• 2-minute read
  • 20th July 2017

APA Referencing – Social Media

Everybody has opinions on everything these days. And social media has given people a way to share them. Often quite aggressively. It’s even reached a point where we sometimes need to cite social media in academic writing. Here’s how to do this using APA referencing (7th edition).

When to Cite Social Media

Facebook and Twitter are NOT dependable academic sources. If you see someone tweeting that ‘coconuts are hairy eggs’, for example, this is not a rigorous botanical argument suitable for use in an essay.

Try not to think about what would hatch from a coconut egg.

Usually, you only need to cite social media when looking at reactions to current events or cultural phenomena, or when writing about social media itself. Otherwise, you’re better off using a traditional source, such as a book, journal article or academic website.

In-Text Citations

If you’re just mentioning a social media account in passing, simply give the URL in parentheses:

The WWF’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/WWF) is followed by millions of people, making it an important method of public engagement.

No reference list entry is required in this case. But if you’re citing or quoting a specific post, you need to give a standard APA citation with the author’s surname and a year of publication:

On Twitter, the former-president called the decision ‘a mistake’ (Clinton, 2017).

Social media posts cited in the text of an essay like this should be added to the reference list, too.

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Reference List

The format for social media posts in an APA reference list is quite specific:

Surname, Initial. [Screen name/given name]. (Year, Month Day). Title or excerpt. [Platform]. URL

If the poster’s name isn’t known, you can give the screen name in first position. And since most social media posts don’t have a title, you can use the first 40 words of the post instead.

You would list the tweet cited above, for example, as follows:

Clinton, B. [billclinton]. (2017, June 1). Walking away from Paris treaty is a mistake. Climate change is real. We owe our children more. Protecting our future also creates more jobs. [Tweet]. https://twitter.com/billclinton/status/870413077413605376

As shown above, the URL given should be for the specific post, not just the account it came from.

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