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Communication Toolkit: Social Media

There are over 500 million active users on Facebook, and over 50% of North Dakotans engage in this social media platform. As intimidating as this new medium may be, social media is here to stay. This guide provides a short overview of what each of the larger social media platforms include, along with resources and some tips to help you on your way to engaging customers in this new and exciting way.


Founded in February 2004, Facebook is a social utility that helps people communicate more efficiently with their friends, family and coworkers.

Facebook users have a personal "profile" and can use the site to connect with other people's profiles by designating them as "friends." Users can also engage with organizations having profiles on the site, and can subscribe to receive updates from organizations by "liking" pages. Setting up a Facebook account for personal or business use is free and open to anyone. Once you have an account, you can populate your page or profile with information about yourself, photos, and you can post content for anyone who is your 'friend' or 'follows' you can see. People can in return 'like' the content you post, leave comments, and 'tag' you in the content they produce.

If you are new to Facebook, start by checking out the Center for Rural Health's Facebook page as an example.


Twitter is a 'microblogging' service. With a free account, you can communicate with other Twitter users in short messages ("Tweets") that are 280 characters (letters, symbols, spaces, etc.) or less in length. Users can subscribe to automatically receive updates from others by choosing to "follow" them on the site.

Twitter account user names begin with the '@' symbol. For example, the Center for Rural Health on Twitter is @CRuralHealth. If you include @CRuralHealth, or any other Twitter user, in one of your Tweets, Twitter automatically ties it to their account. This makes it possible for you to track if people are mentioning you in their Tweets, and for you to mention other users in Tweets you post.

While exploring Twitter, you will notice the "#" symbol, included at the end of many Tweets. This is called a "hashtag" and is used to indicate the subject of a Tweet, enabling other users to find it on the site. Hashtags make it possible for Twitter to see who is talking about what. For example, if you include '#ruralhealth' in a Tweet, and many others do as well, this will become a "Trend" and people can search Tweets including this, giving you more coverage. On your Twitter home page, you can see a list in real time that includes the most popular Trending items on Twitter.


Flickr is an online photo management system. You can organize, store, sort, search and share your photos online using Flickr. When you add photos to Flickr, you are able to include descriptions, titles, tags, location information, and more. Users can comment on photos, designate which ones are their "favorite,", and add tags to help others find them in searches.

Facebook offers many of these services as well, but with Flickr, photos are the only focus and they are generally higher-quality images than those stored on Facebook.


YouTube is a video-sharing service that allows users to upload videos of nearly any variety online. With a free YouTube account you are able to upload an unlimited amount of videos. Anyone is able to view videos with or without being registered with YouTube.

General resources for social media
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Social Media Guide - This guide focuses on social media in a health context.

Explore free resources online! There are many guides out there with different philosophies and goals about social media. If you would like further assistance, please feel free to contact us.