Social Media How-To Guide for Social Work Educators

social media how to guide for educators slide_BAeditsThis post was written by Drs. Becky Anthony and Jennifer Jewell.  Dr. Becky Anthony (@becky_anthony) is an assistant professor in the Department of Social Work at Salisbury University. Dr. Jennifer Jewell (@jennrjewell) is an associate professor and Director of the BASW program in the Department of Social Work at Salisbury University, in Salisbury, Maryland. In this blog post, they write a guide for how social work educators can best utilize social media to meet their educational goals.

With the changing nature of educational delivery and knowledge consumption, social work educators are increasingly utilizing social media to help students meet course learning goals and objectives. Students are able to use social media to network with social work professionals, enhance connections between peers, advocate and raise awareness about social concerns, and find resources that help them practice effective social work (Jewell & Anthony, 2016). Some social work educators want to utilize social media in their courses to help students meet learning goals, but are unsure about how to get started. This blog post reviews steps to help social work educators prepare and implement social media assignments and activities into the classroom.

STEP 1: Think about and reflect on your own usage of social media. You need to determine what you will do to abide by professional ethical standards, maintain your own personal boundaries, and explore how you will utilize social media. In this first step, you will create social media guidelines for the course, the department, and/or the professional self.   Laurel Hitchcock provides an effective and thorough example of that here: My Guidelines for using Digital and Social Tech in the Classroom and Beyond. This first step allows you to learn about your own professional usage of social media and your own personal boundaries and professional ethics.

STEP 2: Identify specific goals for using social media in this course or with this specific assignment.  Once goals are established, you will need to research the different tools (specific social media platforms).  For example, Instagram is utilized to share photos and videos and Twitter only allows for 140 characters in each post. Social work educators, during step two, should answer the following questions: 1. What do you want the students to learn? 2. What social media method will work best to achieve this goal?

STEP 3:  Increase your own social media knowledge and skills. Specifically, focus on the social media platform you will utilize in your course. You will find it helpful to create an account (if you do not already have one), watch tutorial videos online, utilize tip guides, and practice using this social media before asking your students to use it. This becomes very important because a number of students will not have previously utilized this social media platform and will ask you questions about how to get started and where to find resources.

STEP 4: Design assignment or course social media project.  This is the step where you answer a number of different questions about the assignment structure and assessment. Questions include: 1. How many posts are required? 2. How often are students required to post? 3. What constitutes a good post? It is important to remember to create a grading rubric for this assignment so students understand how you will grade them and what will be expected of them. Also, it is helpful to provide tutorials for students and include in your assignment description helpful suggestions about how to utilize this specific social media platform. In addition, remember to review your social media guidelines (you could also have students create their own) and discuss social media ethics. For example, we utilize scenarios to help  spark discussion of social media ethics. Once students have a foundational knowledge of the topic, we review the assignment description and discuss specifics about the social media platform and the ethical considerations.

STEP 5: Implement the assignment or course social media activity. During the implementation phase, especially in the first few weeks, it is very important for you to actively engage with students and model professional usage. In addition, we have found it helpful to provide students one to two practice weeks. During this time, students create professional accounts, get used to using this specific social media platform, and practice posting for class. This provides students an opportunity to use this and helps reduce their anxiety and fears about using a professional social media account. During this step, it is also important to recognize and address students’ fears and anxiety. While many of the students utilize social media, some might only use it personally. Many of them may be apprehensive about using social media professionally and ethically. To address these concerns, it helps to talk about anxiety and fears openly during class.  Ask students if they have questions about the social media project multiple times throughout the course.

STEP 6: Evaluate your social media assignment or course social media activity. Provide answers, from both yours and the students’ point of view, to the following questions:

  1. What did you like about using social media in this course?
  2. What suggestions do you have to improve this assignment/course activity?
  3. What do you feel you learned by utilizing social media in this course?

Once you gather the data, read it, reflect on it, and make changes, as needed. Due to the need for research in this area, you might want to design an IRB approved study to gather feedback from students and present/publish your work. Remember to continuous evaluate your social media assignment or course activity to ensure that you are keeping up to date with the changes in technology and with the suggestions of your students.

Social work educators can utilize these guidelines for all digital and social media tools in the classroom. In addition, while these guidelines were designed for social work educators, they can be utilized by social work departments, agencies, and practicing social workers. Instead of designing a course assignment or activity, social work practitioners can apply these steps to design their social media agency website or their own professional pages.

It would be very interesting to hear from others who have utilized these steps or created their own. What do you think of the guidelines? If you tried them, what worked for you? Where there any pieces of the guidelines that you could not utilize?


Jewell, J. & Anthony, B. (2016, April). Building student connection by utilizing social media in the social work classroom. Presentation at 2016 BPD Annual Conference, Dallas, TX.

How to Cite: 

Anthony, R. & Jewell, J. (2016). Social Media How To Guide for Social Work Educators. Available at:

Author: Laurel Hitchcock

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