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Social Media Style Guide

University Marketing and Communications uses AP Style to guide social post messaging, however it is a guide, not a mandate. If a social post needs to deviate from AP Style for messaging and tonal purposes, we do.

Below are some of the University's social guidelines we use to craft consistent social messaging.



Capitalize a person's title only directly before his or her name. Official names of campus buildings, programs, majors and clubs should always be capitalized.

For example:

  • Barry H. Dunn is the president of South Dakota State University.
  • SDSU President Barry H. Dunn is now the 20th school president.
  • Join us today at the Larson Commons for 50 percent off of all desserts!


Terms like journalism, dairy science and nursing should not be capitalized unless they are a part of an SDSU program, major or service.

For example:

  • Tim decided to study dairy science when he found out about the 100 percent job placement.
  • Tim is enrolled in the Department of Dairy and Food Science at State.
  • Tim is enrolled in the dairy and food science department at State.

Company and product names

Follow an organization’s conventions as to how it capitalizes and punctuates its names. Many organizations incorporate capital letters or punctuation into the middle of their names.

For example:

  • iPod, IHOP, PayPal, Yahoo!, YouTube For a company or product with all lowercase letters, use an initial capital letter. For company names that start with a lowercase letter but includes a capital letter (i.e., eBay), follow the company’s capitalization.


Image attribution

When interested in using pictures from Pinterest, Flickr or other online sources, trace the picture as far back as possible. Pictures on Pinterest that do not link back to a valid website should not be used, since credit cannot be provided. In cases where credit can be determined, always provide attribution. If a picture is provided from a student, the subject of attribution should be discussed before the picture is shared or used.

For example:

  • Image Credit: Linked Source
  • Thanks to sophomore John Doe for this beautiful picture of the SDSU campus.



Capitalize the first word after the colon if what follows the colon could function alone as a complete sentence.

For example:

  • It’s finally here: the SDSU Hobo Day celebration!
  • It’s finally here: The SDSU Hobo Day celebration starts tonight!


Hyphens are used to mean to, up to and including, or through, in a range of numbers, dates, etc. They also used to hyphenate words and create compound words. If you are unsure whether a word is one word or a hyphenated word, check the online Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Em dashes

On the other hand, an em dash is used to set apart phrases from the main body of a sentence.

For example:

• SDSU’s pharmacy program isn’t just one of the best in the state—it’s one of the best in the nation.

Responses to other organizations

If an organization with which you have worked contacts you on social media, acknowledge the contact. Either re-post/tweet its shout-out, or draft your own post mentioning it. At the very least, “like” or “follow” the organization’s social platforms.

If an organization with which you have not worked contacts you on social media, contact your social media manager. Be sure that this is a verified organization that you would support before acknowledging it on social media.

Commonly troublesome words/terms

  1. SMART boards. These are interactive, digital whiteboards. It should always be fully capitalized since it is a brand name.

  2. Tablet. The word “tablet” should not be capitalized unless it is part of a brand name.

  3. University Center - Sioux Falls. This term should utilize a hyphen instead of an em dash. The abbreviation for this center is “UC-SF.”

Tagging and hashtags

Tagging or using hashtags is always recommended as a way to increase the reach of your post and provide attribution. When you are tagging, always click through the “suggested” profile to tag, since you do not want to link to a profile that is not official.

Here are times you should and should not tag others in your posts:

You SHOULD tag:

  • Another business, corporation or organization that was a part of the project you are referencing
  • When on Twitter or Instagram, an individual if he or she is a public figure or gave you express permission to do so


  • Individuals who are not public figures, even if they are following your page/account
  • Businesses with whom you have not worked in the past unless they are nationally recognized brands (i.e., Hostess, the New York Times, Nike, etc.)
  • Hashtags are a great way to categorize your posts. You should never use more than two to three hashtags in one post. You can use humorous hashtags as well as those relevant to your post topic. Although it is acceptable to post without hashtags on Facebook, the majority of posts on Twitter and Instagram should contain at least one relevant hashtag.


The SDSU voice should be youth-friendly and oriented, but inclusive.

Social posts SHOULD:

  • Be fun and playful
  • Share photos and videos that are fun
  • Showcase the unique parts of SDSU
  • Use full sentences and correct grammar
  • Get involved in digital trends or trending topics, as long as they are fun, light, time-relevant, appropriate
  • Be posted every day
  • Be positive.

Social posts SHOULD NOT:

  • Use trendy terms that adults will not understand
  • Use initials, names or in any way imply that more than one person is posting to SDSU channels
  • Post inappropriate content (anything including/referencing sexual activity, drugs, alcohol, profanity)
  • Post about controversial topics (politics, religion, the legal system, sexuality, medical conditions, etc.)
  • Be posted more than twice a day (depending on the platform)
  • Be negative, even if the content is relevant to your business—avoid negative or potentially negative topics unless it is necessary to reference

Extenuating circumstances (bad news apologies)

National/regional crises

Pause all posting until the social media supervisor can be contacted for further direction. The supervisor will then determine whether or not this crisis necessitates social postponement. (Note: Do not post a message related to a crisis unless it is determined to be necessary by the social media supervisor. Brands should avoid messages or comments on a tragedy, even when that message is one of sympathy unless they have a pressing reason to comment.)

School crises

Pause all posting until the social media supervisor can be contacted for further direction. We suggest having an online crisis manager who will take lead in school crisis situations. This manager will determine what information to release and how to respond to comments/ questions on social platforms.

Negative review/post

If the post is on your business profile on Facebook, “hide” the post until the social media supervisor can be reached. There are different steps to take depending on the type of post.

For example:

  • If a post is inflammatory, offensive or hurtful: Delete this post, when authorized by the social media supervisor. Please remember that deleting a post is akin to losing a social media contact. Therefore, posts should only be deleted when that social media contact is no longer valued (due to his or her offensive or hurtful comments).
  • If a post expresses a legitimate, negative experience: If a social media contact writes about a negative experience on social media, take it as an opportunity to redeem yourselves. Draft a response to present to the social media supervisor. Remember that the purpose of this post is not to be defensive but to reassure all of your customers that this problem will not arise again. With critique and negative feedback, remember that “canned” answers do not help your cause. Craft a different response for every post. Example response: Hi (Contact). We’re so sorry to hear that your admissions experience was not what you had hoped. At SDSU, we pride ourselves on creating a community full of smart, passionate students. Unfortunately, that requires us to be exclusive in our admissions process. We appreciate how interested you are in SDSU, and we want to encourage you to apply again! If you have questions about how you can make your admissions package more competitive, please feel free to contact one of our helpful admissions representatives at 605-688-XXXX.
  • If you have posted a response and the customer responds again, still unsatisfied, it is time to take the conversation off of social media. You should never become involved in a back-and-forth argument/discussion on social media. End the conversation, or reach out to the customer via direct message, phone or email.