Social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, are essential tools for keeping your alumni community virtually connected. These platforms are great for sharing timely updates and making connections with a large population of alumni. Whether your group is already on social media or if you are thinking about giving it a try, here are some best practices to keep in mind:

Recruit a social media administrator

If your alumni group does not already have an administrator, select one or two volunteers to administer your group’s social media accounts.

Develop a social media engagement strategy

It is important to implement engagement activities that will allow your community members to share stories, messages, and photos, to name a few. Work with your social media administrator to develop ways to get your members involved. You could ask them questions, play Harvard trivia, or share memories. This is your platform to engage with your group in a way that is meaningful to you all.

Establish group guidelines

With Facebook groups, setting guidelines can help establish the group's purpose and set expectations for members. As a first step, we recommend polling your members in order to establish how you, as a group, would like the page to function and the topics in which you would like to discuss or avoid.

Once established, we recommend creating a pinned post at the top of your page that highlights these group-generated guidelines. To pin a post, click on the edit pencil icon in the top right-hand corner of a status update that you would like to pin. A dropdown menu will appear, choose “Pin to Top.” To unpin a post, click on the same edit pencil icon and you will see the option to unpin the post in the dropdown menu.

View more information on Facebook polling

Your pinned guidelines might look something like this:

Welcome to the Harvard Class of XXXX Facebook group, which provides a platform for our Class to connect over events, news, conversations, and more. Run by fellow Class of XXXX alumni, we hope this group serves as a positive and inclusive place for us to continue building class community. In order to maintain a fun and psychologically safe space for all members, we ask you to follow these guidelines:

  • Posts should mostly have something to do with Harvard: Schools, alumni in the news, virtual event promotion, etc.
  • Political posts should be for scholarly debate and discussion of issues. If political posts result in personal attacks, they may be limited.
  • Personal insults, insinuations, and ad hominem attacks are not tolerated. Such comments and the person making them may be removed and blocked from this group immediately without warning.
  • Fundraising, donations, petitions, and signature campaigns will be approved on a case by case basis. Non partisan causes that have something to do with Harvard or alumni are preferred.
  • Posts should include a sentence with context, relevance, etc.: Why are you posting it here?
  • Posts must be approved by the moderator(s) before they are posted, at least in the short term, until people get accustomed to these guidelines.

Build a system to approve and decline posts

One way to keep a positive environment in your Facebook group is to update the settings so that moderators must approve a member’s post before it can be shown. In order to do this, click on the three dots on the group page and select “Edit Group Settings.” Scroll down and under “Post Approval,” check the box “All Group Posts Must Be Approved by an Admin or a Moderator,” and then click “Save.” Now, when someone posts in the group, you'll get a notification that a post needs approval. This way, you can ensure that posts submitted to the group fit within the agreed-upon guidelines.

If you receive a post that is deemed inappropriate based on the group guidelines, it is recommended you contact that person to let them know that their post has not been approved and the reason why.

Here is some sample language you can use:

“Thank you for submitting a post to the Class of XXXX Facebook group. In order to ensure this group fosters a sense of inclusivity for all members, we have chosen to review all posts prior to making them public. At this time, the moderator(s) have determined that your post content goes against our group guidelines. We encourage you to review these guidelines on the pinned post in the group. Feel free to resubmit your content once you have recast it to fit within our agreed-upon community guidelines.”

Manage inappropriate comments and other feedback

Sometimes comments on posts can be offensive or inappropriate. Since there is not a system to approve/deny comments in Facebook groups or on other platforms like Twitter, we suggest you respond to such comments in a positive, even-toned manner.

Unless the comment is completely irrelevant or aggressive in nature, we suggest replying to the comment instead of deleting it (although, we leave this up to your judgment). When replying to the comment, thank them for engaging and remind them of your group guidelines and suggest that it might be helpful to recast their comment in a more inclusive fashion.

Other times, your own content may miss the mark and constructive feedback could be provided by members/followers. We encourage replies in these instances as well. Remember, when replying, thank the commenter for their response and explain the intent behind the post. Let them know you appreciate their perspective and update your content if necessary.

Promote your accounts

Use email communications as well as your networks to promote your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram sites to your broader alumni community. Email your community “teasers” about what is happening on your social media accounts with hyperlinks to them.

Keep your audience engaged

  • At least once a week engage your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram communities. You can start by implementing the ideas shared in this toolkit and develop a list of additional engagement activities.
  • Activities can be as simple as asking a question or doing a quick poll to get people’s opinions on a topic. “Like” posts and use hashtags.
  • Welcome new members to your communities. Keep in mind that commenting helps us connect more.
  • By commenting, you support the function of algorithms that help deliver relevant content to Harvard alumni all around the world.