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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Taking Social Networking to the Next Level

Texas AgriLife Extension recently launched an initiative to utilize Facebook as a recruiting tool to enhance our recruiting efforts. This effort has also evolved to utilizing Facebook to market Texas AgriLife Extension Service as an organization that provides a wide range of research based resources through community based educational programs.

Now that Texas AgriLife Extension Service has a presence in the social networking arena, the question is how we utilize this venue beyond recruiting and marketing. Christ (2005) predicted that social networking sites would force public relation professionals to rethink how they approach relationship development with their stakeholders. Research in the Public Relations Review (Waters, Burnett, Lamm & Lucas, 2009) reported that social networking sites can be an effective way to reach stakeholder groups if there is some understanding of how the stakeholders use the site. Waters, Burnett, Lamm and Lucas (2009) also reported that as social networking sites become more ingrained in daily life, they will soon see a more diverse audience in terms of age, culture, and socio-economic status. Waters, Burnett, Lamm and Lucas (2009) indicated that organizations will need to begin using more social networking applications to meet the growing needs and expectations of their stakeholders.

Here are a few facts about Facebook that is our motivation to explore this as a venue to recruit future employees, market Texas AgriLife Extension and interpret Texas AgriLife Extension (Facebook, 2010): Social networking has now surpassed the use of common email nation wide.

* Facebook has more than 400 million users.
* 50% of the active users log on to Facebook in any given day.
* More than 3 billion photos are uploaded to the site each month.
* More than 5 billion pieces of content (weblinks, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums, etc.) is shared each week.
* More than 3.5 million events are created each month.
* More than 1.5 million local businesses have a active Page on Facebook.
* More than 20 million people become fans of Pages each day.
* Pages have created more than 5.3 billion fans.
* Average user has 130 friends on the site.
* The average user sends 8 friend requests per month.
* Average user becomes a fan of 4 Pages each month.
* Average user is invited to 3 events per month.
* More than 70 translations available on the site.
* About 70% of Facebook users are outside the United States.
* There are more than 100 million active users currently accessing Facebook through their mobile devises.

Some specific demographics related to Texas AgriLife Extension Service's Facebook page is as follows:

* Texas AgriLife Extension Service's page has more than 1,800 fans.
* 64% of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service fans are female.
* Texas AgriLife Extension Service fans range in age from 13 years of age to over 55.
* 74% of fans are 18 to 44 years of age.
* There are 1,781 fans from the United States.
* Texas AgriLife Extension Service's page had in the range of 800 visits this past week.
* Texas AgriLife Extension Service page has fans from Canada, India, Puerto Rico, Bolivia, Spain, Greece, Indonesia, South Korea, Pakistan and Turkey.

As an agency, Texas AgriLife Extension Service has a challenge in terms of where do we go next related to the utilization of social networking. The following are some ideas that agents should consider related to how Texas AgriLife Extension Service can utilize social media to enhance program delivery, market educational programs, and interpret Extension programs to targeted stakeholders which will assist in ensuring that Texas AgriLife Extension Service remains a relevant educational agency;

* Utilization of blogs to deliver educational content which can be delivered to clientele's mobile devise.
* Utilization of social networking as a platform for interactive learning related to the management of diabetes.
* Utilization of social networking as a platform to provide leadership lessons to 4-H youth.
* Utilization of social media to interpret programs to legislative staffers who routinely use social media personally and professionally.
* Utilization of social media as a component of a systematic educational strategy which uses social media to introduce basic information followed by providing a link to a more in-depth online learning module followed by the utilization of both social media and on-line learning modules to announce a more comprehensive face to face educational event.

One of the new and innovative approaches utilizing a form of social networking to interpret programs and increasing Extension visibility is the utilization of short videos attached to an electronic post card that is sent to elected officials and elected officials staffers. This innovative interpretation approach is currently being conducted in Travis County. To view an example of one of these videos click on http://traviscountyextensionoffice.createsend5.com/T/ViewEmail/r/C66341E542926DE2/CFE05E22D4B1F796C5EC08CADFFC107B

Now that Texas AgriLife Extension Service has its foot in the door in the utilization of blogs, electronic post cards, and Facebook- careful consideration needs to be given to how these tools can increase our capacity to deliver programs, communicate with clientele and interpret our programs.

Reference

Christ, P. (2005). Internet technologies and trends transforming public relations.
Journal of Website Promotion. 1 (4) , 3-14.

Waters, R.D., Burnett, E., Lamm, A., & Lucas, J. (2009). Engaging stakeholders through social networking: How nonprofit organizations are using Facebook. Public Relations Review.