What is my objective with social media?

I took a few days off to work on some flooring/drywall at the old house last week, and found myself pondering what my objective was for using social media in Extension.  …This wasn’t a totally random thought….I know I need to and do use social media to reach new audiences, and connect with potential and existing clientele…but specifically what was my objective?  Was it to improve engagement in Extension programming or had I primarily been using it as a sage on the stage, blasting my clientele, collaborators, and colleagues with information about upcoming workshops/tidbits of information? 

I had attended a professional development seminar hosted by the Institutional Review Board a few weeks ago about Ethical Challenges of Conducting Research Using the Internet and Other Digital Technologies.  The presenter, Elizabeth Buchanan, talked about an interesting research study about social media that found that student engagement went up when the faculty member revealed personal aspects about themselves online.  What?  Yes, engagement with the learner is improved if they really feel like they know the person teaching.   In Extension we have talked a lot about trying to keep personal and professional lives separate….but I also knew that in research on online courses, the use of a coffee house, or casual discussion board, improved student interaction, and strengthened the discussion that was on topic.  Research also suggests that the reason this happens is because online students feel like they know the instructor and other students online and build trust with them, and increase the respect in each others opinions.  Which, quite frankly, I’ve always thought was absolutely awesome! 

In Extension though I have heard several of my colleagues talking about having two Facebook pages, two Twitter accounts etc., so that they could keep their personal and professional lives separate.  I have never really bought into that, as I have always found it quite easy to find both the professional and personal profiles of people online…leaving an open dilemma, with friends at work, which Facebook profile should I be on, ….and quite frankly always felt like I’m just one person, with both a professional and personal life….but my ideals that I live by are just me…one person.  So what is the point? 

Several years ago when this first came up, I made the decision to just try to keep my personal life off of social media.  …I haven’t always lived by that.  I did send out a tweet at Fall Conference when I was standing with my colleagues and we were debating the merits of three bracelets.  🙂  But then was baffled that someone actually retweeted it!  Then this morning, opened my Chronicle of Higher Education email to find an article by an assistant professor of communication and media defending the practice of being personal on Twitter (link to article).

So, back to the big question.  How am I using social media?  And, how should I be using social media?  What is my objective?  Should I use social media to engage new clientele?  Or should I continue down the road I started, with a somewhat sterile approach to social media…and become an online sage on the stage?  There are a lot of people out on social media being a sage on the stage…but they aren’t really standing out in the crowd.  Do we need to figure out a way to make social media work better for us, both individually and organizationally?  Do we need to define an objective that is a happy medium….and what does that look like? 

I guess I’m just overthinking this.  My mission is to help youth and families be who they want to be, and live where they want to live.  My motto:  Live local, learn and sell global….or as I sometimes say…Nebraska grown, worldwide known.  To be effective, I need to engage my existing and potential clientele using every media means available to me…including social media.  I guess you can follow me on Twitter or Facebook if you want to see how I decide to do that.  🙂 

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5 Responses to What is my objective with social media?

  1. unlextension says:

    I have struggled with this also. I have a hard enough time keeping one Facebook page and one Twitter feed, let alone two. I post professional things to our Facebook page for work, and private things to my friends and family. Many times they are the same thing! If I see a great way to get kids to eat vegetables, I post it on both sites. I try to post family pics and brewery/winery tours to f/f also, but again, sometimes the info is great for both. It’s a fine line, and I am assuming it will get more blurred as time goes on. When you figure this out–let me know!

  2. dkahl00 says:

    Reblogged this on Innovative Tips for Entrepreneurs and commented:

    My co-worker poses interesting questions and thoughts about the purpose of social media.

  3. Deb, Thank you for your thoughts! What you’re ultimately talking about is engagement and we need to do so just as you said-using every type of media form including social media. People want to connect to a real person on social media. We know we are trusted as real people in our communities so I think we need to be real people on social media as well-while at the same time being wise about what we share.

    I’ve found by being myself but also sharing information from UNL Extension, I have increased engagement with my customers. Because I’ve shared my experiences and heart as a military wife, people connect with me as a person as well as a professional-and often those posts get the most reaction from people. Personally, I didn’t set up two different accounts even though it was recommended. I’ve tried to keep everything more on the professional side except for Facebook which I use for both. My ultimate goal for social media is to drive customers to UNL Extension websites and information and engage customers to repeatedly come to us for information. Thanks for you post Deb!

  4. Great insights Deb — I think many of us struggle with the public/private balance. When teaching Co-Parenting online and onsite, parents “engage” when they know that the teachers are “real people” who care …the online dialogue with teachers has been a valued part of the class. For the Home Wise Family Smart Lancaster blog, Soni inspired me to include a family picture…this was a leap!

  5. My accounts are a blend of personal and professional as I know several professional people who aren’t “public personalities” and we can have a better dialogue on my personal account. I don’t know if it matters as much on twitter unless you are tweeting as the representative of a company. I have noticed that some people have created both types of Facebook accounts, especially after they have written a book or something similar so they can keep their “fans” separate from the interactions they have with peers and friends. I would consider this if I were in a similar situation … however, I’m not. One thing I sorta do on Facebook is separate out who sees my posts … some are public, allowing others to share them anywhere. Others just go to friends. I could further segment them … so I would consider that if I wanted to say something to just one group, such as just family members.

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