HSU Social Media

When posting to an HSU-affiliated channel*, you may be seen as speaking for the entire University. Authority to post to these channels is granted by your supervisor, who will also be held responsible for its content. 

Because you are representing Humboldt State and the CSU system, DO NOT post: hate speech, profanity, defamatory speech, personal attacks, drug or alcohol use, nudity or sexual content, personal information/images of individuals without their permission, views on campus policies or politics, business promotions, business promotions, commercial content, or copyrighted material. 

Newsmedia have quoted HSU social media posts as "official sources" when that was not the author's intention. This role is solely for HSU's spokespeople. 

8. Crisis Communications

Lastly, in the event of a campus crisis - be it a small power outage, controversy or major earthquake - DO NOT use HSU channels for crisis communications unless it is to refer people to HSU's primary communication channels. Even with the best of intentions, campus units have accidentally spread harmful misinformation and propagated rumors via HSU social media channels. It is imperative that you do not do so. 

In most circumstances, will have verified information during a crisis, and you can share that information widely. (See #5 above.)

If you struggle to answer “Is this appropriate for everyone at HSU as a whole?”, we suggest you abstain or contact Marcom before posting. 

 *Exceptions include campus clubs, informal organizations, and campus newsmedia

Getting Started: The Basics

Before Launching a Channel

Answering these questions will streamline your process and help you decide what to post and what not to post.

  • What do you want to communicate and why?
  • Who is your audience and what interests them about your department?
  • Who’s going to create posts and respond to messages?
  • What’s the best social media channel for your unit?
  • Have you contacted Marcom?

Which Channel?

  • Facebook still has, by far, the biggest audience, both in the world and for HSU. On HSU's page, its biggest demographic is women, 18-24.
  • Instagram is closing in on Facebook, but doesn’t easily allow you to share links yet. Instagram Stories are a great way to share time-sensitive news. Stories is now about as popular as the main Instagram Feed. (July 2019)
  • Twitter is a great place for event listings, and for sharing what’s coming up.
  • Snapchat, while still popular, provides minimal metrics and no ability to share links. It’s the most superficial platform, best suited for showing what your organization has done.
  • LinkedIn is a great way to help your students and alumni stay updated on professional milestones and upcoming opportunities.

Launching Your Social Media Channel

Choose a name that includes Humboldt State or HSU. Ex:;; Always identify Humboldt State in your name first, then a unit name, so people can easily find you.
Register your social profile to include your new site in our University Social Media Directory.Similarly, Marcom will be a designated backstop in case your account gets hacked, you lose your phone, or your toddler accidentally deletes Facebook, etc. Please contact Marcom to set this up.

Use a generic department email account. Do not use a personal email address.Include all department contact information in the profile section of your social media channel. Include a URL for your unit’s official Humboldt State page or another official HSU page, like

Best Practices – Tips & Tricks

Think of an informal get-together with some friends and friends-of-friends. You break the ice. You listen. You relate. You ask questions. You’re conversational, humble and polite. You don’t start passing out flyers or promoting yourself. HSU social media is the same way. It’s about educating, informing, and entertaining. Great posts do all three.

You've got a complicated subject matter. We can help guide you to effect communications practices, so feel free to set up an appointment.

  • Quality over Quantity - Don't worry about posting a lot. Consistency is important, but if you don’t have anything to say, don’t say something. We treat social media like a conversation, not advertising. 
  • Brevity - Social media users are skimming while they scroll and will typically skip posts with long captions. Research shows that captions with 80 characters or less get the most engagement. How long is 80 characters? "Research shows that captions with 80 characters or less get the most engagement" is 79 characters.
  • Stay on topic - Your audience follows you because there’s an expectation that you will provide some sort of service related to your field. If you ask yourself whether a certain post may not be focused enough - put it on your personal profile and not on the official profile. Each post should inform, empathize, or entertain in a style becoming of a university.
  • Value - Provide interesting information about your unit’s area of expertise.
  • Confidentiality - Do not share confidential information on a social media channel.
  • Third-person voice - Your department account isn't a personal account. 
  • Public Information - HSU frequently reposts HSU-affiliated content. If you don't want the world to see it, don't post it publicly.
  • Direct Messaging - Someone DMd you? Forward inquiries to the proper person as soon as possible.
  • Engagement - A goal of social media is to create a conversation or community among people who have something in common. Keeping that in mind will lead to a better experience with social media.

There's more, and Marcom is happy to help refine your specific channel.

Students in Class
Campus Shot