Most Popular Tools

Facebook (124 million unique visitors) is the biggest and most popular of the big four, with the broadest reach and most mainstream audience. Creating a fan page takes just a few minutes to set up, and becoming a fan of other pages gets the introductions started. A fan page is a solid, relatively low maintenance way to connect.

Pros of Facebook:

  • Large audience — many people already have a Facebook account
  • Easy to set up and low-maintenance afterward
  • Analytics (Facebook Insights) are built into the page
  • Easily post status updates, links, photos, videos, and documents

Cons of Facebook:

  • Not ideal for short-term projects — building a fan group can take some time

What to plan for:

  • Post 1-3 times per day
  • Respond to comments, interact with other Facebook users
  • Create ways for your users to interact with your page (ask questions, use the polls feature, etc.)
  • Connect your website to your Facebook page by including a "Find us on Facebook" link

Twitter (26 million unique visitors) is good for reaching an influential but small educational technology audience. Your Twitter audience generally won't overlap with your Facebook audience, so it's okay to repeat what you post on Facebook if you decide to do both. Twitter requires more maintenance than Facebook, but it's worthwhile if you want to communicate with a cutting-edge audience.

Pros of Twitter:

  • Large, tech-savvy audience
  • Short, 140-character messages
  • You can post to Twitter from a Facebook page if you already have one

Cons of Twitter:

  • Slightly higher-maintenance than Facebook
  • Faster pace means that tweets can become buried quickly
  • The specialized vocabulary can be daunting at first, but Twitter's Help Center has lots of tips and instructions for everyone from beginners to Master Tweeters.

What to plan for:

  • Post ("tweet") 5-10 times a day
  • Repost ("retweet") other people's messages
  • Use hashtags (#) in your tweets before keywords or to connect to different audiences. Here are a few education hashtags.
  • Connect with other tweeters by using @replies to get conversations started

YouTube (84 million unique visitors) is the most popular video sharing site. It's is an effective way to widen the impact of a project blog or page by adding dynamic, creative supporting content. It's an excellent element of any promotion campaign.

Pros of YouTube:

  • Great viral reach
  • Video format makes YouTube ideal for documenting processes, tutorials, and interviews related to your project or center's mission
  • Easy and quick to set up a channel on which you can store an unlimited number of videos

Cons of YouTube:

  • Requires original video content
  • Is better used as an arm of an outreach campaign (for example, a place to upload videos that you will then link to from Facebook) than as the central part of your outreach plan.

What to plan for:

  • Upload short videos (under 15 minutes) documenting some visually interesting part of your project or center. These can be interviews with students, faculty, and staff, mini-documentaries, or any number of other things. Let your creativity run wild!
  • Link from your videos to your website and other social media outlets

LinkedIn (15 million unique visitors) is the largest and most vibrant professional network. It represents an opportunity for indirect project promotion and thought leadership. Business pages are most appropriate for your project's umbrella organization or host, but individual networks can also be useful. For example, individuals can contribute to groups or associations and related conversation, and they can also respond to answers, an area which takes queries from various fields.

Pros of LinkedIn:

  • Connects your project or center to a professional community audience
  • Good site for presenting research findings, white papers, or other documents about your work
  • Minimal maintenance time

Cons of LinkedIn:

  • Relatively small and specialized audience
  • Focused mostly on professional-to-professional connection (rather than, for example, community-building)

What to plan for:

  • Create a business page and include Facebook and Twitter links if available
  • Join groups and comb through answers for opportunities to engage with and contribute to the community

For a listing of ATE Projects and Centers and ATE partners and collaborators who are using Social Media check out our ATE Social Media Directory.

Even if your project or center isn't ready to jump into social media yet, the tools profiled above can also be useful for professional development and your professional profile. For more on how to use social media for your own development check out the next section: Your Professional Profile.