Teaching Social Media

It took a long time for this class to become a reality.  At least it seemed like a long time to me.  In academic time, it wasn’t bad.  The fact that we are teaching MSWs (with a couple of Masters in Nonprofit Management guys in the mix) about using social media in nonprofit organizations is HUGE.  It is huge for a couple of important reasons, and NOT because I am teaching the class (while that might feel good to me).

Nonprofits have become major players in the social media arena

The use of social media in nonprofit organizations has gone as viral as social media itself. If you need any proof of this, just Google social media and nonprofits and see the number of sites that are out there to help all those nonprofits get their social media house in order. Let’s hear it for free enterprise. Social media is in every organization and is an essential tool for the work of nonprofits as well. Here are some excellent examples:

Most social workers (or other nonprofit folks) don’t make the link between technology and their profession

You are a social worker. You will do social work. You plan to help people. You want to make change in the world. You have passion about a particular issue. What in the world does technology in general and social media in particular have to do with that goal? While you might have a good sense of social media in your personal environment – or regarding a particular cause you feel strongly about – tools and skills in social media are not part of the professional arsenal. This is new ground. I went to the technology workshops at the Annual Program Meeting of the Council on Social Work Education. There was little about using technology in practice – only about using technology to teach practice. Interesting….. Here are some that seem to “get it.”

The Need to Look at Social Media Policy

Universities, Schools of Social Work and Nonprofit Organizations all need to incorporate social media into their thinking – and into their policies. This process is way behind and it is important to focus on it. We will be talking about social media policies during our class and hope to have an article done at Columbia School of Social Work to help us examine some of the issues.

Social Media is the new “where the client is.”

We social workers have been taught over the years to “start where the client is.” I am sure my phrasing is out-dated with today’s theoretical texts, but I think you get the idea. Well, social media is where the client is. Yes, I know about the economic divide in access to technology and the importance of bridging that divide. But now that social media has gone mobile, the need for the big deal, expensive computer is gone. And you don’t need an iPhone to have mobile communication. It’s part of our daily life and the space in which we live.

It Takes Special Skills

All of my students use social media to some extent. But whether you are a regular or occasional user, the professional use of social media is vastly different than what we all experience in our day to day lives. The other thing we talk about alot in social work training is boundaries. Here finding the right boundary, and yet still communicating in a real and meaningful way, is a major skill that needs to be understood and developed. It’s the marketing of this generation.

So, we are embarking on something new, as new as social media itself. I look forward to the journey and to learning as much as I hope I teach.

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