The Buzz on Social Media: Conference discusses ways to improve an online presence

Workshop helps students use social media to further their careers and organizations

Participants left with the tools they need to make progress on building their own public presence online. Photo by Megan Morr/Duke University Photography

With social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook taking the professional world by storm, a conference at Duke, "Going Public," discussed how to manage the online world of self-publishing and how to make social media work for them and for their organizations.

Speaking Friday at Smith Warehouse, workshop panelists Ashley TsaiTyler DukesSarah GoetzRob Goodman('05), and  Caitlyn Zimmerman (MEM '12) discussed topics ranging from freelance writing to the elements of a good blog post.

A blogger for the Huffington Post, Goodman discussed the value of relating personal interests to current events for blog posts. He mentioned that blogs relating to diverse interests created a "blogosphere" of online dialogue.

Goetz, a Duke graduate and an artist currently residing in New York, described her technique of writing in "haiku" for her blog about her artwork to counteract the stress of restricting her expression to paragraph form.

"Blogs help create a 'niche culture' for nearly everything on the Internet and almost every field," Goetz said.

Online content must be reliable, Goetz said, adding that even though the content is self-published, readers look for academic or professional credentials.

"You have to have an elite presence of some kind," Goetz said. "Only then will you gain some validity."

Dukes, a science journalist from Raleigh who created his own blog site called Write-30, related how he began writing blog posts in college through He cited the importance of social media in helping him make the connections that accelerated his career.

To those looking for employment, the panelists emphasized the importance of an online presence and transparency. Zimmerman encouraged college students to obtain an online presence as soon as possible but cautioned that profiles should be appropriate for public viewing. She added that information such as political preferences could be kept visible but ultimately depended on the preferences and political leanings of an employer or future employer.

Goodman encouraged undergraduates to use the Internet as a trial-and-error platform for their writing. Blogs are a great tool craft a writer's style and skills at an early age, he said, adding that students should not be discouraged from the feedback they receive.

"My teacher once told me that you should be glad that there are problems with your writing as an undergrad because you don't want to be as good as you're going to get when you're only 20 years old," Goodman said. 

The event was sponsored by the Thompson Writing Program, Duke's Office of News and Communications and the Nicholas School of the Environment.