Monday, December 24, 2012

Citing Social Media

Years ago, when I sat in my junior high classroom learning about citation styles and wondering how I would ever use this in real life, it was all so simple.  We were given MLA and APA style guides and told to have at it.  Never take credit for anything again, they said.  Cite your sources, they said.  Well, back when my sources were encyclopedias, text books, journals, and an occasional website, that was all very easy.  (As a side note, I once had a teacher who would not allow us to cite websites because “the web will never be a serious source of information.  It’s for amateurs.”)

In college it got a little trickier, but largely became a matter of routine.  I’m not ashamed to admit Son of a Citation Machine, EasyBib, and BibMe became some of my very best friends.  If you are struggling with maintaining consistency in your citations, I highly recommend these sites.  They will help you develop your works cited page as you go…so you don’t wind up waiting until the end of the paper and having to retrace your steps… (Not that I did that or anything…)

So, I finished my undergrad right as social networking/media sites were starting to become actual citable fodder.  As a result, I was never placed in the position of having to cite a Facebook post or create an in-text citation for a Tweet.  But now here we are… a brave new world where social media requires citation.  I want to be careful because I’m sure there are more than a couple (thousand?) professors out there who will not accept something from a social networking site as a legit source.  Some situations call for the legitimate use of material from social networking tools.  Others do not.  Citing the President’s tweet about the launch of a new federal program – good. Citing a professional discussion on a LinkedIn discussion board – maybe.  Citing your sister’s Facebook status on why Mall of America is the best – probably no.  Also, while citing a social media source is sometimes necessary, citing exclusively social media sources is a good way to earn an F. 

It is of note that social media is new and constantly changing.  Unlike a book that, once published, exists out there somewhere forever, anyone can simply “pull back” or delete a post, tweet, etc.  So while a social media post may exist one day, it could be gone the next.  If you are doing a long and involved piece of research and you don’t want to risk losing a source, consider doing a screen shot or saving it in some way.

While this is, by no means, meant to be the definitive word on any of these tools, I do hope that this is somewhat helpful for those looking for a quick reference. 

Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, let’s get to the nuts and bolts of this.  I’ve spent some time online looking for various ways to cite social media.  Here is what I’ve pulled together.


When citing a profile or status update, it is sufficient to include the url in parenthesis within the text.  It is not necessary to put it in the reference list.

When citing a group or page, APA recommends formatting your citation to look like this:

Username or Group Name. (n.d.). In Facebook [Page type]. Retrieved Month Day, Year, from

n.d. stands for no date.  Use this when the date of the post isn’t apparent.  Also, for information that is not publically available on Facebook (i.e. a message), treat this as a personal communication.

When citing a profile or status update, MLA recommends using the standard citation for web publications.

Last, First. “Post title.” Facebook. n.p. Day Month. Year. Web. Date retrieved.


APA blogger Chelsea Lee gives some pretty solid examples of how to cite tweets.  Here are a few:

BarackObama. (2009a, July 15). Launched American Graduation Initiative
 to help additional 5 mill. Americans graduate college by 2020: [Twitter post]. Retrieved from

Notice the use of BarackObama instead of Barack Obama.  Use the name as written on Twitter.  The URL should also lead to that specific tweet, not the general feed. 

MLA’s website also provides an example.

Athar, Sohaib (ReallyVirtual). “Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event).” 1 May 2011, 3:58 p.m. Tweet.

There are a few points of note.  With MLA, you use the author’s name first (not their Twitter handle as you do with APA).  The Twitter name goes in parenthesis later.  MLA states that the date and time should reflect the reader’s date and time (including time zone).  Also note, a url does not seem necessary.

YouTube :
Boise State provides some great examples of citing YouTube videos.

Author or Producer Last Name, First  Name. (Year, Month Date). Title of the
     video [Video file]. Retrieved from http://-list the entire website-


Editor, author, or compiler name (if available). "Posting Title." Name of
    Site. Version number. Name of institution/organization affiliated with
    the site (sponsor or publisher), date of  resource creation (if available). Web.
    Date of access.


Alright, so this is the hardest one.  Try as I might, I have found very little specific reference to how to cite a LinkedIn profile.  A few months ago, I communicated with APA on it.  I asked if the following was correct and they seemed to think it was…


Nicole Schiller Palmisano. (n.d.) LinkedIn [Profile page]. Retrieved July 12. 2012,


I could find no information on this.  I did put a question on LinkedIn Answers but did not get anything that seemed serious.  So, I got to thinking that the principles that apply for a FB profile should carry over for any profile.  With that in mind, this is what I’ll be going with:

Palmisano, Nicole. LinkedIn. n.p Web. 21 Dec. 2012

Now, there are a few things to point out.  I don’t think it’s possible to tell what date a LinkedIn profile was published, so I eliminated that date and only included the retrieve date.  Also, no url seems necessary as one is not needed for Facebook.



  1. thnx for the information..
    blog is really gud,Help my india is the World Best Forum and Blogging Site which provides the all category of forum and blogging and Social Community site.

    Political Forum Site


  2. I have enjoyed reading your articles. It is well written. It looks like you spend a large amount of time and effort in writing the blog. I am appreciating your effort. You can visit my website.
    non profit organization lists

  3. I found so many interesting stuff in your blog especially its discussion.
    instagram photos

  4. Whether one just needs to write friendly e-mails to loved ones, create English book reports or opinion papers or make correspondences and corporate settings, grammar is an indispensable tool to make a great impression. See more punctuation checker free online