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Social media for international students ‐ it's not all about Facebook

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to discover which social networking sites international students prefer for information dissemination activities. As more libraries experiment with social networking to inform and connect with students, there is a need to determine the effectiveness of this strategy for reaching international students. The paper seeks to address three questions: what social networking sites do international students prefer and why? Which sites do they use to socialise and which do they use to gather and distribute information? How can libraries leverage this information to enhance the international student experience? Design/methodology/approach ‐ Information on social networking preferences and usage was gathered from 13 per cent of students at Bond University via an online survey. Findings ‐ The findings confirm that for some international student populations, social networking preferences differentiated between the domestic students' preferences. In addition to social activities, international and domestic students are using particular social networking sites for a wide range of educational purposes, including group work and sharing and gathering information. Although Facebook is still the predominant choice for the majority of students, the findings suggest particular sites such as Twitter and YouTube should be considered by libraries as a means to engage both international and domestic students. Institutions with large Chinese student populations should consider the use of Renren. Originality/value ‐ As of yet there have been no studies that have investigated and compared international students' social networking preferences to domestic students. The study connects the findings to practical implications for academic library use of social networking sites.
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Keywords: Academic libraries; Facebook; Information searches; International students; Social media; Social networking

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 22, 2013

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