Social media is a powerful communications tool. So is language. Both shape our perception of the world in both subtle and obvious ways. As social media managers and marketers, that power comes with responsibility.
This fall, Colorado State University’s Inclusive Communications committee developed a best practices quick guide for inclusive communications for campus communicators. Rooted in CSU’s Principles of Community (Inclusion, Integrity, Respect, Service, Social Justice), the following recommendations from the committee are ways to make social media channels inclusive. The suggestions are not official policy, required/mandatory or enforced. These suggestions for campus communicators are general best practices, and it is worth noting that language is always evolving and individual preferences will vary.
1. Use inclusive pronouns (they/them/theirs, students, Rams, everyone).
2. Use the default yellow emojis when addressing a diverse audience.
3. Avoid gendered emojis if possible.
Instead consider using one of the variations of the yellow smiley faces or object emojis.
4. Don’t assume gender or identity online.
Address people by their names or usernames when responding to their comments and messages. This is particularly important for customer care/service interactions on social media.
5. Use people-first language (person with a disability vs disabled) unless the person indicates another preference.
An individual’s preference for how they want to be identified should always come first. That way, for example, if someone uses something other than people-first language to identify themselves, the content creator knows to honor that.
6. Include descriptions on photos and captions on videos (for context and screen readers).
7. Use title case for hashtags for screen readers (#ProudToBe #ColoradoState #CSURams).
9. Share multiple voices and perspectives.
Proud To Be A CSU Ram is our student-run Instagram. A different student hosts the account each and every week.
This is the video we (#CSUSocial) produced during move-in this year.
10. Establish community guidelines.
Community guidelines inform social media users of how they may engage with a social media channel. Guidelines encourage users to engage with the brand and one another in a respectful and inclusive manner – and to keep discussions on topic. This is also an opportunity to let users know that obscenities, profanities, personal attacks, threatening, harassing, discriminatory, trolling, hate speech, inappropriate or abusive content and defamatory comments are not permitted and will be deleted.