Social Media: What Works for Which Audiences?

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September 2013
From NICHCY’s Quick Tips for Disseminators series

You’re a technical assistance project — you need to reach as many people as you can with your resources. Social media can help to increase your reach (when thoughtfully implemented). But which venue is best to reach your intended audience? Is everyone on Twitter now? Who gets information from Facebook? And what’s up with LinkedIn?

Social media is a constantly changing landscape. New sites pop up with alarming frequency, and it’s simply not possible to keep up with them all and still do your work. So, before you create a project profile on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Tumblr, Instagram, Vine, whatever, here are some perspectives on a few of the larger social media sites, to help you frame decision making about which to use to reach your audiences.

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Facebook

This is the behemoth of social media networks, with 1.11 billion users as of June 2013. If you’re looking for sheer volume of users, Facebook is the clear winner. But the personal nature of the site and its privacy concerns can create management concerns. Based on our project’s experience on Facebook over the past several years, we’ve gleaned the following principles:

Audiences

  • Families (particularly those that include children with disabilities) find information on Facebook.
  • Non-profit organizations seek and share resources on Facebook.

Pros

  • Integrates with Twitter
  • Can drive traffic to your website
  • Most likely to spur “viral” sharing

Cons

  • Requires constant management to monitor comments, delete spam
  • Clear and consistent social media policy needed, along with ongoing conversations with staff to stay “on message”

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LinkedIn

More than just a place to find a job (not that there’s anything wrong with that), LinkedIn has emerged as a professional network of 225 million users where individuals, groups, and companies can share resources, articles, and opportunities. Projects that focus on personnel development or vocational skills should consider this network to reach users. Here are a few insights:

Audiences

  • Teacher candidates
  • Postsecondary students
  • Young professionals
  • Organizations

Pros

  • Groups connect users by topic
  • Companies can showcase multiple projects to followers
  • Pushes updates to users email inboxes

Cons

  • Slow to build a following
  • Rarely “viral”

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Twitter

Tweets may be only 140 characters, but this is a powerful worldwide network! With 500 million users, Twitter has emerged as a versatile way to organize information streams, drive traffic to linked content, and build professional learning networks. Here are some considerations for technical assistance projects:

Audiences

  • Working educators
  • Young professionals
  • Organizations

Pros

  • Twitter lists allow you to group contacts
  • Hashtags connect non-followers to your content
  • Links and embedded media let you share resources easily

Cons

  • Length limits can be challenging, especially for academic writers
  • It takes time to build a following

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YouTube

With 1 billion users, this is the video site that reaches users. In comparison, Vimeo has 14 million users. If you have videos to share, this is your venue. Some general principles:

Audiences

  • Students
  • Families
  • Professionals

Pros

  • Channels and subscriptions help organize content
  • Capability of captioning video

Cons

  • Videos are expensive and time consuming to make
  • Limited content delivery — users prefer 2-5 minute videos

There are many, many more social media networks, and your project might have other perspectives on the ones we’ve presented here. You’ll want to engage in a dialogue with your project staff to decide which are the right networks for you. Please do be sure to establish and post a social media policy to guide your interactions, and have evaluation procedures in place.

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Would you like to visit another page in the Quick Tips for Disseminators series?

Social Media: What Works for Which Audiences? (You’re already here)

Google Plus for Collaboration

Use Social Media to Drive Website Traffic

Managing Your Project’s Twitter Account

The Future is Mobile!

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Note:
All user statistics were retrieved on June 14, 2013 from:
http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/resource-how-many-people-use-the-top-social-media/

 

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