Social media for international students: It's not all about Facebook

Date of this Version


Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Details

Published Version.

Saw, G., Abbott, W., Donaghey, J., & McDonald, C. (2012). Social media for international students: It's not all about Facebook. Paper presented at the 33rd Annual IATUL (International Association of Scientific and Technological University Libraries) conference, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

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© Copyright Grace Saw, Wendy Abbott, Jessie Donaghey & Carolyn McDonald, 2012

2013 HERDC Submission. FoR code: 080700


According to the OECD there are nearly four million tertiary students enrolled in a course outside their country of citizenship. In 2010 there were 335 273 international students enrolled in higher education in Australia. To support these students during their study, libraries need to find ways to communicate and engage with them.

An Australian study found that international students’ preferred methods for learning about library services was through library webpages and personal contact with library staff. As more libraries experiment with social networking to inform and connect with students, we need to determine the effectiveness of this strategy for reaching international students.

Junco (2011) conducted a study into the effects of Facebook usage on students’ grades and found that students who used Facebook for social activities had lower GPA’s than students who used Facebook for information collection and sharing activities. Junco’s distinction between social activities and information dissemination activities on Facebook indicate that social networking sites aren’t necessarily all about being “social” anymore. Junco’s study indicates that libraries should not fear “invading students’ space” as gathering and distributing information makes up a major part of activities conducted on Facebook.

Libraries need to identify what social networking sites international students prefer. Librarians must then decide if there is value in using these sites to collect and share information with their students. The paper will address three questions:

1. What social networking sites do international students prefer and why?

2. Which sites do they use to socialise and which do they use to gather and distribute information?

3. How can libraries leverage this information to enhance the international student experience?

Discovering which social networking sites international students prefer for information dissemination activities will allow libraries to target appropriate communication channels for engaging these students.

Social media_presentation.pdf (2832 kB)