Here is what she had to say about how social media.
How does social media influence your international education job?
I use social media to communicate with students and with colleagues on campus and around the world. Social media is the type of web technology that fosters interaction and conversation, which is helpful in a lot of different aspects of my work: getting information about study abroad programs, sharing it with students, answering students’ questions and collaborating with colleagues on projects.
How did you get into social media?
My master’s degree is in Information, with a specialization in Human-Computer Interaction (this has to do with making websites and other information systems user-friendly so that people have straightforward access to the information they’re seeking). In my graduate school environment, I was surrounded by early adopters, testing out and evaluating the latest social media trends. I decided to follow a different career path than any of my graduate school classmates did, but many of them are working in the Internet/social media industry and continue to be a great resource to find out about the latest hot gadgets, widgets, apps and platforms. It was from these friends that I first learned about Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and most of the other social media systems that I use today.
What is one thing you wish you knew about social media that would have made getting involved with it easier?
For people who are hesitant about trying out social media, I think the most valuable thing to know is that it’s okay to participate passively, or “lurk” for as long as you want before jumping in yourself. You can start a Twitter account, for example, and follow other Twitter feeds to see what other people are saying. Click on some things and see what they do! A lot of social media (and new technology in general) is best learned by trying and tinkering. You’ll probably feel more involved and more interested in continuing this once there’s a two-way conversation going on, but it’s fine to just hang around and observe until there’s something you want to contribute.
If you’re looking for people to follow or things to learn, check out the #studyabroad or #nafsa11 hashtags to see what people are saying on those topics.
What is one social media tool you cannot live without now?
Twitter is great and Facebook is pretty darn essential, but in the past month or so, I’ve also gotten hooked on the microblogging platform Tumblr. If I had to describe Tumblr, it would be a cross between LiveJournal and Twitter. It can be used for keeping a blog, or just for sharing short thoughts, images and videos. It also has a “reblogging” feature analogous to a “retweet” so that you can share interesting things you find, and posts have an opportunity to go viral.
The Tumblr community has a pretty young demographic, so I’ve found a lot of posts from students who are preparing to study abroad, currently abroad, or dealing with re-entry issues. I’ve been doing my own Tumblr about study abroad and international travel, including series on famous people and fictional characters who studied abroad.
Why do you continue to use social media?
Using social media is about meeting students where they are. Young people are very likely to try out and use new media. And increasingly, it is about meeting our colleagues where they are, too. I’ve made all kinds of connections and discovered new things by communicating with study abroad colleagues through Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
It’s also a way to get quick updates on things happening around the world. I’ve found that I’m likely to get important breaking news updates through Twitter or Facebook before I get them through any traditional news sources. It’s not just useful for sharing professional information or promoting study abroad to students, but – as we’ve seen in various emergency and protest situations around the world - could be useful for individuals’ and organizations’ health, safety and well-being.
What do you think social media's biggest impact has been on international education?
I think tools like Twitter and LinkedIn have been very useful for meeting and collaborating with my colleagues in international education around the world. Social media is, of course, useful for communicating with students, but I think that what I enjoy most is the camaraderie of the online NAFSA communities. There are many people in this field that I’ve gotten to know quite well before even meeting them face-to-face. Conferences come once a year (or twice or three or four times…) but these are tools we can use year-round.
Sarah McNitt is a study abroad advisor at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. She enjoys guiding students through international opportunities, fiddling with new technology, watching musical theatre, drinking tea and collecting trivia. If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch with her via: Twitter | LinkedIn | Tumblr | Email | Website