Kade Kennedy, Texas A&M University ALED 441 Student.
Darrell A. Dromgoole, Associate Professor and Extension Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
Scott Cummings, Associate Department Head and Program Leader; Professor and Extension Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
As Extension continues to provide quality educational resources to clientele during these challenging times due to the Covid-19 outbreak pandemic it has become incumbent to shift from face to face programming to remote program delivery or distance education. In this installment of Next Step to Success we are going to discuss Social Media and Online Methods- Part 1.
The internet represents a fundamental shift in how Americans connect with one another, gather chaoticinformation and obtain educational resources. As technology improves and is now available to more of Extension’s target audiences, it is paramount that Extension focuses on engaging clientele with new and creative methods. According to the 2019 Pew Research Internet/Broadband Fact Sheet, 90% of American adults utilize the internet (Pew Research Center, 2019). Another Pew Research study reported that Americans who own a smartphone has increased from 35% in 2011 to 71.4% in 2019 (Pew Research Center, 2019).
When the Pew Research Center (2019) began tracking social media adoption in 2005, just 5% of American adults utilized at least one social media platform. Today, according to the Pew Research Center (2019), 72% of American adults uses some type of social media. Social media usage accounts for 21.4 percent of total mobile minutes in the United States, a trend that is fueled by social media apps and mobile messengers (Statista, 2019).
Teaching in the Information Age can, ironically enough, be difficult. As more and more members of younger generations join the work force, we see a change in teaching method preferences. Technology, specifically mobile devices, are the preferred method to acquire entertainment and information rather than in a classroom or demonstration. With the development of mobile devices has come a diverse number of social media platforms, each one offering operational characteristics unique to themselves.
One of these platforms that has only gained popularity through the years is Snapchat. Originally, this multimedia messaging app operated on the premise of sending pictures, videos and text messages. With its increase in popularity came consumer demand for a more interactive function on a global scale. As of 2019, users now have access to custom content from major companies and to view other users’ chronological “stories” (Elliott, 2019). Companies have seized the opportunity this feature holds by using it as a marketing strategy, specifically geared towards Generation Z and millennials. Elliott found that Snapchat currently:
This confirms the assumption that social media maintains a heavy presence in the daily routine of younger generation(s). However, it is important to question what the purpose is for users utilizing the app. Below is a graphical overview detailing exactly that as of the third quarter, 2019 (Figure 1):
Figure 1. Leading Snapchat reasons according to users in U.S. as of 3rd quarter of 2019.
This graph indicates that Snapchat is largely used for entertainment between family and friends, which is expected considering the characteristic nature of social media. But notice the 12% of users that use Snapchat to access new information. Remembering that there are a registered 300 million users, we know that 36 million of those users consider snapchat as a method of learning. The premise of snapchat was to share pictures and videos among friends and subscribers alike. With advancements within the app, users are able to post stories and can enable a Q&A within the app. This could be useful for extension agents, specifically of younger generations, who are wanting to diffuse information to a larger or more difficult-to-reach audience. Agents would be able to appeal to visual and/or auditory learners by recording demonstrations, highlights of a short course, seminars, etc. In addition to this, agents who choose to enable the Q&A feature would be able to interact with their subscribers and provide additional information to clientele who may have barriers in accessing extension programs. Another resourceful feature of snapchat is users are assigned a “snapcode” which is an image that users can share and scan in order to follow other users, similar to a QR code. Subscribers would be able to share an extension agent’s or program’s account to their associates who may have not had feasible access to extension’s service(s). These few components of snapchat make up an advantageous platform for extension to conform to modern marketing, reach a vast audience, and appeal to a multitude of learning styles.
Pinterest is a social media platform that enables users to “pin” ideas to categorical boards. The implementation of Pinterest as a teaching method has gained popularity since its founding in 2010. As a teaching method, it allows users to pull together sources, establish campaigns that are relevant to a program’s mission, and facilitate inspiration all in a practical visual experience (Meyer, 2015). Because of its popularity, accessibility, and reliability, users have begun to recognize Pinterest as a trusted source for the latest information and modern practice(s). In 2014, education pins per day exceeded from 500,000 to 1.3 million (Cummings, 2015). It was also recorded that in 2018, 23.5% of the population uses Pinterest versus 2017’s recording of 22.1% (Iqbal, 2019). This can be useful to extension as there is already a considerable amount of people who are familiar with navigating and benefiting from the app. Agents and specialists would have an easier time establishing a network, concisely delivering new information, and interacting with clientele in a more practical and modern method. Now that more people are using Pinterest, the app has developed itself as a potential candidate for sharing ideas, materials, and resources that extension can use to disseminate evidence-based practices. (Cleaver & Wood, 2018).
While this may aid extension in closing the research-to-practice gap, there are some disadvantages that must be acknowledged and appropriately addressed. Agents must ensure that when pinning links, that the content is still available and not simply a dead link (Cleaver & Wood, 2018). It is common for content to expire or be removed so it is important that agents regularly check that information promoted by extension is still available. A common misconception about Pinterest is that it is primarily used to attain information on hobbies and crafts. In reality, Pinterest tailors information to users based on their interests, including agriculture and home economics. This outlet offers a diverse selection of learning new material and aims to break through the traditional threshold of how we learn new information. Agents who wish to use this platform as a method of disseminating information will need to construct their account to uphold the program’s mission while simultaneously matching the integrity and appeal to the app itself. In conclusion, Pinterest has advantages as a teaching method, but not to the same degree as other major social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.). The app does provide an immense interactive feature that would benefit visual learners. Because of its reputation as an app for passive information, it would be difficult for agents to not only establish a clientele base but also gain the same momentum as other topics on Pinterest.
Instagram is a popular social media platform that users operate by posting visuals including pictures, videos, and live streams. Due to this feature, Instagram has become one of the most predominant social media platforms to engage in “visual story-telling” (Zhang, 2017). There is a correlation between social media and learning styles: every platform appeals to the visual learner. It would help agents to acknowledge and draft a method of diffusing information to clientele through an assortment if not preferably all social media platforms. By 2018, Instagram recorded as having over 1 billion users amongst all age groups (Steinmetz, 2019). There is already a tremendous sized pool of users to appeal to. However, the problem is that most are not using Instagram (and most other social media platforms) as a professional tool. Profiles that are operated with the intent to promote new professional information are viewed as unorthodox to the average user. In an interview conducted by Zhang, she found that there are four concepts a user must apply when wanting to captivate a larger audience to an Instagram profile:
While these have proven to be effective with both marketing and information diffusion, there is another feature that captivates a user’s following even further: Insta Story. Insta Story is a feature on Instagram that users can use to post pictures and videos in a slideshow format with a 24-hour time limit to get viewed. This feature has gained popularity for its easy operation, quick-open access, and option to visually modify how it’s presented. Today, Insta Story is revolutionizing how businesses around the globe appeal to their target audience—by developing new and enthralling characteristics for them to build on (Fonseca, 2019). The challenge agents will face is configuring a method that translates an Instagram marketing strategy into a mode of diffusing information.
Prior to utilizing any social media platform, all Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service educators should review and adhere to AgriLife Extension Social Media Guidelines.
Cleaver, S.L., & Wood, C.L. (2018). Using Pinterest to Find and Share Evidence-Based Practices. Intervention in School and Clinic, 54(2). 111-117. DOI: 10.1177/2F1053451218765212
Cummings, M. (2015). There’s a big hole in how teachers build skills, and Pinterest is helping fill it. Slate Schooled Blog. Retrieved from www.slate.com.
Elliott, J. (2019). Using Snapchat to Connect with Generation Z and Millennials. Parks & Recreation, 54(7), 16. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.srv-proxy2.library.tamu.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=f6h&AN=137364960&site=eds-live
eMarketer. (May 29, 2018). Smartphone penetration rate as share of the population in the United States from 2010 to 2021 [Graph]. In Statista. Retrieved October 14, 2019, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/201183/forecast-of-smartphone-penetration-in-the-us/
Fonseca, C. (2019). The Insta-Story: A New Frontier for Marking and Engagement at the Sonoma State University Library. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 58(4), 219–226. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.srv-proxy2.library.tamu.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=tfh&AN=139336737&site=eds-live
Iqbal, M. (2019, April 30). Pinterest Revenue and Usage Statistics (2019). Retrieved from http://www.businessofapps.com
Meyer, L. (2015). 6 Alternative Social Media Tools for Teaching and Learning. Campus Technology Magazine, 28(5), 14–17. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.srv-proxy1.library.tamu.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eue&AN=100906906&site=eds-live
Rouxu, W., Yang F., Zheng, S., & Sundar, S.S. (2016). Why Do We Pin? New Gratifications Explain Unique Activities in Pinterest. Social Media + Society, 2(3). Retrieved from https://doi-org.srv-proxy1.library.tamu.edu/10.1177%2F2056305116662173
Statista. (October 19, 2019)ᵃ. Leading Snapchat usage reasons according to users in the United States as of 3rd quarter 2019 [Graph]. In Statista. Retrieved October 29, 2019, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/329336/us-teen-social-networks-used/
Statista Survey. (February 19, 2019). Number of smartphone users in the United States from 2010 to 2023 (in millions)* [Graph]. In Statista. Retrieved October 14, 2019, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/201182/forecast-of-smartphone-users-in-the-us/
Steinmetz, K. (2019). Instagram’s Challenge. TIME Magazine, 194(3), 46. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.srv-proxy2.library.tamu.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=f6h&AN=137427003&site=eds-live