If you work in Student Affairs, you have probably noticed a heightened sense of shared excitement centered on Social Media issues in the last few months. #EdTech, #SoMe, #Sachat, #Acadv, #SAwrites are just a few buzz virtual expressions that have been consuming the minds of thousands of Student Affairs professionals. With rapid advancements in social technology over the past decade, the Student Affairs profession has seemingly crossed into a new digital era where online networking is no longer simply a personal preference. Virtual engagement is becoming a leading force in postsecondary institutional landscapes. While distance education isn’t a novel practice in the context of curricular learning, social media is the newest catalyst for transforming the existing systemic procedures in Higher Education to actively tap into digital audiences. As the college student demographics keep changing, the today’s Student Affairs professional must embrace an added dimension of also being a “virtual practitioner” by role definition. The latest trends in Higher Education call to raise an important question: Can we hear your Social Media voice?
Collectively, the Student Affairs profession seems to be paving the way with numerous emerging initiatives to promote more cross-institutional awareness of social media capabilities and practical competencies in digital leadership. However, those of us who are still branching out into the cyber world might feel stuck in how to navigate the social interworking of the ever-growing digital presence to authentically represent “YOU” as a unique professional. It is easy to become overwhelmed by the dynamic richness of social platforms. It might also seem impossible to keep up with the constant speed of the latest social apps being introduced. Although most of us feel at ease employing some form of social networking for personal use, many of us are still unsure on how to integrate our multiple intersectional identities with yet another emerging element of the “digitally-professional self”. How can we manage to find a unique social media voice that’s LOUD in a meaningful way to be able to stand out of the virtual crowd?
- Your social media voice should reflect your core professional values just as your practice in real life. Ground your voice in what you believe to be the best ethical practices in Student Affairs. I personally abide by the CAS shared ethical principles of Beneficence, Justice and Veracity to help guide my daily work interactions with courtesy, integrity, and fairness (Dean, 2009). My voice in cyberspace needs to echo these principles to stay true to who I am as a practitioner and to accomplish the highest level of professionalism. It’s important to be attentive to others in cyberspace space by being reflective, timely, and responsible in your interactions. Also, your digital attitude should carry a certain level of humility to be prepared to face follow up questions, counterview points, and strong reactions as potential possibilities in response to your content. Be open to feedback and learn from it to be more informed on how to best channel your voice in future online engagements.
- Your social media voice should reflect your unique professional interests. Naturally, it makes sense to engage in virtual interactions that are centered on issues you are most passionate about. Don’t just post content anywhere for the sake of growing your digital voice. Get connected in virtual communities that share your common interests instead. Follow like-minded individuals with a strong digital presence that you can learn from. Join professional groups on LinkedIn, partake in Twitter dialog through hashtags, and read up in blogging communities to foster professional connections and stay current on issues you care about most. Use the time spent engaging in cyber-interaction to cultivate meaningful discussions by listening to others and sharing your experiences as an analogy for enhancing your public speaking skills to help you develop a stronger virtual voice. If you are newer to Student Affairs, you can look up the following directory of Higher Ed hashtags to get started on Twitter: https://www.insidehighered.com/twitter_directory.
- Your social media voice should be used as a tool to empower. It may be tempting to view social media as a digital resume for professional gain. Although having a strong digital presence is highly important when it comes to professional development and job search purposes, your social media voice does not necessarily need to sound a like a resume pitch across all platforms. Use your social media voice to highlight your professional qualifications in relevant contexts, such as your LinkedIn profile. As for the rest of your online interactions, express your voice by drawing on your core values and professional interests for the ultimate benefit of the students. Don’t lose sight of why you chose Student Affairs as your preferred career choice in the first the place. Convert your knowledge and passion for this filed into an electronic format. Although the context for promoting student development has changed, your professional sense of self shouldn’t have to. Student Affairs professionals have an important responsibility to educate students and to equip them with the necessary skills to grow as whole individuals. Your social media voice can become a powerful tool to advocate for the student needs on your campuses, bring more awareness of educational barriers in your professional circles, and ultimately improve the quality of Higher Education by equipping you to be an effective digital leader. Use your voice boldly and lead responsibility!