Twitter for Social Work Student Organizations

About two weeks ago Cyber Social Worker (@CyberSocialWork) sent me a direct message via Twitter asking if and how I work with social work student organizations to use social media, specifically Twitter.  The short answer was…well, not really…but what a great idea!  I immediately sent a tweet to the student social work organizations that I was already following on Twitter, asking how they engaged via social media.  Then, I created a public list of Social Work Students Organizations for my Twitter profile.  While a few dedicated student groups responded, I had only five organizations to add to my list.  Is this because I am not very connected in the Twitterverse, especially with social work student organizations? Or maybe student groups in social work are just not using Twitter?  Maybe they are on Facebook or Instagram? Or are they organizing the old-school way with paper and pens in an empty classroom after hours? Social work students and educators may be missing an opportunity here.

I have suggested in past blog posts that social and digital media can be valuable tools in the social work classroom, specifically to practice professional skills such as advocacy, networking and communication.  As social work education increasingly focuses on enhancing and evaluating the larger learning environment at our universities and colleges (implicit curriculum per the Council on Social Work Education [CSWE]), using social media could be extremely useful to social work departments and programs as a way to help social work student engage and organize around important social issues or other interests related to social work profession (CSWE, 2008; See p.12, EPAS, 3.2.10).  This may be especially important for online  programs where students are located all over the country, or  programs with large numbers of non-traditional students who work, care for families and who infrequently find themselves on campus.  I think there is an opportunity here for both social work students and educators to use social media as a way to connect across the larger learning environment.

So how would I advise student social work groups wanting to use social media to connect across their campus and beyond their classrooms? Here are my three simple suggestions for using Twitter:

1. Be ethical in your use of social media as a student group:  Learn about the social media policies and student code of conduct at your university or college and/or Department or School of Social Work, and follow these policies.   Review the National Association of Social Worker’s (NASW) Code of Ethics and the NASW’s Standards for Technology and Social Work Practice and apply these standards to your group’s practices.  For example, research the organizations and other student groups that you follow or messages you re-tweet.  Do they support social justice and promote diversity? Do they value the dignity and worth of people? Also, develop a social media policy for your group and follow it. A good starting point is Ellen Belluomini’s (2014) blog post about social media policy in the social work profession.

2. Be competent when using Twitter: Check your sources and facts before sending your tweets.  Use proper spelling, grammar and professional language in your messages. Learn the parameters of Twitter such as the 140 character limit and the use of #hashtags.  Dr. Nancy J. Smyth (2013) from the University of Buffalo has a good blog post for individuals and groups new to Twitter.  Also, review what other student groups, faculty and social workers are saying and doing on Twitter.  Note what you like and don’t like about their Twitter feeds and posts. Make a list of likes and dislikes, and then apply what you like and avoid the dislikes.  A lot can be learned from observing and then modeling what others are doing.

3. Inform others, but also have a conversation: Twitter is a great way to educate and information students and others about your group’s events such as meetings and deadlines.  You can also promote the work of other student groups.  For example, your group could reach out and learn more about diversity on your campus by following other groups on Twitter such as the International Student Organization or the Gay-Straight Alliance.  The student groups who responded to my tweet request at at the beginning of the month reported this was their primary use of Twitter and other social media platforms.  While it is great to get the word out about your student group or the next meeting, I also recommend having a public conversation via Twitter.  For example, tweet out a question to your followers, asking for an opinion or information from them.  Your group could also coordinate a live Twitter chat with a guest speaker (see the #MacroSW chat for an example) or live tweet from a workshop or event on your campus.  Students, too, have a valuable voice in social work education, and engaging in the public discourse is one way to develop and share your stories and opinions.

StudentSWOrgConvo_9.1.2014

Tweets from September 1, 2014 conversation with SWK Student Groups.

One tool that I have found very helpful when posting tweets is Buffer.  This application allows users to create and post tweets at scheduled times and dates. I  use Buffer to keep a running list of tweets I want to send and  arrange to post a tweet at a future date.  Buffer has a free version (which is limited, but meets my needs) and a premium account.  There are other similar applications out there and student groups should explore their options.

So how is your student social work organization using social and digital media?  I would like to hear from students, social work educators and anyone else who is using Twitter or other social media platforms to help organize and communicate with students in higher education.  Any additional tips or thoughts for other student groups? Please post a comment!

Also, please follow me on Twitter if you are social work student group.  I would love to build my public list of Student Social Work Groups.

References:

Association for Community Organization and Social Administration. (n.d.). #MacroSW Chats.  Retrieved from: http://www.acosa.org/joomla/macrosw-chats.

Belluomini, E. (March 7, 2014). Social Media: What is the policy where you work? Retrieved from: http://socialworksdigitaldivide.blogspot.com/search/label/policy

Buffer. (n.d.).  About Buffer.  Retrieved from: https://bufferapp.com/about

Council on Social WOrk Education. (2008). Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards. Retrieved from: http://www.cswe.org/File.aspx?id=13780.

Croxall, B. (January 6, 2014). Ten Tips for Tweeting at Conferences. Retrieved from: http://chronicle.com/blogs/profhacker/ten-tips-for-tweeting-at-conferences/54281

Cyber Social Worker. (n.d.) Home Page. Retrieved from: http://cybersocialworker.blogspot.com/

National Association of Social Workers. (2008).  Code of Ethics. Retrieved from: https://www.socialworkers.org/pubs/code/code.asp

National Association of Social Workers and Association of Social Work Board. (2005). Standards for Technology and Social Work Practice. Retrieved from: http://www.socialworkers.org/practice/standards/naswtechnologystandards.pdf

Smyth, N.J. (2013). Twitter 101. Retrieved from: http://njsmyth.wordpress.com/2013/07/19/twitter-101/

Author: Laurel Hitchcock

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