Social Media


“Social media” is a blanket term for any number of services that create a user-drive community atmosphere online. Individuals can sign up for accounts, connect with those they know and work with and broadcast messages publicly and privately across their various networks.

Popular Services

While this isn’t an exhaustive list, the most commonly-used social media services are:

Which Services Are Right for Me?

The type of information you’re looking to post will help determine which service fits you best:

Service Typical post content Typical post length Advantages Limitations/Concerns
Facebook Personal or organizational news and events with options for adding rich media 1-3 paragraphs Widely used by students and businesses worldwide Privacy settings can be misleading and change without notice
Twitter Personal or organizational news and events, typically linking to longer articles or blog posts for more information 1-2 sentences Hashtags (#) make it easy to view all posts on a given topic ad-hoc 140-character limit per post
LinkedIn Business information and personal work history to establish how “linked in” you are 1-2 sentences Provides alumni with an easy-to-maintain professional network Static profiles, not typically used for active updates or interaction
Google+ Personal news or updates with options for rich media 1-3 paragraphs Flexible, easy-to-understand privacy controls, could be coming to campus in 2012 Not widely used yet, lacking connections to existing social networks
FourSquare Personal location information tied into mapping software to help coordinate local events 1-2 sentences Allows for spur-of-the-moment meet-ups with locals Limited use, many users avoid due to safety concerns

Helper Applications

For anyone using more than one account or more than one social network, navigating between sites and accounts quickly becomes a hassle. Thankfully, there are several “dashboard” programs available to help organize your social network communications:

For help using either application, either refer to their online support documentation, or contact the CNR IT staff.

Posting Guidelines

When using social media, it’s important to have an understanding of the tool you’re using in order to get the best results (and avoid any faux pas).


Facebook and Google+ operate much the same way in terms of purpose and online etiquette. You have the power to release each post to a set group of friends or the world at large, depending on what you choose.

For program and organizational sites, much of your content should be public so that even those without an account on the system can learn more about the program or organization and decide whether or not to sign up. You can also choose to release special “Members only” information to those who have signed up for an account and added your organization as a “friend” to entice others to sign up and thereby get a better idea for your true impact on the web.

Both services can also be used for ad-hoc online polling to gauge interest in an informal manner. You can pose your question as a status update, allowing anyone with an account to post a response as a Comment underneath. Both services keep comments neatly collated and provide an overall count of the total number of respondents.

Terminology:  To “friend” someone means you’ve added them to your list of Friends. The term originated in Facebook, but has carried over to several other services (including Google+, which actually uses “Circles” instead of “Friends”)


Twitter is intended as a short-form broadcast network rather than a true conversation. It’s high-speed motif lends itself to news briefs and short announcements with a sense of immediacy (ex:  “Classes canceled Thursday!  Midterm moved to Oct 19th”).

Due to the tight character limit, many posters will include links to larger postings on blogs or even other social networking sites, leaving only a headline or teaser as the body of their tweet.

Trending topics are denoted with a pound sign (#) or “hashtag.” Clicking on any hashtag brings up all posts on that particular topic, no matter who they’re from.  Hashtags serve as a way for countless users to comment on the same issue or topic without having to join any larger group. As long as they leave space enough for the hashtag at the end of their tweet, their post is added to the throng of those commenting on the topic at hand.

Hashtags are best used for either recent news happenings (such as #StateOfTheUnion or #BPOilSpill) or organized events (such as #EDUCAUSE or #PGMOpenHouse). The capitalization doesn’t matter, but any spaces will break the hashtag.

Terminology: The service is called “Twitter.” An individual post is called “a tweet.” The act of posting something on Twitter is “tweeting” (or “to tweet”). “Hashtags” are the terms that create “Trending topics” (see above)


LinkedIn is unique among social networks in that most individuals don’t use it to post regular updates the way they do with other social media networks. LinkedIn is generally a way to show whom you’ve worked with, worked for, and to allow employers and peers to leave remarks on the performance of a particular individual with whom they’ve worked.

What results is a dynamic online resume that allows employers to evaluate prospects in an informal environment without having to call references directly. LinkedIn grew out of a desire for many users to keep their personal life (Facebook) and professional life (LinkedIn) separate to avoid current or potential employers from seeing potentially embarrassing material not intended for their eyes.

A program or department could create a LinkedIn account in order to show a dynamic list of their graduates and the careers they had gone on to or research teams they had worked with, as well as allowing any of their graduates to comment on how much they enjoyed the program and recommend it to prospective enrollees.


FourSquare is another unique service in that it isn’t typically used to communicate directly between individuals. FourSquare allows you to post a link to a map of your current location with a brief comment and allow others to comment back to establish ad-hoc meet-ups in the real world.

FourSquare is best used at crowded venues such as concerts and conventions when trying to locate other members of your group, but can also be used more publicly to invite interested parties to an informal discussion outside the bounds of the normal venue. For instance, if attendees at a convention panel want to continue the conversation long after the time slot for their event is over, they can post on FourSquare where they’re headed and invite other interested parties to tag along and join them.

Warning:  The obvious danger in FourSquare is that in broadcasting your current location, you risk telling people you do not know two things:  where you are, and where you are not.

The former might not seem dangerous if you’re in a crowded location with friends, but telling someone you are downtown informs anyone with access to your FourSquare feed that you are not at home, which could potentially lead to a break-in or similar event. As a result, we recommend using FourSquare with caution and limiting who can view your feed whenever possible.