With social media, information now spreads faster than ever. And you might even need to cite a social media post in an academic paper at some point.
But social media posts need to be cited when they appear in academic writing, so make sure you get it right! In this blogpost, we look at the rules for doing this with APA referencing (7th edition).
Citing a Social Media Post
APA treats publicly available posts on platforms like Facebook or Twitter as websites. As such, if mentioning a Twitter account or Facebook page in passing, you need to provide a URL in parentheses within the text:
Thousands of people use the Financial Times’ Twitter account (https://twitter.com/ftfinancenews) to get breaking news on the markets.
If referring to a specific post or update on social media, however, you’ll need to give a full in-text citation with a named author and date of publication:
In a post on Facebook, the former president referred to the Paris Climate Agreement as “a crucial step forward in the fight against climate change” (Obama, 2016).
In such cases, social media posts cited in your work should be accompanied by an entry in the reference list.
In the reference list, APA has specific requirement for social media posts. The general format is:
Surname, Initial. [Screen name/given name]. (Year, Month Day). Title or excerpt [Platform]. URL
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This includes providing a screen name and the date that the post was made. Since many social media posts don’t have a title, you can use an excerpt of up to 40 words instead.
For example, the reference for the Facebook post cited above would appear as:
Obama, B. [Barack]. (2016, November 4). Today marks a crucial step forward in the fight against climate change, as the historic Paris Climate Agreement officially enters into force. Let’s keep pushing for progress [Facebook status update]. https://www.facebook.com/barackobama/posts/10154306132531749
Make sure the URL you give is for the post in question, not just the page or account from which it is taken.
Citing a Personal Communication
The rules for citing social media are a little different when the post isn’t publicly available (e.g., if it was a direct message). In this case, you treat the post as a personal communication. To do this, state that the information comes from a personal communication in brackets as part of your citation, plus give a date for the message:
Dr. Smith (personal communication, January 12, 2017) claimed that the study was promising but inconclusive.
Since personal messages are not public, APA does not require you to include them in the reference list.