Summer study analyses social workers’ use of Facebook

04 February 2016
Nicole Renata 1
Nicole Renata

Facebook is often associated with catching up with mates and planning your social life, but 37-year-old New Lynn resident Nicole Renata is working as a summer scholar to explore the professional use of social media by social workers.

Led by the University of Auckland’s Associate Professor Liz Beddoe, the project is of special interest to Nicole who has just completed a Bachelor of Social Work at the University of Auckland.

The project team includes academics from the University of Waikato, Open Polytechnic and WINTEC, with the focus on social work participation in the Social Work in Aotearoa New Zealand (SWANZ) Facebook page. SWANZ has around 900 members made up of social workers throughout New Zealand, and was set up as a safe place to discuss, debate and share information. The project specifically explores social workers’ perceptions on the use of this closed Facebook group.  

Associate Professor Beddoe says while there is a great deal of conversation internationally about how social workers should manage their personal and professional presentations online, the literature often focuses on the risks rather than the advantages.  

“Social media participation can be very positive and we are in the early stages of learning how we can use these digital spaces for collegial support, knowledge sharing and encouragement. At the same time, we are also providing a forum for contributing to social justice causes and campaigns.”

As a University of Auckland summer scholar, Nicole says being part of the research team is a great opportunity for her to explore being a researcher.

“My role is to review the literature around social media use and conduct one-on-one interviews. Social workers use of social media sites is particularly interesting given the inherent personal and professional collision that happens when practising social work. This research is important because it will provide some insight in to how social workers are engaging with social media."

Nicole first became interested in social work by chance, during maternity leave while working for Warner Music. During her career in publicity Nicole often found herself advocating for artists.

“When I started to explore advocacy in broader terms, I came across social workers and what they did inspired me. I thought hey, I am only in my 30s, I can do more, so I decided to go and study.”

Nicole hopes to enter the profession after she graduates this May.

“I am excited to be entering the profession at this pivotal time and am buoyed by social workers who share their challenges, wins and knowledge."


Anna Kellett, Media Relations Adviser