The Value of Membership in a Professional Organization [Webinar]

Allan Vyhnalek

UPDATE 10/29/15: The link to view the recording is 

Join us tomorrow, Tuesday, October 20 at 10:00 a.m. CST for our Next Generation Extension webinar “The Value of Membership in a Professional Organization” presented by Allan Vyhnalek, NCEA President and Platte County Extension Educator, and Lindsay Chichester, NCEA Secretary and Saunders County Extension Educator.

The benefits of membership in a professional organization include enhancing your network, broadening your knowledge, and taking charge of your career. Nebraska Cooperative Extension Association is Nebraska Extension’s professional organization. NCEA promotes professional improvement to keep you inspired; provides scholarship, awards and leadership opportunities; and cultivates relationships between extension colleagues necessary for optimum work on Extension teams. Join Allan and Lindsay to learn why involvement in NCEA matters and Lindsay Chichesterhow you can engage with NCEA at Nebraska Extension’s upcoming fall conference.

Building Blocks to Success and Excellence:Professionalism, Citizenship, and Engagement

How to Join Webinar:    

Adobe Connect URL:
Conference Call Number: (888) 820-1398
Enter Attendee Code: 9894805#

Any Extension professional is welcome to attend. The webinar will be recorded, and the link will be posted right here on the Next Generation Extension blog to view at a later date.

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Twitter-What Few Ever Mention

When beginning something new, there are often things we learn along the way…usually from mistakes we make.  I consider these learning opportunities :)  So often when we teach about Twitter we are limited on time and the really important pitfalls aren’t explained clearly at the beginning to enable others to avoid these mistakes.  That’s the purpose of this post.

1-Direct Messages

twitter toolbar2

You will recognize this graphic from an earlier post. Direct messages are like an email message sent through Twitter directly from one Twitter account to another…so no one else can see the tweet.  These messages are still limited to 140 characters. I’ve found this is the way younger farmers I serve prefer to ask me questions as they don’t wish other farmers to see their questions. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with direct messages themselves, but it is the #1 way that accounts get hacked. How does this happen?


This is an example of a direct message sent by someone I was following that would result in my account being hacked if I clicked on this link. Often these messages look like spam Facebook messages that often contain a question like “What?” “Did you see this picture of you?” “Want to Lose Weight?”…DO NOT click on any of these links. Yes, the link looks like it would be legit since it came from someone you know, but all it does is allow hackers into your Twitter account who then take over your account and spread spam through it. I will never forget being at a field day when Twitter seemed to “blow up” with several people within various commodity boards getting their accounts hacked and many of us at the field day getting direct messages from all of them. So what happens if you accidentally click on a link and your account gets hacked? Simply change your Twitter password as soon as possible and the hacking/spamming will stop. This is something most new Twitter users experience and I wanted to make sure you were aware of this so you could avoid it!

2-Unfollowing and Blocking People


All media tools can be used for good and for bad and I’ve always made sure to mention this but haven’t gone into detail. Here’s an example: Two young men in our system recently approached me saying some women retweeted their tweets so the men followed them as they seemed legitimate at the time. Then they noticed what they deemed as “inappropriate content” showing up from these women in the women’s tweets…even at times mentioning these men’s Twitter handles in these tweets…and the men wanted to get rid of them. You can unfollow anyone at any time even if you’re not interested in their tweets by simply clicking on your blue “following” button and it will change to a green button which says you are not following the person. However, with “inappropriate content” and if people are harassing you like I’ve experienced, I recommend blocking those people from Twitter so they can no longer follow you either. How you do this is right click on the “settings wheel” and then click on “Block”. You can also report someone if you’d like and Twitter will review and consider removing their account from Twitter.  Often “inappropriate content” or harassing occurs through direct messages but not always.  We need to also remember we are representing our organization with these professional accounts.


Something that I need to do more regularly is look through my “followers” to see if these are really people I desire to follow me or people that I want others to see are following me. There are people who will pay to obtain Twitter followers and who follow everyone in hopes of having everyone follow them back…it’s a number’s game…and you will notice some of these have 25,000+ followers. So periodically I go through my “followers” tab, click on profiles and look at tweets. If I see the tweets are mostly inappropriate ones, I choose to block that person. I also tend to block people who don’t have anything written in a profile, profile pic, etc. that I don’t know. It seems like a lot of Extension, commodity group, and ag folks learn how to tweet at various seminars/conferences and never complete their profiles. Normally I keep all of those unless I notice the tweets from the person are looking like spam. But it is an important thing for all of us to at least quarterly if not monthly go through this list as I realize how many people I miss who choose to follow me that I may wish to also follow back.



It’s important to also make sure you go through your security settings to ensure your Twitter profile is set up to the security level you prefer. You can do this by right clicking on your profile picture by the “tweet” button and click on “settings”.

protect tweets

You will then see a left-hand menu of various settings options that you can change for your Twitter profile and account. The first menu item goes to your account information (not shown). The second menu item is “security and privacy” where you can alter settings however you wish. For some Twitter accounts, you will notice a padlock icon by them indicating they are “protected accounts”. Some people choose this option because they wish to have extra security by screening who follows them and who sees their tweets. You may choose whatever security and privacy settings you desire. I just wanted to mention that particular setting does not allow for anyone not following you to see your tweets and may be counter-productive for us in Extension. It would be nice if we could choose this option to screen out the inappropriate stuff without limiting the reach of tweets, but that currently isn’t the case.  A few security settings to consider include:  allowing others to find you by your email address to improve discoverability, only receiving direct messages from people you follow, and deciding what you’d like to receive in regards to email and web notifications when people mention, retweet, or follow you.

4-Don’t be a Machine-Engage!

When I first started using Twitter, I was so excited to share as much information as possible thinking people wanted information.  What I missed was the fact that people quickly catch on to what each of us Tweets about, timing, and our attitude about it. It has been so much fun over time to meet various people at conferences in person after engaging with them on Twitter or seeing their tweets for months or even years!  In many ways, you feel like you have a connection because of what that person tweets about.

It’s also important to not schedule all your tweets.  Scheduling tools are great and I use them nearly every week…but it’s also important that others see you’re tweeting sporadically or your tweets seem more like a machine than like a real person behind the tweet.  Remember, your Twitter handle is your personal Twitter brand for the information you’re sharing.  Are you personable or robotic?

I say all of that to say, don’t be a machine in only spitting out information.  I often use Twitter to “lurk”…follow conversations between farmers who are tweeting to each other from their tractor cabs…sometimes I even jump in-which is the beauty of Twitter as these are all open conversations!  Engaging means asking questions of the people we follow, retweeting their information, mentioning them in a tweet and asking what they think about a particular idea, etc.  Twitter is a great way to gather ideas around a topic or to engage in thought-provoking side-conversations and questions during conferences/business meetings while others are speaking.  It’s a great overall resource!

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Making Twitter Work for You

So now that you have a Twitter account, how are you supposed to make it work for you?  The following are some tips I’ve learned and shared with Extension faculty and business owners alike.  Hopefully they will be helpful for you.

Tip 1:  Goalsgoal pic

The most critical piece rests on what are  your goals for using Twitter.  Once you know this, what you share, how often, etc. all falls into place.

Tip 2:  Tweet Components

Make sure to include components of a good tweet in each of your tweets to increase effectiveness.  Not all four things have to be included each time, but incorporating most will be helpful.  What are these components?

  • Including a website url, photo, or video that will further engage your audience
  • Including a hashtag critical to your particular subject matter area that will further extend the reach of your tweet
  • Potentially mention someone of influence you wish to also spread your message
  • Leaving around 20 characters unused so your tweet can be retweeted without losing any of the originally intended message

In this example, I’ve added two hashtags…one for those following the word “soybean” and also our “nebext” hashtag to alert others in our UNL system. I shared a photo that visually explained the message and shows what farmers/consultants should look for. I mentioned “@UNL _CropWatch”  as my tweets also directly show up on that Twitter feed expanding my reach to a broader audience. I didn’t do as well in leaving 20 characters at the end of this tweet…more like 15. Result of doing these things: 739 people saw this tweet, 44 people engaged with this tweet (retweeted, mentioned), and 23 people clicked on the photo url/photo.

Let’s dig a little deeper on this tip.  How do you know what hashtags to use and who are influential people?

Hashtags:  A great Free resource to help you determine hashtags to use is a tool called  Simply put in a word you’re interested in “food” “families” “water” “crops” “beef” “4-H” “communities” “gardening” and see what other hashtags appear.  For those involved with crops, #plant15, #grow15, #harvest15 occur every season (with the last 2 digits becoming the new year)…so a great way to expand audience reach for your tweets and gain followers.

Influential people:  Who are the people in your subject matter area with 1000 or more followers?  Who are the people in your subject matter area you wish to help spread your message?  Who are the people in your subject matter area who tweet often and whose tweets you often see?  Those are some people to consider.  There are also tools for determining influential people that I will share in another post.

Tip 3:  Engage People

People like to interact with a person behind the brand so instead of always sharing something, take time to ask questions of others or engage with others’ tweets.  Ask people their thoughts, mention their Twitter handles, view the conversations occurring and listen to what they’re saying.  This is a very important and valuable part of Twitter.  I’ve gained ideas for Extension programming by listening to what the farmers were sharing with each other during planting and harvest seasons…things they may not have directly shared with me but were willing to share with their peers.

Tip 4:  Twitter Lists

This is probably the most under-used and mis-understood for new Twitter users but can greatly reduce the overwhelming sensation Twitter provides.  What is a Twitter list?  It is categorizing the people you follow into topic areas so you can quickly view what people are saying without having to view tons of tweets at one time in your home feed.

For example, I put together a list of Extension/University people…so anyone I follow that is employed with Extension or UNL, I put into this list.  I have a list for people who tweet about social media.  I have a list for news and for politics.  I have a list of farmers I follow and another for ag industry people.  This allows me to quickly scroll through these lists when I’m waiting in line or have 15 minutes to get a brief glance of what’s going on in the world regarding news or ag.  It cuts down on the overwhelming sensation of Twitter and gives me the information I want at a quick glance.  You can assign a person to a list for anyone you follow on Twitter!  You can also follow other people’s lists!

add lists

If you go to who you are following on Twitter from your profile, you will notice the “settings wheel” next to the blue following button. Right-clicking on this wheel you see “add or remove from lists”. Click on this and you can then create a new list or add a person to an already existing list you created. This helps keep the people you’re following more organized so you can view the information you want easier without feeling like you miss as much of what’s being shared.

twitter lists

These are just a few examples of my lists: farmers/agvocates, university/extension folks, and ag-industry. You can see how in a short time-frame I get a snapshot of tweets from these different categories of people.

Tip 5:  Simplifying Twitter

I often receive the question,

How do I make time to tweet too on top of everything else we do every day in Extension?

Great question!  I haven’t been a good example of this for some time, but there are tools to greatly help simplify this process for you.  In 15 minutes…whether at beginning or end of day or over lunch, you can schedule tweets that will allow you to share information on Twitter, particularly on busy days that you don’t have time to spontaneously tweet.

There are many free tools that allow you to do this such as Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, and others.  Really, the tools themselves come down to your personal preference so you can use whatever works best for you.


When using a tool like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, it’s as simple as typing in the tweet you wish to send, using the calendar to schedule when you wish the tweet to send and pushing “schedule”. You can also share the same message to Facebook and LinkedIn if you wish by connecting those accounts to Hootsuite as well. Sometimes I do this and other times I schedule specific posts for each of these social media platforms.  There are also tools to know when are the best times for you to schedule tweets, but that is for another post.  For now, staying on the hour is a good approach for scheduling and sending something out 3-5 times/day will help share your messages.  You can share the same tweet more than once a day…or several times in a week as not every tweet is seen by all your followers at the time you send it.

Additional Resources:

Setting Up Twitter Account

Creating Twitter Account Screenshots

2014 Fall Conference Twitter Presentation

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Your Twitter Account

How do you set up your Twitter account?  Twitter has a great tutorial that walks you through this as you’re setting it up.  There are a few things to think about along the way though.

Twitter Terminology:

  • Twitter Handle (Username): Your Twitter name which begins with the @ symbol. Consider as part of your branding strategy.  Consider length (less than 15 characters best).
  • Tweet: Your message in 140 characters.
  • Re-Tweet: Sharing the message with one’s followers.
  • Followers: People who view what you say-they don’t need permission unless you change your security settings.
  • Tweep: People who tweet.

Tip 1:  Consider Your Brand

Who are you to your constituents/customers?  We may not think about branding ourselves, but we may have done this without thinking about it if we have a certain name for our news columns, TV/radio, or other media spots.  For example, my news column was “Jenny’s REESources”.  I chose to keep this brand across all my platforms since my customers already saw me as this brand…I just shortened it to “jenreesources”.  Lindsay Chichester is known as “agwithdrlindsay”.  Alice Henneman is know by her name.  Whatever you choose to use, be consistent so you can be easily found across any media platform you use and have a brand that will make sense and be easy for others to remember.

Tip 2:  Complete Your Twitter Profile

twitter profile

Your Twitter profile includes a “header photo”, profile photo of you, your name, a description of who you are and what you tweet about, where you are located, and can include a link to your county extension website or blog site. I do not follow anyone who has not taken the time to complete their Twitter profile. This is so important for people to know you are legitimate and to know what to expect from you on Twitter. I’ve changed my header photo and background graphics over time. My current header photo was created using the “collage” feature in PicMonkey, but you can keep it simple with one main photo too.

Tip 3:  Understanding the Toolbar

twitter toolbar2

The following buttons show up in your Twitter toolbar. The “home” screen shows you all the tweets of people you are following. “Notifications” shows you each time you have been retweeted or mentioned in a tweet. “Discover” allows you to search Twitter for what is “trending” and for “hashtags” (key words people search for on Twitter). “Me” is your profile and your tweets. “Search” allows you to search for any person or topic on twitter. “Direct Messages” are 140 character emails sent directly to you. BE VERY CAREFUL WITH THESE! It is best not to click on links sent in messages (even from your followers) unless you are sure they aren’t spam. This is the #1 way people’s Twitter accounts get hacked. The “settings wheel” is for Twitter settings where you can change anything within your account or profile. The box with a feather pen symbol is where you can “compose a new tweet”.

Tip 4:  Who to Follow


How do you know who to follow? Check out a trusted Twitter profile like @unlextension, click “following” within their profile, and look at who they are following. Simply click “follow” on anyone you also would like to start following. When Twitter first started, it was recommended to follow everyone back who followed you. I do not recommend this. It’s important to make sure you truly know the person, and if you don’t, that they seem like a person you would want to view tweets from. Ask yourself: Do they have a profile picture, cover photo, description of themselves, AND view what they are tweeting about before you choose to follow someone. I also like to see if other people I trust are also following the person.  Sometimes people seem pretty legit at first when you follow them, but then you question if you want their tweets anymore. Know you can also unfollow anyone at any time by simply clicking the “following” button on their profile and it will turn from blue to green.

Check out the next post to view “Making Twitter Work for You!”

Additional Resources:

Setting Up Twitter Account

Creating Twitter Account Screenshots

2014 Fall Conference Twitter Presentation

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Why Twitter?

What is Twitter?

Twitter helps you create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers – Twitter

Why I use Twitter:

  • News source – obtain the latest news I care about including in my area of interest.  Many people use Twitter only for this reason and never post a tweet.
  • Great way to connect with my customers
    • I think of our clientele as customers shopping for information in the places they wish to obtain it.  They may not have to pay for our information, but if our information is not in the places they wish to receive it, then our unbiased, research-based information isn’t even an option for them to choose.  If it’s not in the form they choose to receive information, then they don’t know about us or our resources…thus they may question our relevance.
  • Allows me to be timely and relevant sharing photos, videos, urls of what is occurring in the area which I work.

What are your Goals?

Goals are important to understand why to utilize any tool for programming.  Knowing goal picyour goals will help you with building the brand around your social media accounts and in what you share.  Examples of our goals:

  • Nathan Mueller: Professional Twitter activity that engages regional stakeholders with timely & relevant information that impacts their crop production business
  • Jenny Rees: Drive our customers to our unbiased, research-based info. on our websites so they have an opportunity to choose our information amidst the other information available

Why Is Twitter an Important Communication Source?

I’ll admit before I started using Twitter in 2010, I didn’t understand its value.  After all, many posts at the time were about what people ate for a meal, etc…and who really wants to know about that?  However, the light bulb finally went off.  Think of it like a spiderweb.  If I have 20 people who are following me and I share a piece of important information, each of those 20 people also may have 20 people following them.  If even 5 of them share that information to their followers, that’s perhaps a different group of people than I could have ever reached with the same information…and those people may also share the information without even knowing or following me…you can see how quickly information can travel to groups of people we would have never other-wise reached as it is global in scale.

From PEW Internet Research, “Some 23% of all online adults use Twitter, a proportion that is identical to the 23% of online adults who did so in September 2014. Internet users living in urban areas are more likely than their suburban or rural counterparts to use Twitter. Three-in-ten online urban residents use the site, compared with 21% of suburbanites and 15% of those living in rural areas. Twitter is more popular among younger adults — 30% of online adults under 50 use Twitter, compared with 11% of online adults ages 50 and older.”

Twitter Demographics

How do you begin with Twitter?  

Check out the next blog post “Your Twitter Account“!  You can also view the Twitter Presentation Nathan Mueller and I presented at the 2014 Nebraska Extension Fall Conference and the resources below.


Setting Up Twitter Account

Creating Twitter Account Screenshots

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Weebles Wobble But They Don’t Fall Down!

Okay so some of you may not remember this beloved toy of the 1970’s…but the famous weebles have a great life lesson for all of us!  My dad calls it stick-to-it-ness or “Making Hay”… Chuck Hibberd calls it resiliency….and today in the Chronicle of Higher Education they used my favorite term for this…one that comes out of the field of youth development….GRIT.

This mornings article in the Chronicle of Higher Education is talking about how a coalition of colleges are developing a new application for college.  One designed to measure potential college success of a student across program areas, and across various colleges.  One of the primary things they want to attempt to measure is grit.  The premise is that we know success comes from engagement, specifically social and academic engagement, at a college.  It doesn’t necessarily come from your scores.  It comes from your grit, your willingness to engage.”

Basically we are talking about how resiliency is influencing success across many different fields of study.  I know someone is going to ask this…how do you measure success?  And truthfully that looks different in every field.  …But isn’t it interesting that the concept of resiliency is consistent when we are measuring success?    Maybe if we are interested in measuring success across our extension programming repertoire, we should be focusing on measuring resiliency?

Just a thought.  :)

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Closed Captioning: Take Control of Technology – Protect the Quality of Your Online Videos

closed captioningBecky Versch, Washington County Extension Educator, sent me a webinar to share.

In the 9-minute webinar, Becky shares important and actionable tips that you can use to protect the quality of your online videos. Watch it, and learn something new!

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