Social Media

Learning Objectives

  • Describe strategies for effective, safe, and professional social media use in college

Social Media

While it used to be that social media was the distraction from homework, now, your professors are finding ways to incorporate social media into your classes. Professors may require students to make Facebook posts or Tweet about certain topics related to a course, and, some courses even have their own Facebook pages.

While most of us have some experience with social media, our use of social media for personal purposes may be very different from the uses of social media in an academic or professional setting. Consider the purpose of your assignment and the specifics of your audience when using social media for schoolwork. Below are a few best practices for using Twitter.

Twitter is a social networking tool that allows individuals to send short text messages known as tweets. Tweets originally began by maxing out at 140 characters; now tweets up to 280 characters are permitted.

Writing Tweets: The Basics

Keep your tweets:

  • Short
    280 characters maximum. Twitter counts down from 280, and lets you know how many characters you have left to use once you start getting close.
  • And Even Shorter
    If you want others to forward your tweet (re-tweet), you may want to use fewer than 280 characters. Remember that Twitter provides a stream of short updates for those people, organizations, or issues you want to follow, and gaining a following (via re-tweets) is often a goal of those who use Twitter. On average, try to reserve at least 20 characters so your message can be re-tweeted.
  • Meaningful
    Pare down the information to keywords, and put what you consider to be the most important information first. Phrases will suffice. While there is no need to use complete sentences or formal writing practices, try to write with care. Sloppy, error-filled tweets don’t give your Tweets credibility.

Here are some additional tips to keep in mind as you give tweeting a try:

  • Use the hashtag symbol (#) without a space before the word or words you want to emphasize and make more searchable. If you’re emphasizing more than one word, also put those words together without spaces. For example, if you want to emphasize a statement that you’re making about grade schools banning soda, you might do it in this way:
Tweet showing a hashtag #schoolsbanningsoda.

Figure 1. This tweet shows how the hashtag is used to give context, and also makes it possible to search for other comments related to schools banning soda.

  • Incorporate links in your tweets as a way to offer more information than that allowed by the 280-character limit. You might link to your website, blog, or any other meaningful or appropriate site.
  • Remember that the image you insert into your profile appears by each of your tweets. If you have an interesting image, readers’ eyes will gravitate toward your tweet.
  • You can comment on others’ tweets. To respond to (or tag) another person’s tweet, use the @ sign and the person’s name without any spaces. Replies using the @ sign are public on Twitter. For example, if you wanted to respond publicly to John Smith’s tweet, you might start your tweet in this way: @JohnSmith. You can place an @ reply anywhere in the tweet—it doesn’t necessarily have to be at the start. The response you send to John Smith using the @ sign will appear on your Profile page and on John Smith’s @Mentions space.

Your Digital Footprint

Your digital footprint is the path you leave on the web. When people, including potential employers, search your name on the web, what will they find? It’s a good idea to have a digital footprint, to put your resume and a collection of your work on the web. There are many opportunities for you to share your writing on the web. Today, we have forums for sharing essays, videos, work history, and pictures of our children. This provides us with a wonderful opportunity to share our creativity with the world. However, it’s important to be mindful of your goals when you share on the web and to remember that information you put on the web is there for anyone to see and will remain there even after you may forget what you posted.

Digital Safety and Security

You want to be careful about the kind of information you share. Remember, potential employers can search for you on Facebook, and if you post your phone number on the web for anyone to see, you might receive unwanted phone calls. Be careful about revealing personal information that might compromise your digital security.

As you create things like Facebook and Twitter accounts and web pages for your writing, think about what you want your digital footprint to be like. What will potential employers find when they search for more information about you? Do you want to make your information more secure? Social media accounts give you privacy options, and websites give you security options related to who can see your site.

Try It