by Karen Zgoda, MSW, LCSW, Kristin Battista-Frazee, MSW, and Laurel Iverson Hitchcock, Ph.D.
Editor’s Note: The New Social Worker is a media partner of #MacroSW. Watch our website for upcoming #MacroSW chats and related information.
Hashtags arrived on the social media scene in 2007 and have become a part of our fluid online conversation ever since. This curious little pound sign (#) has amassed great power, from conveying funny expressions and crowdsourcing conversation to spurring on advocacy movements, such as #BlackLivesMatter. For social workers, hashtags create engagement, promote networking, and are a great way to share information.
The #MacroSW Twitter chat is just one example. It takes place every Thursday at 9 p.m. Eastern time. This hashtag was launched in the fall of 2013 by macro social workers and organizations who wanted to discuss a broad range of ideas that focus on changing larger systems, communities, and organizations. This chat, and many others like it in the Twittersphere, has had an impact on how we converse about the social work profession.
Since January 1, 2016, #MacroSW chat has had 724 participants tweeting an average of five tweets an hour, creating 15,931,657 impressions. The chat is growing, with guest experts, new partners, and collaborations with NASW, the American Academy for Social Work and Social Welfare (AASWSW), YSocialWork, Rhonda Ragsdale, M.S., M.A., of #SaturdaySchool, Jonathan Singer, Ph.D., and Sean Erreger, LCSW, of #SPSM for National Social Work Month.
#MacroSW Chat statistics show that social workers are using technology, and you can look to the hundreds of articles about how technology and social media have changed our lives and social work practice for further proof. A great deal is happening to prepare the profession to include technology in practice with the revision this year of the 2005 NASW and ASWB Standards for Technology and Social Work Practice and one of the Grand Challenges placing great emphasis on the importance of technology.
The depth and influence of technology and innovations like Twitter chats are evolving, as well. In a recent Social Work Education journal article, “Tweet, Tweet!: Using Live Twitter Chats in Social Work Education,” #MacroSW Chat partner Laurel Iverson Hitchcock, MSW, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Social Work, University of Alabama at Birmingham, and co-author Jimmy A. Young, MSW, MPA, Assistant Professor at California State University San Marcos, measured a Twitter chat’s influence in education and evaluated Twitter’s impact on a class assignment that involved discussing a documentary film on a #MacroSW Twitter chat.
Out of 35 students who were surveyed and participated on a March 2015 Twitter chat, “ninety percent of students said the assignment enhanced their learning of the course content, because they were able to connect with others outside of the classroom, learn what others outside of the classroom were thinking about poverty, and learn practice advocacy skills.”
Students are not the only ones who can benefit from joining the #MacroSW chat each week. Social workers from all practice settings can engage in life-long learning through a personal learning network (PLN), a practice of using social media to stay current on the latest news and research. Following hashtags and participating in live Twitter chats are important tools for a tech-savvy social worker’s PLN. In an era when most social workers practice with individuals and families, #MacroSW provides a forum to share and learn about current policy developments, practice needs for our communities and constituencies, and ways to serve the broader society as a social worker. Unlike collaboration via face-to-face meetings, online Twitter chats like #MacroSW enable chatters to interact with social workers all over the world and connect with macro social workers who may not be available in their home communities.
It is also easy to participate in a live #MacroSW chat. Twitter accounts are free, and all you have to do is log on to Twitter.com at the scheduled time of the chat, and type #MacroSW into the search box. You will see the handle @OfficialMacroSW and the chat’s host tweeting questions about the weekly topic, along with other social workers. Jump into the conversation by answering one of the questions or responding to someone else’s tweet. Don’t forget to include the hashtag #MacroSW in every tweet, so others can follow the flow of tweets and the conversation stays in one thread.
Live chats are fast paced, so don’t worry if you can’t read or reply to every tweet. After each chat, a transcript is posted, so you can read the entire conversation and access shared resources.
For more details, check out these Twitter Chat FAQs (http://macrosw.com/macrosw-twitter-chat-faqs/), visit the #MacroSW website (http://macrosw.com), and chime in on the conversation every Thursday at 9 p.m. Eastern Time (6 p.m. Pacific Time). Check out Twubs.com to discover other hashtags.
Karen Zgoda, MSW, LCSW, is an instructor of social work at Bridgewater State University. Kristin Battista-Frazee, MSW, is an author and marketing consultant. Laurel Iverson Hitchcock, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of social work at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.