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.
It is no doubt that coronavirus pandemic has provide numerous challenges for Extension educators and our clientele. As Extension continues to function as the premier informal educational agency during these challenging times due to the coronavirus pandemic by shifting 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 more Social Media and Online methods.
The internet represents a fundamental shift in how Americans connect with one another, gather information 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 81% 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.
Moving traditional Extension face-to-face programming to an online format is a method Extension educators can utilize to reduce outreach expenses and reach audiences who may not have previously interacted with Extension. In taking this approach, educators must be responsive to the needs and preferences of online learners and offer high-quality, relevant content.
Social media and online learning have presented Extension with the opportunity to utilize various internet-based platforms to interact with clientele. Social media is having a dynamic impact on the way knowledge, information, and programs are being created and shared in Extension (Seevers & Graham, 2012). For example, Utah State University has reported that the combined audience of all social media platforms from 2015 to 2016 grew to 28,271 followers, an increase of 159% (Utah State University Extension, 2017). The percent of total followers through specific social platforms utilized by USU Extension is as follows in figure 1 (Utah State University Extension, 2017):
There is an array of social media and online learning platforms available, but for the purpose of this installment of the Next Step to Success blog, we are going to focus on Webinars and Facebook.
Webinars are becoming a popular means to deliver educational content for Extension in general and specifically within Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. A webinar refers to a presentation delivered over the Web to large audiences who have the means to interact with the presenter (Seevers & Graham, 2012).
In the changing educational environment where digital communication is a central platform, it is imperative to utilize technology to enhance Extension educational efforts (Robinson & Poling, 2017). One such resource that has been effectively utilized by Extension educators with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service is the webinar. Webinars are effective as educational tools in Extension because they allow the Extension professional to use a virtual setting to bring together and engage clientele from across a large geographic area (Johnson & Shumaker, 2016).
Based on a review of existing literature and research as well as practical trial-and-error experiences, the following best practices for planning effective webinars are recommended (Robinson & Poling, 2017);
Use the following best practices to deliver effective webinars (Robinson & Poling, 2017).
An excellent example of an Extension educator who has effectively utilized webinars is Dr. Megan Clayton, Associate Professor and Extension Range Specialist for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. These webinars can be attended from anywhere there is access to a computer and the internet. Webinars can be recorded and incorporated in the webinar organizers website (Seevers & Graham, 2012).
Facebook is another useful platform to reach your audience, by providing users with an interactive Web page-like format to share information, photos, articles, and Web links (Kinsey, 2010). This platform makes it easy to post a message that can be shared with small or large communities of users (Kinsey, 2010). Messages, photos, and video clips can be posted easily for interested audiences (i.e., Facebook friends). Facebook attracts followers who are organizations or individuals interested in the creator’s postings. Extension educators may find it useful to communicate information regarding upcoming events, celebrations, live stream video, provide informational pieces, and publications.
Facebook is a useful platform to reach Extension clientele, by providing users with an interactive Web page-like format to share information, photos, articles, and Web links (Kinsey, 2010). This platform makes it easy to post a message that can be shared with small or large communities of users (Kinsey, 2010). Messages, photos, and video clips can be posted easily for interested audiences (i.e., Facebook friends). Facebook attracts followers who are organizations or individuals interested in the creator’s postings. Extension educators may find it useful to communicate information regarding upcoming events, celebrations, live stream video, provide informational pieces, and publications.
With 2.41 billion monthly active users as of the second quarter of 2019, Facebook is the biggest social network worldwide (Facebook, 2019). Figure 2 indicates the share of adults in the United States who were using Facebook as of February 2019, sorted by age group (Pew Research Centerd, 2019).
Figure 2. Percentage of U.S. adults who use Facebook as of February 2019, by age group (Pew Research Centerd, 2019).
Figure 3 presents the frequency of users in the United States accessing Facebook. As of the third quarter of 2019, it was found that 52 percent of U.S. Facebook users accessed the social platform several times a day (AudienceProject, 2019).
Figure .3 Frequency of Facebook use in the United States as of 3rd quarter 2019 (AudienceProject, 2019).
Facebook is by far the most popular social network website in the United States based on monthly active users, followed by Instagram. About 67.2 percent of the U.S. population were using Facebook in 2019. Despite strong gains from growing online markets, the United States still have the second-largest number of Facebook users in the world. Mobile is an important part of Facebook’s leading position in the market, as the social network is also the most popular mobile social networking app in the United States by reach, engagement and audience. Facebook also has the capacity to create an event where a large number of people can be simultaneously invited (Seevers & Graham, 2012).
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.
In the future Next Step to Success blogs, we will provide information regarding more social media platforms.
AudienceProject. (October 3, 2019). Frequency of Facebook use in the United States as of 3rd quarter 2019 [Graph]. In Statista. Retrieved October 11, 2019, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/199266/frequency-of-use-among-facebook-users-in-the-united-states/
eMarketer, & Squarespace. (n.d.). Number of Facebook users by age in the U.S. as of January 2018 (in millions). In Statista – The Statistics Portal. Retrieved September 26, 2018, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/398136/us-facebook-user-age-groups/.
Facebook. (July 24, 2019). Number of monthly active Facebook users worldwide as of 2nd quarter 2019 (in millions) [Graph]. In Statista. Retrieved October 11, 2019, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/264810/number-of-monthly-active-facebook-users-worldwide/
Horrigan, J. B. (2016). Lifelong learning and technology. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/03/22/lifelong-learning-and-technology/
Johnson, C. L., & Shumaker, J. B. (2016). Does webinar-based financial education affect knowledge and behavior? Journal of Extension, 54(1), Article 1RIB2. Available at: https://joe.org/joe/2016february/rb2.php
Kinsey, J. (2010) Five Social Media Tools for the Extension Toolbox. Journal of Extension . 48 (5) Retrieved from https://www.joe.org/joe/2010october/tt7.php.
Pew Research Center. (April 10, 2019). Percentage of U.S. adults who use Facebook as of February 2019, by age group [Graph]. In Statista. Retrieved October 11, 2019, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/246221/share-of-us-internet-users-who-use-facebook-by-age-group/
Pluth, B. P. (2010). Webinars with wow factor. Tips, tricks, and interactive activities for virtual training. Chaska, MN: Pluth Consulting.
Robinson, J., & Poling, M. (2017). Engaging Participants without Leaving the Office: Planning and Conducting Effective Webinars. Journal of Extension, 55 (6), Article 6TOT9. Available at: https://www.joe.org/joe/2017december/pdf/JOE_v55_6tt9.pdf
Seevers, B., & Graham, D. (2012). Education through Cooperative Extension. (3rd ed.). Fayetteville, AR: University of Arkansas Bookstore.
Seger, J. (2011). The new digital [St]age: Barriers to the adoption and adaptation of new technologies to deliver Extension programming and how to address them. Journal of Extension [Online], 49(1) Article 1FEA1. Available at: http://www.joe.org/joe/2011february/a1.php
Silkwood, G, Young, M., Dolecheck, S., Hamilton,M., & Kinder, C. (2018) Blended learning: Connecting expertise and building networks in rural communities. Journal of the NCAAA. 10 (1) Retrieved from https://www.nacaa.com/journal/index.php?jid=733.
Utah State University Extension. (2017) Social media marketing audit & strategic plan 2016-2017. Retrieved from https://extension.usu.edu/files-ou/Social-Media-Marketing-Plan-2017.pdf.