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. 🙂