Diving deeper: In-depth social media guidance

Always use photos, captions and credits

For best results, you should always include a photo, caption and credit with your post. Social media is highly visual and a high quality photo is the easisest way to grab your audiences' attention.

If you don't have a visual to illustrate your post, check out the digital media library, Service Flickr accounts, or Creative Commons on Flickr.

Photo credits should be written as follows:

USFWS photos:

  • Photo: Short description of the photo by Photographer Name/USFWS.
  • Example: Photo: Dark-eyed junco by Katie Goodwin/USFWS.

Partner organization photos that you've been given permission to use:

  • Photo: Short description of the photo by Photographer Name/Organization. Short Flickr URL if applicable
  • Example: Photo: Bobcat by Bureau of Land Management. https://flic.kr/p/BFiEpD

Creative Commons photos:

  • Photo: Short description of the photo courtesy of Photographer Name/Creative Commons. Short Flickr URL
  • Example: Photo: Red-bellied woodpecker courtesy of Jen Goellnitz/Creative Commons. https://flic.kr/p/7MDMH2

Flickr search guide - no account needed

  1. Visit Flickr
  2. Type a keyword in the search box at the top and hit enter, or click search photos
  3. In the upper left, change "any license" to "all creative commons"
  4. Copyrighted photos will be filtered out
  5. Find the photo you'd like to use and open it
  6. Inspect the photo to ensure it high quality and free of watermarks
  7. In the bottom right corner under the date, you'll see Creative Commons symbols - click to learn more about the permissions for the photo you've selected and read these carefully
  8. If the photo meets your needs, look for three buttons in the bottom right of the photo: favorite, share and download
  9. Download the photo, click the share button to copy the short URL and write your photo caption and credit

Creative Commons is a way for content creators to distribute their work for open use under specific guidelines. The least restrictive license is the Attribution license, which allows anyone to use the photo for any reason as long as they provide a photo credit and link back with license details. The most efficient way to do this is to include the Flickr short URL after the photo credit.

The best posts are short and sweet

Think about your own social media habits. We often check our feeds on lunch breaks, on our mobile devices while waiting in line, or during any random spare minute. Today's world is fast and on the go, and when it comes to reading a lot of text in a Facebook post, well to quote Sweet Brown, "Ain't nobody got time for that."

The most successful posts are short and sweet, with a link to provide additional information for folks who are interested. If your post is long, Facebook will truncate it, forcing viewers to click "See More" to see the entire thing. While some audiences may be highly invested and take the time to click "See More," the vast majority will not.

Aim to keep posts short and to the point. Aim for two to three short, easy to read sentences. Think about ways to shorten the text without reducing the information. Consider using a digit instead of writing out a number or abbreviating a state. If your post is longer, see if there is any information that can be cut or split into a second post for another time (this is also a great way to stretch content). These are just 2 examples of ways to cut length without cutting content. If you feel you must provide all of the information in one post, consider linking to a website with the appropriate information or posting a comment on your post with more information.

Don't beg! Let your content do the talking

We've all seen "begging" posts. It may be "like our page to help us reach x number of likes" or "share if you really love kittens." Maybe you've even given in once or twice and shared the post because you do think the kitten is adorable. Conscious or not we've all developed "filters" for our Facebook feeds, and a sure-fire way to turn away followers is by asking them to like you instead of showing them why they should.

Let's think about it in real world terms. If you go in for a job interview do you start off by asking, "please like me?" The answer for most of us is no. Instead, you show up for the interview prepared, dressed professionally with a smile on your face. You do this to show your potential employer why they should like you. 

It's the same in the world of social media. Well-written and engaging posts that incorporate a snazzy photo organically generate likes and shares. There's no need to ask people to like it because the content speaks for itself. 

Now let's take that "share this adorable kitten" post and look at other ways to frame it. 

  1. Tell the kitten's back-story. Where did it come from and how did it come to be in this photo?
  2. What's a cool fact about kittens?
  3. What's your favorite thing about kittens?

Bottom line, let your content do the talking!

Hashtags 101


A hashtag is any word or phrase prefixed by the # symbol. For example: #WildlifeRefuge #nature #turtles

Hashtags are used as a way to group related topics. They originated on Twitter, but can now be found on Facebook, Instagram and other social platforms. When you click on hashtag it will take you to a feed of other posts using the same tag. If there is a lot of conversation going on about Florida panthers, and you hashtag #FloridaPanthers; you are now linked into the conversation.

Hashtag tips:

  1. Less is more: If you decide to include hashtags in your post keep it to just a few, 1-2 is ideal.
  2. Keep it relevant: If your post is about manatees swimming in Alabama waters you would hashtag #manatees and #Alabama, not #water. The idea is to highlight the object of conversation.
  3. Do a little digging: Let's say you're doing a post about Endangered Species Day and want to get the most bang for your buck with a hashtag. So which tag is more popular - #ESDay or #EndangeredSpeciesDay? You can look up both tags in search boxes on Facebook and Twitter to find your answer. 
  4. Always research your hashtag before use. It may not mean what you think it means!

Consider your goal

If your goal is to reach people who are interested in the same topic, choose an existing hashtag that is used often. If your goal is to group only your posts (or posts from partners, etc) together, creating a new hashtag would work. Keep in mind that creating your own hashtag generally does not result in reaching a more broad audience, but having a conversation with a specific group of people that you know.

Screenshot illustrating how to share a post on Facebook and Twitter

Sharing is caring

If you see a post you like should you download the photo, copy the text and repost it as your own? Common sense and a basic understanding of respect tells you that this isn't the right thing to do. If you like a post and think that your followers would like it too, use the share or retweet feature. For added engagement, add some text to help connect the shared post to your audience.

Tips for sharing:

  • Be thoughtful about what you share. Avoid sharing content from commercial businesses or unrelated organizations. If the content isn't something you would post on a visitor center door, it might not be appropriate for your social media channel.
  • Sharing is a great way to quickly generate content on those days when you're swamped and have nothing scheduled, but sharing should not be your primary source of content. People will unfollow pages that primarily share content created by others.
  • Sharing is a great way to help pages with a smaller following. Sharing a post from a field station on a regional, program or national page can help give the field station some much needed exposure.
Last updated: December 23, 2016