This research was motivated by an interest in understanding how social media are applied in teaching in higher education. Data were collected using an online questionnaire, completed by 333 instructors in higher education, that asked about general social media use and specific use in teaching. Education and learning theories suggest three potential reasons for instructors to use social media in their teaching: (1) exposing students to practices, (2) extending the range of the learning environment, and (3) promoting learning through social interaction and collaboration. Answers to open-ended questions about how social media were used in teaching, and results of a factor analysis of coded results, revealed six distinct factors that align with these reasons for use: (1) facilitating student engagement, (2) instructor’s organization for teaching, (3) engagement with outside resources, (4) enhancing student attention to content, (5) building communities of practice, and (6) resource discovery. These factors accord with a Uses and Gratifications perspective that depicts adopters as active media users choosing and shaping media use to meet their own needs. Results provide a more comprehensive picture of social media use than found in previous work, encompassing not only the array of media used but also the range of purposes associated with use of social media in contemporary teaching initiatives.