Editor’s Note: Guest blogger and NASW Member, Shyvonne M. Noboa responded to our call for guest bloggers. A related article from the November/December 2011 issue of Currents entitled “Standards For Technology and Social Work Practice,” can be accessed by clicking here.
Social media has changed the landscape of communication and how we interact with others and receive information. For social workers whose profession involves personal interactions and engaging others through the helping process, ethical challenges undoubtedly emerge. While the use of social media poses such dilemmas for social workers, especially those in clinical practice, one cannot ignore the social media revolution. Here, I offer useful tips to leverage social media to your advantage, specifically from the perspective of professional development.
Offering unprecedented opportunities to connect with other social work professionals, social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn provide opportunities to connect, learn, share and engage in professional development and advocacy efforts. Social Media serves as a platform to share your professional passions. My passion is in the area of aging and you’ll often find me at the NASW-NYC Gerontology committee meetings and engaging in social media learning and sharing useful aging updates on policy, program, and practice.
Here are 7 tips you can use to maximize your professional development through social media:
- First things first – Get connected
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, OH MY! It can be overwhelming. Do not fear, use your social work skills and do your research to find what social media channel suits you best. Be picky and start small. Join one social media outlet and expand from there.
- Pick a social network that’s is right for you
Consider getting a Facebook and/or LinkedIn Account if you don’t already have one. I often tell people to view LinkedIn as an online rolodex. It’s a great way to maintain connections with fellow colleagues and share professional updates. It also provides the user opportunities to join professional groups where one can post questions leading to productive conversations with like-minded participants, both nationwide and across continents. Facebook is a great professional tool also because you can “like” your local or national non profits and organizations that focus on your social work interests and shared goals. It’s a great way to receive updates and stay “in the know” locally, nationally and globally.
- Find your niche and become part of an online conversation
This medium is often useful for social workers who might not have the time to frequent and participate in face to face meeting and events. As I mentioned, aging is my passion and the direction I chose to develop my social work career. On Facebook, I “like” local and national aging organizations, receiving daily updates on aging policy, programs and practice. On LinkedIn, I’ve joined groups with a gerontological focus where I have online conversations with like-minded social work professionals. What’s your niche? By identifying your area of practice, social media offers virtual groups with opportunities for conversation and exchange of information in your area of practice.
- Share your success story
Now that you are online and connected with others through social media, take the time to share the good work you are doing. Your professional achievements will serve to encourage others and you can be a mentor to those you are connected to. It could be about a program you started or helped improve but the key is to share the positive outcomes.
- “Go-To Person”-Become a Resource
If you are an expert social worker in a specific area of practice, you could & should use social media to share your knowledge and help empower others. Your professional experience is invaluable and social media outlets afford you the opportunity to share your practice knowledge with other emerging social work professionals.
- Support, support, support!
You are not alone! I recently read a new discussion on LinkedIn from a social worker seeking support and reassurance from fellow social workers on the stress of taking her LMSW exam. Social media is a gateway to information, advice and reassurance. Discussion groups on social media like LinkedIn are great because you can participate & share advice in discussions or you can start your own.
- Be active and interactive – This is key!
Social media only works for you if you are an active participant. So, be sure to post, ask questions and start conversations. Share your knowledge and information and you’ll slowly build an audience.
Shyvonne Noboa specializes in aging and is a Social Work Coordinator in Senior Services at Hamilton Madison House. She received her MSW from the NYU Silver School of Social Work. Get linked at: http://www.linkedin.com/in/shyvonnemnoboa