Using social media

How are young people using social media sites?

Social media sites are part of how we live. Also, crucially, they are part-and-parcel of the world in which young people have grown up, and are still growing up. We need to understand and take advantage of the potentials of engaging with our audiences and groups through social media. If we ignore social media, we ignore an entire world of communication – and easily the predominant form of communication for young people.

There are social media sites (SMS) that are more mainstream – such as Facebook and Twitter. There are also sites that cater for more specialist or niche activities or interests – such as Soundcloud or LastFM, for sharing music. It’s also worth considering the contrasting demographics of particular sites – for example, there are a higher proportion of women amongst Pinterest users compared with on other SMS.

Why social media?

Many community radio stations, or particular presenters on community radio stations, will use social media to publicise a show (ie the presenter’s show). This can be a very useful way of reminding people to tune in, or of building your audience base. But social media is not just for publicity for shows – there are many ways social media can help you make strong connections with the people and communities you care about.

Social media is personal, fast, and mobile. It’s a powerful tool for building connections with other people and developing a rich social network, as well as empowering the people you work with to build their own social networks.

There isn’t just one way or reason to use social media – there are many – and so it’s up to each individual or organisation to work out what suits them best, and what they want out of it. Equally, there are a host of social media tools – which only gets more complex year by year (or even month by month) – which makes it all the more crucial that you think about what you want to achieve through social media.

Here’s a nice testimonial about using social media by Dave Murat, a presenter at Wythenshawe FM:


As a support worker I use social network websites, particularly Facebook (today’s favourite site) to keep in contact with many of my volunteers. I keep an eye on what they are up to (volunteers will often post things publically that they wouldn’t tell you to your face) and help them promote their shows through groups.

It is a great tool to teach computer and internet skills in a friendly manner at a pace that works for them. I have seen some presenters type more in a conversation, than they ever would for their shows or other research work. Using the groups they can publicise their shows and give people up to date information about content and features.

On the downside, people can use it as a replacement for real world contact and take things written on the internet about them to heart. I know, I’ve done it!

As a volunteer presenter I use social networking tools to promote my show. Facebook is an excellent method of keeping in touch with listeners and also collecting information and features for the show. We can update easily whilst on air, this is the same for Twitter and our blog as well.


See also below, in the ‘creating a safe and pro-social internet’ section, for thoughts on the ‘downside’ that Dave talks about…


How to use social media

There are all sorts of guides out there on how to use social media – for publicising your organisation’s work, for education, for engaging audiences, for making links with other organisations. We could boil down all of these guides to one central question: what do I want to get out of using social media? You should spend time identifying clearly what it is that social media could help you to achieve (e.g. publicising your work to the community; making links with other organisations; and/or identifying people to work with). Then you can start to identify what kinds of messages would help you achieve your objectives, and also which social media sites would be most fit for purpose.

Here is a useful set of tips for using various social media sites.

Social Media Posting Guide (07-2012).pptx

Graphic from:


Have a go… experiment… be creative…… but have a strategy!


Creating a safe and pro-social internet

As is often discussed in the media, the internet – and particularly social media – can be a hostile place. Comments made anonymously can often be aggressive in a way that is unlikely to have been made by the person face to face. Bullying can also be magnified or intensified through social media – which young people are increasingly facing. These issues are real – and there are real people being affected by them all the time.

However, there are tools and rules that can help you to, not just ‘deal with’ hostility online, but to actively make your online spaces happy, positive, safe, and pro-social.