[This post is a part of the Technology in Youth Ministry series]
With the amount of social networks available, it can be extremely difficult to know which, if any, we sould be utilizing when connecting with students. I would be pretty surprised if there was a youth worker who doesn't use at least one of these, but nonetheless, it is helpful to know what the social networks are and why certain ones might benefit you over others.
Facebook. Students, parents, granparents, pastors, and volunteers are all on facebook. Facebook is well past the early-adopter phase and has become something that a large number of students and families are using. Facebook can have a variety of options for connecting students to your ministry; you might use a page, a group, or simply becoming friends with the students you know. Regardless, if you only use one social network to connect with students, use facebook.
Twitter. Twitter is all about followers. In short 140 character updates, you can share with anybody who follows your account. While facebook is about having friends, twitter does not require you to be friends with somebody you follow; you only have to be interested in what they have to say. Twitter is less common than facebook, but it is certainly popular among youth workers and I have seen a lot of growth in it's usage among students.
Google+. Google plus hasn't quite hit the tipping point among students yet. There are certainly a number of students who are trying it out, but they haven't gotten to the point where the masses are using it yet. If you want to have a circle of youth workers to connect with, Google+ will work great, but if you want to interact with your students, you'll have better luck with facebook and twitter.
Youtube. Youtube is not only the largest video-sharing social network, but it is also one of the largest search engines in the world. Youtube videos go viral every week, and it is certainly a place that your students are hanging out online. Because youtube is a popular search engine, videos you upload will likely be found through natural discovery in addition to students finding your videos because they know that you've uploaded them there.
Tumblr. Tumblr is a blog/social network. If you are looking to have a blog that is easily followed by students, this can be a great tool. Tumblr takes some of the features familiar to twitter (followers) and allows you to follow other people who also have a tumblr. I'd characterize tumblr as the middle road between the simplicity of twitter and the complexity of a full-fledged blog.
Vimeo. Vimeo is another video-sharing social network. While youtube is the dominating force in this realm, vimeo tends to be known for higher quality videos and has significantly more control in the way you embed your videos. I wouldn't expect students to be searching vimeo to find your videos, but if you are embedding your videos on your website, this may be the perfect option. Where youtube videos have little control over things like "recommended videos," vimeo gives you complete control over the details if you have a paid account.