Social Media Day: A Guide for Online Students

Social Media DayMashable’s 5th annual Social Media Day takes place on Monday, June 30, 2014. The goal? It’s designed as “a way to recognize the digital revolution happening right before our eyes.”

This revolution is happening in higher education. As social media use continues to gain momentum among faculty members, students, and higher education institutions, Social Media Day asks us to reflect on how it’s affecting our work, studies, and lives.

How are you making the most of social media and networking platforms to communicate, connect, and collaborate?

Social Media and Online Learning

The open and global appeal of social media is a natural fit with online education. The open access it provides to information and leaders in the field help to extend the learning environment beyond the course site and around the world. Most platforms are no- or low-costs, and some even integrate easily into a course management system.

As an online student, you may be already engaged in social media activities linked to your career and education goals. Here are a few examples of the many ways in which colleges and universities are using social media to support students:

  • Class Assignments and Communication: Instructors are finding many ways to leverage the easy communication and collaboration aspects of social tools in the classroom. Georgetown University’s Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship provides resources for blog and Twitter assignments that can be adapted for use across disciplines. Twitter can also be used for in-class polling and class announcements.
  • Career Development: College career centers offer a wide variety of services to help you prepare for and meet your employment goals after graduation. From career planning to the job search, these centers use technology, including social media platforms, to meet the needs of online students. Take a look at the University of California, Riverside Career Center’s “Get Connected” options, as an example of what you might find at your school.
  • Online Presence: One benefit of getting involved with social media while you’re a student is the development of a professional online identity. As potential employers and recruiters increasingly use Internet search options to find out about applicants, having a strong social presence, that presents you in a professional light, can make a positive difference in your next job search. Kansas State University’s Career and Employment Services provides tips for establishing your online presence and reputation.

Use the Hashtag: #SMDAY

Social Media Day provides the perfect excuse to think about how you are already using social media, and ways you might benefit from expanding your experiences in social networking communities. It’s the functionality of the hashtag that brings us all together, across platforms and continents, for this event.

Add #SMDAY to your tweets, posts, updates, pins, etc. to include your voice and ideas in the larger conversation. And take some time to search for this hashtag on each of these platforms to find out what others are saying and doing during the day. Mashable specifically encourages sharing via Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.

Attend a Meetup

Mashable “invites you to join fellow enthusiasts by hosting or attending a 2014 Social Media Day Meetup in your area.” Taking the online connection offline is one of my favorite aspects of attending professional conferences. Meeting people in person, whom I’ve known (often for quite a while) via Twitter or LinkedIn adds to the experience and strengthens the connection. On these occasions the introductions have already been made, and the conversations pick up where you left off online.

Social Media DayThe Mashable Meetups tool allows you to find local organizers and events, including their plans for Social Media Day. There are more than 1,900 registered meetup communities worldwide, and I was surprised to find two within driving distance of my area. From informal networking events to workshops, you’ll find a variety of options for participation.

If you aren’t interested in attending an on-site event, or there isn’t one scheduled near you, think about other ways you could use Social Media Day as a catalyst for further social media exploration.

Get Social!

Take stock of your current participation in social networking systems. Whether you are just getting started, need to dust off your logins and passwords, or are already active online, add one (or more) new activities to your to-do list on Monday.

If you haven’t set up a social media account:

Social Media Day could be the day you take the leap. According to a 2013 report from the Pew Research Internet Project, “73% of online adults now use a social networking site of some kind.” This doesn’t mean, however, that you should do it because everyone else is doing it. Consider the following questions and develop your own plan for Social Media Day:

  • How would you use a social media account? This could range from keeping in touch with friends and family to conducting a job search. Having specific goals in mind guides your choice of platform and level of participation. LinkedIn is a great place to start, particularly if career-related interests are motivating your social media use.
  • What are your concerns about social media? If you’re worried about privacy and security issues, making mistakes online, or how much time it will take to be active online, you aren’t alone. Facing these social media fears means delving a little deeper into how the tools work and prioritizing your efforts.
  • Who are the social media “gurus” in your field? Look to your colleagues, professional associations, and publications for suggestions of leaders you should follow. Find out more about how they are using social media and where they are gathering for professional purposes (e.g., LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Facebook). It’s okay to observe for a while, before deciding if a tool or community is right for you.

If you have accounts, but haven’t logged in recently:

Maybe you set up a LinkedIn account years ago when you were looking for a job, but haven’t updated it since then. Or perhaps you created a Twitter account because you were required to in a course, but haven’t tweeted anything since that class ended. Many of us find ourselves registering for accounts that don’t get used. Take an inventory of your open profiles, then choose one as your focus for Social Media Day. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Find alumni online. Previous graduates from your school and program can be a wealth of information as you move through your studies and plan a career. Alumni Clubs use social media to build their networks, announce special events, and stay connected with the school. The University of Michigan Alumni Association is active on Facebook, and Kaplan University alumni connect via LinkedIn Group.
  • Join a Twitter chat. If you haven’t experienced a live discussion via Twitter, check out the TweetReports list of chats scheduled on Monday. Our #IOLchat page includes additional resources for participating real-time conversations via 140 characters.
  • Start a new Google+ Circle. Creating Circles is a helpful way to filter the flow of information on this social system. Consider topic possibilities like “social media tips” and “job search skills” to organize your interests and connect with like-minded users on this platform. EducatorsTechnology.com provides a list of Google+ ideas for teachers and students.
  • Refresh your LinkedIn profile. Thoroughly review all of the information you have added so far. Do you need to update your experience and education entries? Is your contact information current? Are there additional sections you could add (e.g., publications, projects, volunteer experience) to enhance your profile? Compare your page to those of other professionals in your field. You may get a few new ideas in the process.
  • Create a #SMDAY Pinterest board. I recently created a board specifically for use during a conference. It was part of a social media challenge at the event and proved to be an easy way for me to create a collection of take-aways from the presentations I attended. This approach could be adapted for Social Media Day as you pin resources you find with the #SMDAY hashtag. These might link to people you want to connect with on other platforms, general tips for using social media, and/or helpful resources for your current course work.

If you’re already actively using social media:

While you probably don’t need to be convinced of the benefits of social media, you are in a position to help spread the word. Share your experiences with classmates, instructors, work colleagues, and beyond. Post, tweet, and pin your suggestions for:

  • Choosing a Social Network: Which tools make the most sense to you? How did you decide to sign up for an account?
  • Finding Value: Where do you get the most benefit from your time spent online? How has social media had an impact on your classes, college experience, profession, or career path?
  • Managing Social Media: Adding social activity to an already packed work schedule can seem daunting. What are your tips for making the most of participation when time is limited?

Don’t stop with Monday’s Social Media Day event. Use it instead as a springboard for continued exploration into how social media participation can help you reach your goals. Try something new! And share what you find, via social media, of course.

Join Melissa Venable on Twitter and Google+.

Source: Inside Online Learning Blog