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Social Media Plays


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USDA maintains enterprise social media channels on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, and YouTube. Agencies are permitted to use enterprise channels to share content and engage with stakeholders, though you must coordinate with the Office of Communications. The Office of Communications evaluates new tools and platforms as they become available.

1

 Before you apply for a social media account, your agency should create a business justification and communications plan for the proposed account that answers the following questions:
  • Required Approval: Is this an approved channel with a Terms of Service agreement?
  • Consider Your Purpose: Why do you want to use this account/channel?
  • Define Your Goals: What do you want to accomplish with the platform?
  • Tactics: Why do you consider this to be the best technology or tool for the above stated goals?
  • Intended Audience: Who are you trying to reach with this account, and how will it help you do that?
  • Plan Your Content: What kind of information will you share? How often?
  • Measure Success: What will be your evaluation and success factors?

2

 Social Media Checklist
After you’ve created a plan for the proposed account, you should complete the following items on this checklist:

3

 Submitting a Social Media Request
Once you’ve completed all the items on the checklist, you can submit your request via email to oc-web@usda.gov. If your account is approved, you must register it with the U.S. Digital Registry (which is managed by GSA and authenticates Federal government agency accounts used for official business on third-party, social media, and public-facing platforms).

 

Toolkit Resources

Additional Resources

Social media is an effective tool to communicate directly with audience members and stakeholders. Used correctly, it builds a positive narrative about how programs and initiatives work to improve the lives of everyday Americans. Used incorrectly, social media can confuse your message or detract from your work. Posting to social media requires the same amount of scrutiny as posting to a blog or website. In fact, it may even require more due to the immediacy and reach platforms grant account holders. You must have your content reviewed for accurate and timely information, as well as for typos and other grammar mistakes.

Posting to Social Media Checklist

  checkCheck for spelling, grammar, and typos. USDA.gov follows AP style.

  checkReview USDA branding guidelines to ensure you’re using and placing logos correctly.

  checkReview our Accessibility guidelines to make sure PDFs are accessible and 508-compliant. Contact your agency or office Section 508 Coordinator for assistance, if needed.

  checkAdd relevant images to social media posts to increase engagement. Use properly sourced, high-quality images. When using photos, use high-resolution JPGs where possible.

  checkMake sure all images have alt text and descriptive text (where applicable).

  checkSpell out acronyms when you first use them (at a minimum).

  checkUse bulleted lists for unordered list items and numeric lists where item order matters.

  checkCheck all links to ensure they work properly and point to approved websites.


Toolkit Resources

The Department's official "One USDA" Blog helps tell USDA’s story and informs internal and external stakeholders about Department news, activities, and events. The blog features updates from each mission area, agency, and office, and is maintained by USDA’s Office of Communications (OC). OC's Digital Communications Division manages the Blog in collaboration with agency Communication Coordinators.

 

Screenshot of an USDA blog
The USDA Blog features stories and updates from each mission, agency and office

 

High-value, quality blog content provides a unique perspective into USDA programs and tells a story that people won’t hear from traditional forms of communication. Visitors come to the USDA Blog to read personal stories and firsthand accounts and to learn about interagency collaboration.

Blogs are more personal and informal in tone than a traditional news release, and may be a forum for conversation and ongoing engagement. Blog articles are usually attributed to named authors: Agency personnel, including program staff, subject matter experts, leadership, and Agency officials.
 

Embedding Content

USDA websites may use third-party embedded code, provided that you follow certain procedures. You can embed Instagram and Twitter feeds and list widgets from official government accounts. You can also embed YouTube videos and video playlists if the videos have good closed captioning. If the videos aren’t captioned well (or at all), then you should link to the video instead. Also, if the video wasn’t produced by, for, or in partnership with USDA, you might need to include a standard disclaimer.
 

Best Practices for Blogs

  • Tell stories to convey relatable experiences

  • Include a call to action

  • Convey “How to’s” and "Rules of thumb"

  • Write catchy, but descriptive headlines

  • Use photos to grab the reader’s attention and to also help them understand quickly what the product/service is all about

  • Write in first person when possible

  • Keep it short (200-400 words)

  • Identify tags and keywords

  • Check for accuracy and grammar

  • Market the blog and individual posts (promote your blog on social media channels and use your newsletters to share your message)
     

Blog Checklist

  checkPlease keep blog posts to a maximum of 400 words

  checkWrite blog posts using AP Style as a guideline

  checkWrite in first person with a conversational tone

  checkAvoid overusing acronyms

  checkWhen selecting and using quotes, keep your target audience in mind

  checkUse your “why should the reader care” hook in your opening sentence

  checkTry to refer to the Agency in either the first or second paragraph and hyperlink to your agency’s home page

  checkIf you have more detailed information you want to share from a report, resource, or web page, include and hyperlink its title

  checkProvide any #hashtags you would like included in your social media outreach

  checkAs a rule of thumb, don’t include more than two photos in your blog post

  checkSubmit your blog as a Word doc in an email to your mission area coordinator in OC. Include photos in the Word doc so the editor can see them in context. You should also include the caption and photo credit. In addition to your Word doc, submit high resolution (1200dpi) JPGs of your photos. See “Photography & Visual Standards” in our Design and Brand guidelines for more information on photos.

 

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This page was last updated July 31, 2019.