Friday, November 19, 2010

Q & A with a Marketing SIG

The ACE Marketing SIG asked me to do a Q&A about my job as a social media strategist for the Military Families Partnership which is a Department of Defense Initiative with NIFA and Cooperative Extension.

Rather than keeping my answers closed in the email reply, I am sharing them here.

Q: What is a Social Media Strategist?

I was hired to help eXtension Communities of Practice--in particular those whose work in helping military families and military family service professionals--use, surf, lurk, engage, and co-create in online social spaces. Most organizations hire social media strategists either full-time or through a consultant arrangement to advise them on using social media for marketing. Because our (Cooperative Extension’s) role is in education, we see that social media strategies and tactics should be grounded in our education role. While we will certainly use social media to market and find new audiences, we are not solely concentrating our social media efforts in marketing.

Q: How would you describe your day to day work?

The Military Families Community of Practice (CoP) work is still developing in its early stages. Most of my work thus far has been in trying to build relationships with eXtension CoP leaders, DoD, NIFA and other partners. Soon, I hope you will begin to see some products. We hope to have professional development sessions around social media. We also want to help CoPs design professional development sessions that are sought by military family service professionals and are indicated by DoD priority areas--personal finance, child care, community capacity, and workforce development. We want to integrate and wrap social media applications around these sessions and the content that will developed for those sessions. For instance, we want to use Facebook, Twitter, blogs, some military social spaces, like Military One Source, to talk about the sessions, before, during and after the web conferences. The use of social media will be used not only to market but to share educational content and engage with people who are interested in the topics.

My days right now are more in the planning stages. I foresee my days in the future working with directly with the Military Families CoP, partners, existing CoPs, and other Cooperative Extension professionals in how to use online tools to accomplish their educational goals.

Q: While your work deals with Military Families Partnership, do you see other areas where Extension programming work and social media strategy could benefit from or is benefitting from?

Absolutely. As we build a social media strategy and use social media for the Military Families Partnership, these efforts will be intertwined with other eXtension CoP work and with Cooperative Extension work. As we develop professional development sessions around social media these sessions will be open to the public and will target both Cooperative Extension and military family service professionals (those who work for DoD and the military service branches).

Watch for these on In fact, we have asked John Dorner and Kyleen Burgess of North Carolina to provide a session on Facebook privacy settings for professionals on November 30.

Q: What about social media should marketing professionals keep in mind?

Most examples and social media strategists talk about using social media for marketing. Many of these strategies are designed in traditional marketing strategies using new tools. The problem with this approach is eventually the marketing – the broadcasts – become noise and eventually ignored. If we consider social media more like social space – comparing online social spaces to traditional and physical social spaces--we see social media more of a place to meet people, engage, listen, and learn. Then we turn those conversations into meaningful actions in developing education. Albeit in traditional social spaces, conversations and interactions are not usually recorded. Cooperative Extension’s product is education. A progressive approach is to not only think of social media as another way to market Cooperative Extension programs, but also to align social media with educational efforts to help accomplish educational and learning goals. Using social media to become members of communities where the members (Cooperative Extension professionals and clients) share learning goals so that the teaching is not always one way (Cooperative Extension professionals to clients), but rather the interaction and engagement yields learning and teaching by potential all members (Cooperative Extension professionals and clients) of the community. Marketing professionals have an opportunity to lead the way and model crossing functional lines and integrating education, marketing, public relations, and content creation by first looking at the social media space as a place they can learn and interact with others (in and outside of Cooperative Extension).

My most prominent piece of advice is to start now. Start listening online, then teach others—educators and administrators how to listen online. Start by creating Google Alerts, blog searches, and Twitter searches on typical words used to describe Extension institutions Cooperative Extension professionals and areas of interests. Here are some of the search terms I have used: Alabama Cooperative Extension (Google Alert), county agents, Extension agents, County Extension, oil spill, bioenergy, alfalfa, nutrition, counting calories, military child, child care. I changed these terms to others as I need to learn what people are saying about other topics.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Facebook Pages for Organizations

Some organizations have already created Facebook Pages, others have created Profile accounts. And, there are some others which are considering creating a Facebook presence, but are not sure whether to create a Page or a Profile account. Before making a decision about using Facebook for business purposes, here are some considerations:

  • Read Facebook’s terms of agreement. Of course, you have already agreed on those terms when you created an account.
  • Pages are for organizations. Profile accounts are for individuals. From Facebook's terms of service: "Profiles represent individuals and must be held under an individual name, while Pages allow an organization, business, celebrity, or band to maintain a professional presence on Facebook." The terms of service says clearly that a Profile account should represent an individual.
  • Pages are distinct presences that communicate, distribute information and content, engage their fans, and capture new audiences virally through their fans’ recommendations to their friends.
  • Pages offer analytics; Profile accounts do not. Analytics include how many likes, comments you received each day, and demographic information.
  • Pages are designed to be a media rich, valuable presence solution for an organization.
  • Pages are customizable. Profile accounts are more limited.
  • Pages offer a “Like” button (or a widget) that you can embed into web pages. Profile accounts do not have widgets.
  • Pages have unlimited fans (or likes). Profile accounts are limited to 5,000 friends.
  • Pages allow you to email everyone in your fan base. Profile accounts limit you to sending 20 emails at a time.
  • Pages automatically accept fan requests. Profile accounts require you to manually accept new friend requests.
  • If you are using an Profile account, instead of a Page for your organization, individuals might be less reluctant to friend a Profile account that represents a group or an organization—because an organization is not a person.
  • Facebook does not provide a way to convert a Profile account to a Page. If you have Profile account for your organization and you want to use a Page instead, you have to copy your information to the page. Friends cannot be converted to fans. Options are:
    • Ask friends to like the Page by sending them a message from the profile account. 
    • Tell friends by using a status update.
    • Recommend through the Page “Tell your fans” option. You cannot customized the message explaining why you're asking them to do it.
    • After copying information from the Profile account to the Page, l decide whether to delete the account or leave it. Instead of deleting it, you can set the privacy settings to limit it from being found. Two different presences on Facebook can be confusing to potential fans and friends. Facebook's friend recommendation feature will continue to suggest to friends of friends to your  abandoned Profile account.


Fan Pages vs. Regular Profiles

I don't have a website for my organization. What is a Facebook Page?

Why Your Company Should Have a Facebook Page (Not a Profile) Tags:

Friday, October 15, 2010

What if individual employees led social media efforts

More than three years ago, I began to notice that different professionals (the ones who saw the potential of Web 2.0 years ago) were frustrated that their chosen fields did not seem excited about leading efforts in using these Web 2.0 tools within organizations. I heard:

  • “Why aren’t marketers leading the Web 2.0 tools?”
  • “Why aren’t public relations seeing the wonders of Web 2.0 tools?”
  • “Shouldn’t professional development professionals be leading by example by using Web 2.0 tools?”

Today, though, it seems that in most organizations, marketing departments are leading the social media efforts.

What if, instead of the marketing departments taking the lead, that professional development professionals or research and development units take the lead in social media use in organizations? What if the expectations were shifted to individual employees who become responsible for their own learning through networks built using social media?

If social media tools were thought more often as tools for learning, listening, sharing, adjusting, and co-creating, and less often about pushing and selling, then the online landscape would look very different.

Social media within organizations would look more like what is described in this presentation: Creating a Personal Learning Network

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Listening, Interacting, and Responding

Last week I attended meetings in Washington DC. These meetings and conversations were productive, giving way to a lot of potential in the near future, albeit at times, the conversations were a little challenging.

Like always, being away from home, long days, and long nights wear on my body and my mind. Needless to say, I was tired and did not want to wait for the hotel shuttle yesterday morning. I walked out of the hotel on Friday thinking I would get a cab to the airport.

When I walked out, I did not see anyone who could help me with getting a cab or understanding when the next shuttle would leave. Turning the corner, I saw that two attendants took noticed of my confused look. I said I needed a cab to the airport. They had a very short and purposeful conversation. One asked a question, pointing to the two shuttles parked. They seemed to have a moment of confusion, maybe a little embarrassment. I had no idea what they were discussing, but one said pointing to the other, “He will take you to Reagan airport.” 

After watching the exchange, it occurred to me that there must have been a mix up of some sort and they immediately offered a resolution. I am still not sure what the mix up was, but it was evident there was no cab too. I was the beneficiary of a quick, and inexpensive trip to the airport on the hotel shuttle—a trip especially taken for me.

I tweeted that they had great service. In response, DoubleTree said they were glad to serve me and wished me safe travels.

Are you listening? The Twitter response was another nice gesture from DoubleTree Hotel. I know now that DoubleTree is watching the Twitter stream for good, and I am assuming, for bad comments because they responded. I also know the names of the two people who managed their Twitter account. The Twitter profile tells me two real people are listening. Again, this is an easy, but nice detail.

You maybe asking “Why and what does this have to do with education and our organization?”

Do we know what has been said about our organization on Twitter, in blogs, in Google Buzz, in Facebook? If not, it is time to:


Develop methods of listening to online comments, commentary, and opinions, Easiest methods are to create searches in Twitter and creating Google Alerts. There are other monitoring methods, some are free and others that are more comprehensive and are available for a fee.

In Cooperative Extension, searches should include the names of key leaders, the name of the organization and how people refer to the organization. For instance, our educators are often known as Extension agents. Our organization is often called Cooperative Extension, University Extension, etc.

Land grant universities cover a lot topics. Individual programs should also be listening for the use of keywords. Do you work in agriculture? What are some terms every day people and ag industry and farmers use? Listen for those terms.

Do you work with family and health? Are you listening to what people are saying about indoor health, family fitness, food preparation, nutrition, losing weight, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. Socializing and chatting online is not just for the young. Social networking use among internet users ages 50 and older nearly doubled—from 22% in April 2009 to 42% in May 2010. Young and old are using social networks, we should be listening to what they are saying.

Even if your organization does not have a social media strategy, you should be listening!!!


The fact that DoubleTree recognized my comment about their  great service was very much appreciated. I will remember DoubleTree service in making decisions on where to stay in my future travels. This should be a definite plus for their targeted marketing efforts

How is your organization listening and responding? Is someone responsible to responding to comments and suggestions as if these comments were made in survey or in a phone call to the office?


Interaction is the first step to letting clients know you are  listening--similar to “we received your email, your request, or your comment.” Sometimes though, there should be action at and throughout the organizational level. Social media should be used to improve the organization—its actions, its operations, its customer services, and possibly guide its future.

My hope as a customer of DoubleTree that two individuals monitoring the Twitter stream passed on the good word to the two men who helped me.

If I had been a dissatisfied customer, the information should have been passed on, and a decision should have been made whether there should be an action or a reaction made to prevent future problems. Though I have no data, I wonder how often the integration from customer to social network to public relations (or marketing) to organization to functional areas actually takes place.

Organizations have lived in siloed management for a long time, creating efficiencies of “staying in your own lane”. Integration and communicating across business functions are easy and are often discouraged. One of the least talked about benefits of social media is the ability of crossing, involving, integrating, and improving different functional areas.

If the organization sees that social media is a marketing function only, then the organization misses very important and valuable benefits to the whole organizations.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

A Great Relationship Makes a Great Team

At the Leadership for Tomorrow Conference, sponsored by Ohio State Cooperative Extension, the Honorable Joyce Beatty, an accomplished, confident, energetic, vibrant Ohio leader, told us about her personal philosophy of leadership. In her story, she often referred to her husband as a good husband—emphasizing good.  And then, she let us know how he is a really great husband.

She told us about how in her 40s she suffered a stroke, paralyzing her body and preventing her from speaking. While in the hospital after the stroke, the doctors came in talk to her husband. She laughs about how they closed the curtain, for privacy, but she could hear every word. The doctor explained to her busy, successful husband (her good husband) that Joyce may not walk again, will have several disabilities and will need constant care. They suggested that he put her in a nursing home. Though Joyce could not move nor could she speak, she could hear every word. After her husband listened, he told the doctor “No, I will take her home.”

She exclaims: “My husband is not a good husband, but a great husband.” Through much physical therapy and treatment, her own determination, support from her husband, Joyce now walks, talks (and she can talk!), keeps audiences entertained, inspires others, and provides strong leadership to the state of Ohio.

Since the conference, I have listened and observed instances where I can identify great relationships. A new colleague (and friend) and I were commenting on how tired we were at a conference and how we both wanted to get home. In doing so, he said simply but with deep compassion in his voice, “I miss my wife”. It was clear he and his wife have a great relationship and they yearn for each other, even after more than 25 years of marriage.

A great relationship develops into a great team. In the picture (taken 2008), Johnny had been fighting a brain tumor for a few years. The shirt perfectly demonstrated them as a couple. He probably would say today, that it is definitely depicts his wife’s attitude as he struggled through his illness. There on the beach, Tracy was supporting him as he could not lift his left leg through the sand.

“A good team becomes a great team when members surrender “me” for “we”.

Great Team

In Johnny’s final days with his family, I commented to his her. “You are doing so well, handling all that needs to be done, caring for him, staying calm, and being a rock for your family.” Not surprising, her response was: “You do what you have to do”.

Those who are great partners don’t consider how great they are, they think their steadfast dedication is normal. However, that constant, hardworking, deep-seeded dedication is rare. Great relationships are rare. Great relationships happen because the individuals go beyond what is expected and a constantly selflessly thinking of the other—without keeping score.

As the tumor took its toil through the years, Johnny adjusted. His role changed, and he fully used his talents to best of his abilities. No longer able to work, he coached his kids in recreation and travel ball, and served as an assistant coach for the local junior high girls basketball team for four years. He also challenged the local community to serve all kids, particularly kids of limited income, through recreation activities and facilities.

To Johnny, may you rest in peace knowing that you impacted many through your life, your passions, your hardheadedness, and your actions which always matched your principles and values.

To Tracy, thanks for giving us a a model in how to handle the toughest of situations with dedication, grace, balance, and unwavering love and commitment.

The photo can be found Tags: ,

Sunday, August 1, 2010

When do you find the time?

In every session I conduct about social media, I am asked the question: How do you find the time (to be online, chat, tweet, update statuses, use geo-location, etc.)?

When most Americans watch TV

While most settle in at night to watch network news, reality shows, and weekly series, I get online. Sometimes this online activity is serious study—learning, listening, investigating, engaging in online discussions or contributing to wiki or other collaborating works. At other times, I am more relaxed. I browse the news of the day that I may have missed or read something that hits my personal interests. In most cases, the TV is on while the family watches, and my daughter is in the same room online too.

For me, watching network news and television shows flow too slowly. Commercials every few minutes are very distracting. I want information and news without forced interruption. On a side note, I also find that most of the time, the inflection of news broadcasters and background mislead the importance of a point or lean one to feel an emotion that is not based on fact.

I would rather spend my time consuming information at my own pace and be able to select what I consume. I would rather fill this time, making a contribution, finding out how friends and family are doing, and having interactive fun—not waiting for TV media to pour to me. 

According to Clay Shirky in Cognitive Surplus (see this post for video and transcript), Americans watch 200 billion hours of television every year. Trillions of hours of TV are viewed worldwide each year. What if 1% (or 5%) of this time is spent contributing online content, public bookmarking what you are reading, and another 1% (or 5%) of this time is spent connecting or socializing with others? What if the time spent watching advertisements was used in producing or contributing to online projects? Some groups of teenagers are adapting in this way. These teenagers are spending less time watching TV than their parents. These teenagers are creating storylines, music, or artistic works, learning to work others, building leaderships skills, and having fun.

When I have dead time

When waiting in line at Walmart, or in the car (parked) waiting on the kids, I quickly check Tweetdeck to find out what is being said on Twitter from those I follow and in the categories I have set for searches. If possible and if my response would be meaningful, I will work in this dead time a response. I may also browse Google Buzz comments.

Of course, during these dead times, I also check email and read my favorite friends in Facebook that have been fed to my Facebook application.

During the day, I periodically check the continuous stream from Tweetdeck

Though some find a continuous pop-up Twitter stream distracting, I have learned that I can ignore the tweets during my busy times and choose to read a few when I feel like it.  At my desk, I glance at the automatic feeds or wait until I have more time, I scan my Tweetdeck columns.

I seldom go to the page.

When certain groups have Twitter chats (they make use of hashtags), I may keep up peripherally if I don’t have time or I may wait until later and check the stream.

I don’t read everything every day

I follow roughly 2,000 people. I also track different terms using the search feature in Tweetdeck. For instance, I have searched columns for “military families”, “#milfam”,  “ag”, “#agchat”, and “#coopext”. I periodically add search columns for topics that are more relevant for a short period. Additionally, I have columns for retweets and direct messages. Because I can’t see every tweet, I prioritize the accounts I follow. On days that I don’t have much time, I look at the columns that I feel are the most important.

So you may ask “When am I not online?”

I can be online in some form about anytime I want to be. It is also up to me to decide when I get offline as it is up to families to decide when the TV is on or off. There are times that simply having face to face conversations mean being attentive with the most important people in my life and work. Also, it is up to me to find time to move, exercise, jog, walk, read, write, pray, and think alone. However, these times do not always come in the after 5 and on weekends. I choose when I am offline and online—making sure I get my job done well and serve my family well.

Balancing my time is not easy, never has been. And, I am certainly not always successful, but it is my responsibility to find the balance. There is no reason to sit in the recliner every night and be purely a consumer of information and entertainment.

Relaxing online

Sometimes, when I am online, it is for entertainment or purely social reasons, playing scrabble online, chatting with friends in Facebook or watching or reading something that is for my enjoyment and has nothing to do with work.

Understanding filters and priorities

Filtering and prioritizing are ways of managing the flow of tweets, Facebook statuses and comments, Google Buzz, and Google Wave. Though I have talked about Twitter, it is only one of many tools.

Twitter gives me the greatest diversity of information. Most of the time tweets only hit the surface, but will lead me to find greater depth on a topic, current issue or debate.

Prioritizing which conversations warrant my attention helps me stay focused on busy days.

Importance of mobile devices and computing

I certainly could not keep up without a good smartphone and understand how to integrate different social media tools and applications.

Why do I do it?

As an educator, part of my responsibilities are to keep up with new information and research and to continuously learn. Also my responsibilities include developing relationships that in turn create trust and credibility. Being part of communities that create content and develop ideas is another way of being an effective educator. I can’t be effective if I don’t participate online. Thus, finding ways to consume information, process it, and collaborate with others is a must.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Missing Component of Social Media Strategy

Organizations are wanting step-by-step approaches to creating social media activities that bring an obvious return on investment. Because often marketing and public relations are looked upon to lead social media strategies, the return on investments are focused on marketing goals.

As educational organizations approach social media, they (admittedly, I have fallen in this trap) have looked at marketing strategies and looked toward corporate and non-profit organizations as models of using social media tools.

One of the problems of using these businesses as models is that their goals are different than educational organizations. As a result, they often do not include collaboration as a component of their online strategy.

Educational organizations (obviously) hope to increase the knowledge of others with a greater goal that more education will improve something. Education, we hope, will develop better management skills, improve health, increase production, improve efficiency, increase profits, improve quality of life, improve communities, strengthen families, or improve the public good, develop research, or invoke innovations.

Cooperative Extension’s mission is to provide working knowledge (with the overall goal to improve the quality of life) through education that is grounded in research, implying that Extension must continuously increase our own knowledge and education to fulfill our mission.

When Jonell Hinsey, Peg Shuffstall, Rhonda Conlon, and I presented Components of Social Media at the National Extension Technology Conference, we did not mention collaboration as a component of a social media strategy. That is an oversight. Thus, I have since added a slide that says “Consider Collaboration Efforts” for the purpose of building knowledge.

Collaborating with others--who are knowledgeable and passionate and who question and stretch our own knowledge--should be a purposeful component of social media strategy. As we collaborate with others, it becomes apparent that social media is not something that is owned by the communications and marketing team—but should be approached as an educational tool and used at every level of the organization, but in particular, used by educators.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Shifting Gears—Social media strategist

On May 1, I started a new position—still in Extension but new responsibilities. My new title is Social Media Strategist for Military Families Community of Practice, an eXtension Initiative.

The purpose of this joint project between Department of Defense and USDA-NIFA is to develop educational efforts that will strengthen military families, particularly by reaching out to “helping professionals”.

Cooperative Extension has a long history of providing education to the public, particularly in strengthening families. This partnership joins resources, talents, and passion to strengthen military families through collaboration, education, and research.

The very first step is to assess current programs where Cooperate Extension is working to help strengthen military families.

Some of the next steps will be to help those who support military families connect and build relationships with each other and create online environments that support sharing expertise, resources, and learning. These individuals maybe DoD family support professionals (helping professionals), Cooperative Extension educators, non‐governmental and community‐based organizations, and other groups with expertise in supporting families.

Another of my duties is to lead effort in establishing a Network Literacy Community of Practice. Will Richardson defines network literacy as "the ability to create, grow, and navigate personal learning networks in safe, ethical, and effective ways." This purpose of this community of practice is to help educate and and engage the public on the use of social media technologies in group problem solving, community organizing, and social learning.

One of my values is to accept all community members as contributors or potential contributors of content and educational development.

This position places me into the line of work I really love—using social media to build relationships, connect, learn, and help others. It also offers new ways of working, creating partnerships, and building knowledge with people in and outside of Cooperative Extension.

I attended the Milblogging Conference a few weeks ago to get an idea of how the military and those who support the military use social media and to learn about a community I am unfamiliar with. They did not know me and I did not know anyone before attending. Everyone I met seemed excited to hear of universities are supporting research and education for military families. The military blogging community is passionate about the military, supporting military personnel, and their families.

Since 2001, almost 1 million children have experienced a parent’s deployment. A parent’s departure, the return, and the reintegration after deployment create significant challenges to children and families. Strength of military families have significant impacts on armed forces’ effectiveness.

This partnership will cultivate collaborations with educational institutions, non‐governmental and community‐based organizations, and other groups and organizations with expertise in early childhood education, youth development or related fields to further support family support programs, workforce development, and child care & youth development.

Lots of challenges lie ahead. One is that many people don’t understand the role of Cooperative Extension. Another challenge is connecting people who don’t know each other and fostering trust among distributive and unknown groups.

Another challenge, for me personally, is to continue to identify and connect with my current online communities. I will definitely continue to tweet and blog about social media, open communications, education, and research. I will continue to tweet, and possibly blog about those communities and industries, I know about, such as agriculture. I hope these my current communities will continue to follow and converse, and hopefully, learn something about family education and the military. I hope the vice versa occurs as well. gears

I am definitely shifting gears, but not abandoning any community that I have been a part of.

My focus will be in helping others using social media to connect  and develop relationships and collaborations that build knowledge, thus enabling and enhancing personal and community learning.


Lester, Patricia, et al. The Long War and Parental Combat Deployment: Effects of Military Children and At-Home Spouses. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Volume 49, Number 4, April 2010.

Manos, Gail H. War and the Military Family. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Volume 49, Number 4, April 2010.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

It is what it is

I was trying to make a decision that I thought would have been easy. However, a wrinkle—a constraint—appeared, making me angry, disappointed, helpless and less confident. The new constraint also caused me to question the direction I wanted to go.

Two colleagues whom I depended on for consultation and advice said independently to me. “Well, it is what it is.” Both times when I heard this, I thought “Good grief! That statement is not very helpful!”

They were saying accept the situation as it is—it is not going to change. They were and are right.

After I accepted the constraint—the disappointing situation—as it was, I began to gain confidence in seeing new possibilities. I had to accept the disappointing news as it was. With the acceptance and gained confidence, I finally got to a point that I could aggressively think about the future opportunities.

It seems several friends and colleagues are going through their own life issues. Some of these situations are nuisances, others are health or economic changes that shock our daily living and makes us question our priorities.

Not until we accept these situations as what they are, can we free ourselves of frustrations, anger, and disappointment and positively solve problems and make a difference.

Without acceptance, we scream “Why can’t I do this?” or “Why can’t I have it my way?”. We feel anger, disappointment and blame toward the people we think caused the situation. Until we accept bad (or even good) news as what it is, we cannot shape our own future. The acceptance frees us from the exhausting emotional distress, and gives way to a path of proactive decisions and possibilities of growth.

Life’s bumps, nuisances, and heartbreaking news give us reasons to be disappointed, depressed, mad, grumpy, and mean. Acceptance of “it is what it is” gives us of the ability to tackle our negative emotions and turn them into positive actions that make a difference.

We all can identify someone in our lives who positively approaches bad news. Their behavior and actions inspire us, give us joy and shape us—causing us to think about our own priorities.

I am thankful for my two colleagues who had the courage and the honesty to tell me to accept the constraint as it is. It was their clarity that freed me of frustration and opened a new outlook to my future. 

PHOTO: Originally uploaded by BeInspiredDesigns   It Is What It Is on Red Scrabble Tile Tags:

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Cooperative Extension and Social Media

Chris Raines, a meat scientist who uses @ITweetMeat as his Twitter handle, explained the importance of social media use in Extension.

He makes several points about Extension and our online work. Below, I am continuing the conversation.

  • Cooperative Extension’s 100 year history and purpose is to help improve lives through education.
  • Cooperative Extension is about changing for benefitting individuals and communities.
  • Cooperative Extension bases its education on research. Research, sometimes, can appear to conflict with other research. An example where research can lead to confusing recommendations is with sun exposure. Low Vitamin D can lead to fatigue, increase cancer and cardiovascular disease risks. Researchers recommend 20 minutes in the sun without sunscreen. However, other researchers suggest that sun exposure increases skin cancer risks. We see similar conflicting research around topics like environment, food production, and health. Cooperative Extension’s strength is to make sense of research, particularly research that conflicts, and understand and communicate research in context. “Content without context is just noise.” (from @rands).
  • Cooperative Extension will continue to keep its local community ties, but has and will continue to grow an online presence. Cooperative Extension’s online presence is not a  replacement for our local, face-to-face contacts, but rather a way to build, maintain, and strengthen these relationships. Early in my use of social media, the best—and first recognized—benefit was the ability to maintain and build understanding with people I already knew.This understanding, credibility, and trust gained were and are immeasurable. Many people who don’t interact online don’t realize that relationships can be built successfully online and they often discount the value of these relationships. Those who fail to see the benefit of building relationships online are failing their organizations.
  • Just as in our personal lives, online we have different levels of relationships. Building and developing relationships online occur when we take the time to listen and interact with others—just like we expect Cooperative Extension professionals to develop local relationships—they should do this online.
  • Cooperative Extension is no longer bound by county, state, and national boundaries.
  • The game changer (Chris Raines uses the term) for Cooperative Extension is that we can now research, build content, and build knowledge with anyone in physical, online, and “expert” communities. Building knowledge activities are not constrained to land-grant faculty, but can and should be encouraged with others who share the passion and knowledge. We are no longer limited to those who are close geographically, those who we have personally met, or those communities we already familiar with.
  • Online environments give Cooperative Extension new ways to do basic Cooperative Extension work. Seaman Knapp and George Washington Carver embedded themselves in communities, by working with individuals to develop experiments and create on-site and personally learning environments.
  • Cooperative Extension’s online presence is imperative, not only to disseminate information (if we think this is all there is in social media we are doomed), but to also embed ourselves in communities, working with individuals to help with research and develop educational content.

Some Cooperative Extension educators are interacting online. The challenge is we need more Extension professionals, like Chris Raines, to participate—by listening and engaging—in online communities for the purpose of building knowledge and learning.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Military Blogging Conference

I attended the Military Blogging conference to

  • learn about military, retired military, and military support groups who use of social media
  • meet people who represent groups that help military families.

A summary of my observations are:

  • Military bloggers are passionate, as you would expect.
  • Military bloggers who began blogging in 2002 and 2003 were leaders and drove a grass roots movement that led to identifying military bloggers in a loosely structured group, but tightly connected and networked individuals. The blog sites are aggregated on the Military Blogging web site.
  • Thousands of non-profit organizations serve military, soldiers, veterans, and families.
  • Throughout this community of military bloggers, they all have a sense of responsibility toward families.
  • As military families engage, the expression and sharing of small frustrations is often what ties military spouses together, regardless of their location.
  • Social media has enabled a community of individuals who are passionate about the military to form tight bonds of respect, admiration, trust, expectations, and influence among this community.
  • Over time, these bloggers have become influential not only among their own online communities, but also in making a difference in perceptions, policy, and legislation.
  • One reason for their influence is that blogging has moved to, and is encouraged, by soldiers and others to tell real stories. 
  • Though some of the early bloggers, started blogging anonymous, now it seems that there is not a concern of separating personal life and professional life online. In fact, telling own personal stories are encouraged.
  • @pricefloyd, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, says that military needs more conversations on topics about the military. Does not mean that mistakes will not be made and that mistakes that have been made are not more harmful than other mistakes.
  • Military leaders at this conference understand how two-way and multi-way engagement becomes powerful.
  • Social media is not only used to disseminate but also to engage to learn, and possibly change, leaders’ approacha and behavior.
  • @pricefloyd says that having dissenting comments and points of view that do not have approval gives more credibility to the engagement.
  • Military uses 3rd party sites so the world can read and interact and tell stories first hand reports from the troops.
  • The approach is to encourage people throughout the military to “go out and tell their stories”. Military leaders know that those online are professionals and “will do the right thing”.
  • Army leaders encourage individuals to blog on their own sites and link and cross link to the army blog site. They don’t care about negative articles or positive article, but they care that bloggers tell accurate stories.
  • The military has to use both traditional and new media.
  • The leaders see that criticisms are good because it means others are reading the blogs and gives something for them to learn. Negative criticisms will stay blogs unless it is overly obscene.

This conference has been one that is somewhat out of my element. It is refreshing to hear from leaders of the military who “get social media”, understand how

  • conflicting opinions are ways to learn and adjust.
  • personal accounts can be powerful ways to tell the military story.
  • engagement leads to learning and improving
  • trusting people throughout the military to do the right thing without posting strict rules is a good way to capitalize personalized stories.
  • grass-roots connections build credibility and trust.

All day, I keep thinking that if the military can trust their people to do the right thing and find value in dissenting comments, why aren’t more educational institutions in-tuned to the value of learning and improving based on the freedom of engagement.

Photo is embedded from

Friday, April 2, 2010

Transparency and Authenticity

Jaume Plensa Transparency
Originally uploaded by Arenamontanus

Some firms and organizations insist they are have an unprecedented brand name and reputation—one they can maintain without social media. The new caution today, though, is that transparency of organizations is no longer totally up to the organizations, and the brand can be easily tarnished.

There is a greater push, demand, and expectation that individuals' and organizations' actions must be true to their values and their communications. Organizations must do their homework, know facts, and know how communications, associations, and actions affect their reputations. Because if they don't, someone else will bring forced transparency to the organization.

Online environments, rapid fire and viral communications, will make it harder to keep brand images, if organizations are not true in their actions. Everyone throughout organizations, including customer services, operations, sales, marketing, public relations, decision-makers, and research and development, must understand and portray the same image that is marketed and is perceived.  Flip that thought on its head: what is marketed must portray the values and operations of the organization. 

Organizations, large and small, must understand how loyalty can be lost when their own actions do not portray their marketed images or do not serve customers’ needs.

All organizations—non-for-profit, advocacy, educational, corporate, and entrepreneurs—have to be really good at what they do. They have to serve their organizations’ purposes and customers’ and communities’ changing needs.

Additionally, organizations must be able to:

  • know they have no control of what other people say and understand the power—negative and positive—of others.
  • match actions and operations with image, mottos, slogans, advertisements, and social media efforts.
  • know facts about their own organizations, competitive organizations, and respective industries.
  • accept that conflicts will happen, but demonstrate understanding and adjust, if necessary, but staying true to the values of the organization.
  • admit mistakes.
  • be responsive.
  • adjust and realign processes and operations for needed changes.
  • communicate processes and operations that change based on demands.

As customers, potential customers, and competitors observe behaviors and experience services that are contrary to the organizations’ images, through online communications—with viral potential—they share their experiences and observations. This means that organizations can no longer hide their weaknesses. Transparency, or lack of, is no longer up to organizations to decide.

Transparency and authenticity should not only be discussed in online environments, but also considered in the way organizations conduct business. There is no hiding.


Monday, March 8, 2010

Twitter Chat

In some online communities, Twitter is used for chatting on a particular topic at a designated time. These chats use a specific hashtag to aggregate the tweets during the online discussion.

Twubs and Tweetchat are two common applications used to facilitate Twitter chats. Though Tweetdeck can be used too, Twubs and Tweetchat work better because the chat tweets tend to appear in rapid fire. 

As you enter a tweet in the application (Twubs or Tweetchat), the application will automatically insert the hashtag at the end of the tweet.

The application (Twubs or Tweetchat) captures all tweets with the hashtag and displays them on the web page.

One disadvantage of participating in a Twitter chat is that all of your followers see all of your tweets for the chat. Depending on your community, this excessive tweeting can be annoying. Thus, some Twitter chat participants warn their followers prior to the chat.

Each Twitter chat is organized to fit its needs, goals, and community. For instance, for some chats, a designated guest “speaker” participates and answers questions from the members of the chat. The members keep the conversation going by firing off more questions, retweeting answers and participants’ comments, and questioning and conversing with others in the chat.

Some chats, like #Agchat, have designated questions that are asked by the moderator of the chat. The chat members answer the questions by indicating the question number.

For instance, in the AgChat session on Farm Equipment Question 2 and one of the answers to Question 2 are shown below. 

@agchat: Q2: What new planting/seeding specific technologies do you feel have made biggest impact on your #farm? #agchat

@FarmerHaley: Q2 Strip till and no till has planting has made tremendous improvements for our farm as well #agchat

Most Twitter chats will ask you to identify yourself, and possibly, give you a chance to plug your area of interest, web page, event, etc.

Some regularly scheduled chats are posted on a Google spreadsheet.


Steps to participating in a Twitter chat using Twubs (Tweetchat is similar).

  1. Using your browser, sign into to Twitter. Then go to the or
  2. At Twubs’ page (or Tweetchat page), select the Sign in button. Then select “Twitter Sign In”.

  3. Twubs Sign In
    Originally uploaded by aafromaa
  4. If you have already signed into Twitter, then you will be given the choice to “Allow” Twubs to use Twitter sign in.

    Twubs Allow Twitter button
    Originally uploaded by aafromaa

  5. Once you are in Twubs or Tweetchat, enter the hashtag you are following.

    Twubs hashtag
    Originally uploaded by aafromaa

  6. The tweets will start appearing below the entry space for your tweets. Tags: ,,

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Social media is more than public relations and marketing efforts

When companies are considering adopting social media, they often turn toward their Public Relations and Marketing departments to investigate, develop a social media strategy, and implement social media within their companies.

If organizations think of social media as another outlet for the company and involve only those who market the company, then these companies are missing out on many benefits of social online environments, such as:

  • Integration of functions.
  • Elimination of organization silos.
  • Personal and organizational learning from outside the organization and from within the organization.
  • Driving innovations through internal and external collaborations.
  • Educating clients, potential clients, and communities about products, processes, services, and technical knowledge.
  • Having staff (not in PR and Marketing) who are passionate about what they do and what they love about the organization tell their story.
  • Utilizing small circles of influence to spread knowledge of the organization, its products, its services, its goodwill, its values, and its purpose.
  • Learning of problems that the organization may have solutions for.
  • Learning of problems that the organization may develop solutions for.
  • Connecting problem solvers with those people in and out of the organization who are having problems relating to the organization’s services, products, and processes.
  • Connecting with potential clients who are unaware that the organization may have solutions for their problems.
  • Maintaining and building credibility and understanding among staff who don’t see each other often, but work in similar work areas or serve in different places in the work flow. 
  • Building a collective organizational reputation based on the online professional reputation of employees throughout the organization.
  • Maximizing the benefits of workstreamining and freeranging.
  • Having fun within the routine of daily work.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

What are those @ signs and websites in your Facebook page?

A friend from college asked the following question in Facebook email.

“Hi Anne, It's good to see you on Facebook. I am somewhat new to this. I look forward to checking out your profile. I must admit your status updates are interesting- although I cannot figure them out. Is is some kind of work code or just lots of acronyms. Why all the @ signs and websites? Hope all is well!”

My answer is:

I have been using Twitter, Facebook, etc. and been blogging since early 2007. Though there is some obvious separation, I find that intermingling my work and personal life works well for me.

My Twitter messages are automatically sent to Facebook.

The @ signs indicate that I am replying or referring to other messages in Twitter.

RT stands for Retweet. Someone in Twitter sent a message. I retweet it which means I am forwarding to my friends on Twitter because I think it might be of interest to them.

The web links are usually small urls (I use because web site addresses are often much too long to include in the Twitter 140- character limit. The small urls are very helpful, not only in Twitter, but also in email messages.

I have to admit that I struggle with the decision to limit Twitter messages that I send to Facebook because I know it is overwhelming to friends, like you. My kids, and some friends, tell me that they often don’t understand most of my messages. Part of the reason is that they do not use Twitter or they are not part of my work communities: higher education, research, Cooperative Extension, distance education, agriculture, family living education, open source, or social media. I am trying to decide to limit the Twitter messages to Facebook. 

My land-grant university colleagues are just as likely to read and use Twitter messages in Facebook as they are in Twitter.

In Facebook, you will also see my bookmarked websites (, my presentations ( and photos (

Not all my Twitter messages are strictly work related. For instance, occasionally, I will share Auburn University good news, kids’ stuff, or something fun.

I hope this explains some of my Facebook news feeds. If you find them overwhelming, you can hide my newsfeeds in Facebook, but still keep me as your friend. But, of course, I would rather you did not. Tags: ,,

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Social media policies: not developed, yet

Today, lots of people are tweeting that only 29% of businesses have social media policy, according to a report from employment services firm Manpower. Here are my thoughts on the report.

  • I am not surprised about the percentage. In fact, I think it is a little high.
  • Before companies should develop a social media policy, they should know what their goals are in using social media. How can a company create new policies using new media when the company does not understand the media and the implications using these new technologies.
  • Some companies are struggling with using social media because the use of social media conflicts with their existing policies (i.e. only the public relations department is the only ones who can make announcements and speak publically for the company). These companies should examine existing policies before considering new social media policies.
  • Companies should decide if a policy is needed.
  • Companies may want to look at how much faith they have in their own employees and consider the Five reasons they don’t need a policy.
  • From the same Michael Hyatt article, are there any companies brave enough to create their policy like this one? If so, those companies have complete faith in their employees to do the right thing. Of course, the smaller companies may be able to use this policy more so than larger companies.

“Use whatever social media you want. Feel free to use it on company time. Just use common sense and remember that if you publicly identify yourself with the company’s brand then act in a manner consistent with that brand. It’s in all of our best interests to do so.”

Now, is the time, though, to consider:

  • goals of using social media.
  • how social media fits and can be used to convey the company’s values.
  • how the company will use social media.
  • how social media fits into the company’s core businesses.
  • existing policies and practices that conflict with social media.
  • developing any new policies to address social media use. Tags: ,,

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Agriculture and Social Media Web Conference Summary

As a special topic for Cooperative Extension, eXtension hosted a special topic professional development web conference on January 21, 2010 on the use of social media in the agriculture industry. The purpose of this conference is to provide examples of how social media is being used in agriculture. The recorded session, the presenters’ presentations, the conference chat, and tweets associated with the conference are available.

Here is a summary of points made by the presenters:

  • Go where the people are.
  • Simplify the message…improve your writing and don’t use agriculture production jargon.
  • Write for the search engines.
  • Engage the public and target audience by using various methods, responding to questions and comments on Twitter, creating contests, and interesting and humorous videos.
  • Target your audience.
  • Meet the needs of target audience.
  • Use and integrate various online approaches.
  • Use the tools, particular mobile devices, for efficiency and increase opportunities.
  • Create a strategy: defining objectives, audiences, tools, and content. Market the tool, stay true to the objectives, and evaluate the results.
  • Empower others to use social media.
  • Use common sense blending professional and personal life online.
  • “Jump in -- the water is warm”. Carrie Oliver

The presenters described things they have learned through social media and ways that and moments or indicators that their use of success are meeting their own goals and objectives.

  • People appreciate information and knowledge transferred about production and process, educational efforts, and hearing what is going on the farm.
  • Feedback comes through comments, responses, and direct communication.
  • Web traffic increased after employing social media.
  • The connections made through social media are sometimes surprising and reach world-wide.
  • Learning and education is two-way opportunity.
  • Twitter is fun.
  • Social media (in particular, Twitter) is fun.


Ag and Social Media January 21 Recording

Slideshare site for presentations:

Tweets captured from the January 21 conference

All presentations, chat, and tweets

My notes from each of the presenters.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Notes from Agriculture and Social Media Web Conference

As a special topic for Cooperative Extension, eXtension hosted a professional development web conference on January 21, 2010 on the use of social media in agriculture. The recorded session, the presenters’ presentations, the conference chat, and tweets associated with the conference are available.

Here are my notes of each of the presenters discussions.

Will Gilmer @gilmerdairy,Gilmer Dairy

Will Gilmer, Alabama dairy farmer, discussed how he used different applications to educate the public on agriculture, in particular dairy. Will learned from his online activities that people who are removed from the farm appreciate learning and hearing what is going on the farm. He also noted that online communications are a great way to tell why farmers do what they do from environmental, sustainability, and food safety perspectives. While agriculture representatives should still speak at to civic clubs and schools, agriculture should to also go where the people are, and that is being online and in social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Will uses different interaction techniques to engage the public. For instance, he uses contests on his blog, creates educational and sometimes humorous videos on YouTube (shooting the video and uploading them from his smart phone), and uses Facebook for Gilmer Dairy fans a chance to vote on contests. For instance, Gilmer Dairy Facebook Fan Page became the home page for the milk mustache contest.

Will suggested when talking about agriculture to not use jargon and to reach the people where they are. Each application (Twitter, Gilmer Farm YouTube Channel, Gilmer Dairy Farm Website) is a little different and one leads to another. They should be integrated.

He estimates that he spends 10 to 15 hours per week.

Arlan Suderman @arlanff101 Farm Futures

Arlan Suderman, a market analyst for Farm Futures, discussed using Twitter and mobile applications to sharing real-time commodity market information. Arlan writes commentary for Afternoon Market Updates on the Farm Futures website, in their electronic newsletters, and for the Farm Futures magazine. He also said that Farm Progress uses Facebook fan pages to promote farm shows such as Farm Progress Show.

He described his process of using social media by going through the Six Steps to Adoption of Social Media as described by Michele Payn-Knoper @mpaynknoper

  • Stupid trend – Someone talks you into it.
  • You find information that perks your interest.
  • You start building connections – community builds.
  • You reach a point of feeling obligated to share.
  • You realize the power of the message and harness it.
  • Addiction.

Arlan also noted social media is revolutionizing our cultures, much like how the air conditioner changed the way we congregated and socialized.

He described several strengths of social media:

  • is a cost-effective communication too.
  • is rapidly being driven by the over-35 crowd.
  • allows you to mix media – pictures, video, and web links.
  • provides real time information.
  • provides an avenue for dialogue and feed back from clients.
  • has no geographical boundaries.
  • serves as a great advocacy tool.

Hazards of social media are:

  • Social media can own you if you don’t master it.
  • Social media knows no geographic or demographic boundaries.
  • You can lose your focus, diluting your messages.
  • Social media functions 24 hours a day, creating the “ping addiction”.
  • Social media is a two-way dialogue-where followers can consume your time.
  • There is expectations of responding in a “ping” culture,
  • By opening the doors, those who oppose your views will find you.

Arlan described steps to a social media strategy as:

  • Define your objective.
  • Define your audience.
  • Define your tool – Twitter, Facebook, Blog, You-Tube, etc.
  • Develop your strategy / content.
  • Market your tool.
  • Remain true to your objective.
  • Evaluate your results.

Arlan’s objectives were to provide real-time commodity market commentary to farmers wherever they are (on the tractor), build Farm Futures’ brand name and increase hit-count at Farm Futures. Using Twitter, he targeted his audience--largest 205,000 farmers and what they needed which is having real-time explanations why markets are fluctuating.

His tactics and content were tweeting real-time market commentary, relevant content (such as weather), and links to relevant news stories. Farm Futures marketed his Twitter updates online, in the magazine, through their e-newsletter and at speaking engagements.

He evaluated feedback, by measuring web page visits, increased number of followers, increase direct communications, and increase personal comments.

Arlan tweets 15 to 25 comments a day from 6 am to 9 pm.

Carrie Oliver @carrieoliver & @meatcamp Oliver Ranch Company

Carrie Oliver, founder of Oliver Ranch Company, Artisan Beef institute, and @meatcamp (TM) discussed her use of blogging and use of Twitter (@meatcamp) in support of her business and in educating others about the specialty meat industry, Artisan Meat. She described her work with beef much like a wine connoisseur, “Like fine wines, beef flavor & texture are influenced by breed, growing region, diet & the unique skills of those who raise it.

Carrie described the challenges that social media can be used to overcome. The public is not well educated on the specialty markets, the process of meat production, and differences in meat products. Also agriculture and specialty markets and processes are complex. She suggested, like Will, to simplify the message and improve writing to reach your target audience, and use a combination of social and traditional media.

Social media allows entrepreneurs without marketing budgets to reach customers. Carrie uses her blog, Discover the World of Artisan Beef, as a way of making notes for herself, blowing off steam (sometimes not publishing them), and educating and building a community.

Carrie said that blogging and tweeting have helped her play a role between producers and consumers. Comments and questions on her blog and on Twitter, during a meat recall last were interactive, serious, and educational.

Carrie has found that Twitter is great place for interaction, make connections, create education—both for others and herself, solve problems, and connect to old-line media outlets (i.e. news articles and television). Twitter has proven to be a way to spread and create understanding around complex processes.

As people had questions about myths and were confused about processes, Carrie and Chris Raines @iTweetmeat, Meat Scientist with Penn State Extension, created a Twitter chat--an open forum--#meatcamp, focus on issues pertaining to producing and the process of producing meat #meatcamp is a place for she, Chris, and others to share their expertise and knowledge, to de-mystify meat, and to allow people to easily ask questions. She shared an example of a meatcamp transcript.

Carrie ended her discussion by noting that Twitter is fun. She encourages others to “Jump in…The water is warm”.

Dan Toland @Ohio Farm Bureau & @d_toland Ohio Farm Bureau

Dan Toland discussed how Ohio Farm Bureau moved from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0, taking a year to get the Ohio Farm Bureau web site to include a social component. The process to moving to a social web presence allowed Ohio Farm Bureau to “humanized themselves”. He said the old way meant that the web site was a destination. The new way means that the web site is a hub and the stokes of the hub are links and social networks that are two way communications. He says that having a web site is no longer enough; it is now imperative to have a web presence. Social media is an integrated approach, not just a channel-by-channel communication. Dan, like Will Gilmer, said, to go where the people are--Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Dan described about how fast connections, easy publishing, collaborative communication, mobile technology, and real time information has changed the landscape. The goals for Ohio Farm Bureau’s social media efforts were to increase awareness, engagement, traffic, and word of mouth.

As part of their social media efforts, Ohio Farm Bureau develop Ohio Farm Bureau Social Media Guide for farmers.

Dan described one of Ohio Farm Bureau’s “ah-ha Twitter moments” was when they were having trouble finding a life-size plastic cow for a promotion. On Twitter, they ask if anyone knew where they could find a life-size plastic cow. Within 10 minutes, they had 5-6 responses with suggestions and web links.

Twitter and Facebook were instrumental in the Issue 2 campaign doubling the number visits to the Ohio Farm Bureau web site in the few days before the vote. They also were able to monitor and answer questions and engage voters throughout Ohio during Issue 2 through Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Dan suggested that a social media policy for an organization should:

  • Encourage and empower employees. Don’t discourage people from using social media, There is no way one person can know everything. It is better for individuals to tweet what is going on in their own area.
  • Note there is a blend of personal/professional life when using social media.
  • Use common sense. Remember, posts are searchable and public.
  • Specify those who are using social media on behalf of an organization.
  • Tie social media policy to other communications policy.
  • Provide proper training.
  • Encourage use of security settings.
  • Make participation optional.

Dan indicated that success in Ohio Farm Bureau in the use social media were increases in visits, page views, average time on the site, number of referring sites,direct traffic, and returning visitors.

Andy Kleinschmidt, @akleinschmidt Ohio State Extension

Andy Kleinschmidt described his success in blogging and Twitter as an Extension educator and said that it is paramount that Extension have a robust web presence that is well indexed by search engines. He said Extension should learn to write and optimize blogs and web sites for search engines.

He noted that his work load is increasing because of factors outside of social media. Though, social media allows him to communicate incredibly efficiently.

As Extension educators, interaction is and will always be important. Face-to-face, phone, email, blogs, comments on blog, Facebook, Twitter, and whatever replaces these technologies are all ways to interact and engage.

Andy described the smart phone as his favorite technology allowing him to be instant and without constraints. He blogs, tweets, and uses Facebook from smart phone.

He has found that the Agriculture and Van Wert County blog is the best way to disseminate information. He did admit that as individuals create blogs, managing numerous blogs may be a problem.


Ag and Social Media January 21 Recording

Slideshare site for presentations:

Tweets captured from the January 21 conference

All presentations, chat, and tweets

Summary of Ag and Social Media: a blog post

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Understanding the social in social media—Twitter, Facebook, etc.

In some ways I really hate saying this, but to understand social media is to use it--be the ball.

Here are few tips to learn to use networks, like Facebook and Twitter, in meaningful ways:

1. Create an account. It is easy.

2. Follow friends and businesses you want to keep up with. Expand your knowledge and perspectives by seeing what others are reading and what they are thinking. There is value--and it is fun--to get a glimpse of what other people discuss and find important.

3. Don’t follow too few people. It is social. Develop a large enough network that sharing and engagement is meaningful.

4. In the beginning, don’t follow or “friend” too many people. You don’t want to overwhelmed yourself. Keep your “friend” list to people you really want to know and hear.

5. Discuss, participate, and respond—relax and let go a little. For some, because sharing online is a new mindset, learning to engage in an online environment seems to be a roadblock.

Social media conversations (Twitter) are like running into friends or colleagues at the grocery store or meeting new and old friends during a cocktail hour. The conversations at the micro-level may not seem meaningful, but the accumulation of discussions helps put events, issues, and thoughts in new perspectives or confirm old ones, and possibly, build credibility and trust.

If you are not responding and becoming part of the conversation, you are not being social in a social network.

With this in mind, your online behavior should take on the same values and actions that you live by. After all, there is only one you.

6. Don’t be afraid to be personal and tell a few stories on yourself and what is important to you. Sometimes, post updates that are funny, ironic, or personal to help people learn that you are real.  Again, social is a key word.

7. Don’t only broadcast. If your only activity is publishing, your information must be very valuable for others to follow you. As you progress in your use, you may consider how others decide to follow or not follow people on Twitter.

8. Don’t only listen. There is value in lurking, However, participating at some level is helpful and useful, not only to you, but to others. 

9. Use desktop and phone applications for accessing social networks and getting timely updates. The web versions of social networks tend to be clunky and inefficient. These technologies are timely, allow for responsiveness, and can be disruptive. However, you have the ability to control when you ignore, lurk, and respond. The brevity of updates allow you to take a quick glance while you are waiting in the grocery line, on the kids, or on a long elevator ride.

Additionally, learning to use these technologies in spurts of time will prepare you for when real-time is a necessity.

10. Integrate applications so you have only one or two places to get all or most of your streams. For instance, Tweetdeck is great for bringing Twitter search and updates and Facebook updates to one place. Before I started using Tweetdeck, I brought status feeds to my feed reader (Google Reader).

11. Choose social media that matches your interest and go where the people are. If you have lots of colleagues and friends in Facebook, you might start there. If you love taking pictures, you might start sharing on photo sharing site, like Flickr.

12. If you are confused with application options, terminology, and how to use the technology, find a friend or a colleague who can support you in the early learning process.

Some people who try these networks choose to quit using them.  Though I don’t know of any research that reports why people quit using social networks, these are possible reasons for social network abandonment:

  • The flow of information becomes overwhelming.
  • The information obtained through the network is not useful.
  • They don’t use applications and SMS technology (text messages). They depend only on the web pages of the networks, instead of using applications to mange the flow.
  • They don’t follow enough interesting people.
  • They don’t engage. They either only listen or only broadcast.
  • Other networks becomes more useful
  • Frankly, the social network may not be for them. Communicating online (not new way of communicating—we have always been social) is not for everyone--like some people don’t watch TV, read the newspaper, or talk on the phone.

To understand social media is to use it--be the ball. Social networks--Twitter and Facebook--are too easy not to try them.