Voice & Tone

JMU’s social media voice needs to work for how we speak to our many audiences. It needs to be strike a balance between being urgent and timeless, authentic and professional, colloquial and authoritative.

Even if the person managing account changes, or if there are multiple people running one account, the voice and tone should be consistent and aligned with what is outlined below.

Be straightforward: Information embedded in long captions and copy can be easily missed by users.

  • Simplify copy for graphics to only the most necessary information.
  • Leave descriptors for captions.
  • Make sure key information such as dates and times are emphasized and shown upfront.
  • Keep your captions focused.
  • Examples
    • Graphics Copy
      • Less like: “Join JMU Student Alumni Association for the 5th annual Quadfest! The events kicks off Friday October 12th at 7:30pm under the portico of Wilson Hall.”
      • More like: “JMU SAA Quadfest. 10/12 @ 7:30pm. Wilson Steps.”
    • Captions
      • Less like: “Every year, thousands of JMU seniors complete their final semester of classes and walk across stage at graduation. They come from many different majors and student involvements. For these students, this is an exciting but bittersweet time. Congratulations, Class of 2018, it’s been an amazing journey.”
      • More like: “Congratulations to the Class of 2018. What an amazing year it has been!”

Be interesting: While the length of captions should be limited, the information they convey should still remain engaging.

  • Use short quotes to introduce subjects.
  • Ask questions.
  • Build intrigue.
  • Examples
    • Less like: “Dr. Heather Coltman has been Provost for six months. See what she’s learned from being here: bit.ly/Coltman.”
    • More like: “I found what really makes this place special is the people.” Dr. Heather Coltman reflects on her first six months of being Provost at JMU: bit.ly/Coltman.”
    • Less like: “JMU students studied conservation at a local farm for their environmental science class.”
    • More like: “Students learn chemistry and physics in the classroom, but to apply their studies, they head to the farm.”

Temper excitement: Although social copy should seem approachable and fun to students, there still needs to remain a sense of seriousness in how the university presents itself. We are a university with a rich history of educating informed citizens for more than 100 years, and our writing style needs to reflect that. If you are unsure if something sounds too casual, it probably does.

  • Don’t use slang or other jargon not directly related to JMU.
  • Avoid using multiple exclamation points in posts. Especially back to back.
  • Greatly limit use of emojis. If using emojis, only include them occasionally and in a limited fashion at the end of the rest of the written caption. Emojis can hamper accessibility (for those using text readers), and are not capable across all devices and operating systems. Used too frequently, they can also make posts seem forced and unprofessional. Avoid using emojis on Facebook. Keep Emojis on Twitter and Instagram.
  • Examples
    • Limiting exclamation points
      • Less like: “Welcome back to campus, Dukes! You’re home!!! It’s been an insanely long summer but it feels oh so nice to have you back!!!”
      • More like: “Welcome back to campus, Dukes! It’s been a long summer, but it’s nice to have you back on campus.”
    • Avoiding Emoji usage in critical communication
      • Less like: “📢📢📢 Announcement: Carrier Drive will be closed due to construction Monday, May 8th – Friday, May 13th 📆❌🚗.”
      • More like: “Carrier Drive will be closed due to construction Monday, 5/08 – Friday, 5/13.”
    • Limiting Emoji usage to casual posts. Research should stay professional.
      • Less like: “🐍Ever since pythons got loose in Florida in the 1990s, they have become an ecological nightmare, specifically in the Everglades. 🌱 JMU students are researching solutions toward managing the invasive species. 🔬📝 Read more from Madison➡️: bit.ly/MM-Snake.”
      • More like: “Ever since pythons got loose in Florida in the 1990s, they have become an ecological nightmare, specifically in the Everglades. JMU students are researching solutions toward managing the invasive species. Read more from Madison: bit.ly/MM-Snake.”
    • Limit Emoji usage a small number of emojis (1 or 2 per post):
      • Less like: “📢Good luck on your first day ☀️ of classes, Dukes💛💜!! 💯📝📓.”
      • More like: “Good luck on your first day of classes, Dukes! 📓.”

Stay professional: Any comment or caption made from a university-affiliated account could be represented as speaking on behalf of the university. Therefore, captions and copy need to be reflective of a professional and appropriate institution of higher education.

  • Avoid referencing controversial issues, especially outside an academic context.
  • This applies to sharing and retweeting as well.
  • Use University Approved acronyms and language.
  • Refrain from referencing yourself as the poster (i.e. avoid “I”, “me” or “we”).
  • Do not post or respond with memes.
  • Limit use of GIFs to branded GIFs.
  • Handle responding to comments with care.
  • Remove any comments that do not abide by the University Comment Policy (link coming soon).
  • If there is an overly negative issue that needs to be resolved, take the conversation out of a public setting and into a private message before responding.
  • Your comments should still abide by University tone and voice. Refrain from being overly-casual.
  • If in doubt, contact University Communications, and we will help you navigate the situation.
  • Examples
    • Referencing yourself
      • Less like: “We have a great culture of service on campus.” or “I have had only great experiences with the off-campus community.”
      • More Like: “There is a strong culture of service at JMU.” or “JMU has a great relationship with the rest of the Harrisonburg community.”
    • University approved names and language
      • Less like: “This upcoming Wednesday (4/05) ECL will be hosting group study sessions.”
      • More like: “This upcoming Wednesday (4/05) Rose Library will be hosting group study sessions.”
  • To avoid long links in captions and on graphics, use a link-shortener to create custom shareable links.
  • Create an account on Bit.ly.com.
  • Shorten and customize links to something with a naming structure that is repeatable (i.e. bit.ly/JMU-Grad-2018).
  • Avoid overgeneralizing your custom links, even if they’re still available (i.e.: bit.ly/Graduation).

Appropriate use

  • Branded hashtags
    • These hashtags are used to align your content with an overarching campaign (i.e. #JMUGrad, #JMU22, #JMUGivingDay, #JMUHomcoming) or brand (i.e. #JMU, #GoDukes).
    • These should be stylistically relevant to JMU (i.e. include ‘JMU’ or other specific JMU elements in their name).
    • Their use should be limited and strategic. Consult with socialmedia@jmu.edu if you have questions about starting one.
  • Discovery hashtags
    • These hashtags can be added to a post to increase discoverability and tie content to trending topics (i.e. holidays).
    • These can help your content get in front of users who aren’t following you by increasing your chances of appearing in the ‘search’ or ‘explore’ tabs of Instagram and Twitter.
  • Examples: #campus, #dogs, #summer, #PresidentsDay
    • These hashtags should be relevant to the content posted.
    • Don’t use too many (use four or less).

Inappropriate use

  • Do not use hashtags randomly in your sentence structure. This can make your content seem desperate. See examples below.
    • “Hey Dukes, #haveagreat weekend!”
    • “It’s a #beautiful day in the #valley.”
    • “Finals are just a week away. #GetPrepared with a group study session at Carrier library!”
  • Hashtags should be specific (#JMU) or general (#summer). Avoid the vague middle ground (#WeekendReading).
  • These are too specific to connect your content with a new audience through discovery, and aren’t specific enough to effectively brand it as your own or be related to the University.
  • Do not use hashtags that are tied to controversial subjects. Hashtags are often trending for negative reasons. When in doubt, leave it out.
    • i.e. “Come try out the new four-cheese pizza at E-Hall #PizzaGate”

GIFs (Graphic Interchange Format) can be a creative way to add content to social accounts, but they need to be branded and should be used minimally.

  • Do not pull GIFs from the web. Use pre-made University-branded GIFs in the JMU GIF Library or create your own with your visual branded assets.
  • Like other images or assets pulled from the internet, GIFs are subject to copyright law. Individuals often create and share GIFs with little concern about repercussions, but organizations need to be cautious and aware of the regulations concerning this media format.

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