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.