Filed Under (How-To) by emanuelr on 28-01-2010

In my last post, I discussed how I use my blog to share resources and past presentations with participants (and others).  I generally give them a list of links for the topic on a sheet of paper.  But most importantly, I like to give them a short, sweet link to my blog site–and usually directly to that post where the “goods” are posted rather than to the whole blog site where it might disappear from sight after subsequent postings.

To do that, you could give them: http://blogger.com/pottypartyblog/2010/8/2609/15/how_to_know_when_its_time_to_go_to_the_bathroom/ (No joke–this was a hot topic with my son  during potty-training last year!)  Most blogging software just gives you an address that contains the entire title you used in your post. That makes for really long addresses. Even if you keep it short, it’s still too long.

Or you can give them bit.ly/is4mgs (a link to a real blog post).

Personally, I can remember the second one much better and write it more quickly. I also expect fewer errors of transcription for my participants as they squint at the font on my handout or up at my poor handwriting on the board.

I shortened the link address using a bit.ly.  I have also used tinyurl.com. Of the two, I have found bit.ly to be more customizable and easier to use. Many bloggers load bit.ly widgets into their blogs so that anyone who shares the link to a post gets a shortened one. Pretty handy! I will whenever OSU Central Web Services allows it (one of these days, I hope).

If you use Twitter and you are giving out a link (to your blog, for example), then use one of these handy services to shorten the post and you’ll save valuable characters out of your 140 allotment.

I use Slideshare in my blog. I personally think it is one of the best social media applications for what we do as educators and communicators. It takes your hard work in a PowerPoint presentation and posts it to the cloud where others can access it (with or without download options). It’s also a nifty social media style site where you have your own space to show off your posts and others you tag as favorites. Check out my slidespace for an example.

Once a presentation is uploaded and processed, you can select your blogging software (mine is WordPress) from a list of logos under “Share” and Slideshare will produce some code for you to post into the blog (note: in the HTML view). You can can simply cut and paste this code into the post and viola!–there appears a little window into my presentation, right there, in my blog post on the same topic.  For example, here’s someone’s useful presentation broadcast on blogging that I pasted here:

All of that stuff you see above–author, source, etc. is automatically formatted in the blog with the code. It only took me a couple of carriage returns and a cut-and-paste to post this!

So for example, I do what I hope is a nifty presentation on invasive species for gardeners.  I take 10 minutes to post it to Slideshare for others to see. Then, I can post my slideshow up on a blog post (as you see above), give that and other electronically linked resources to participants via a single (or half) sheet of paper. I can even just write it on the board.  Check out this post that I wrote for a Master Gardener Minicollege training last summer as an example. I gave them a sheet resource links and put the link to the blog post where they could go look for all of that in one handy spot.  All the participants need is the link to my site and they can go back and revisit the presentation as much as they want. I no longer print oodles of pages of slides to hand out. I also don’t give out paper copies of most OSU or other reference publications. I just link them in my blog. This is more sustainable and cheaper for OSU.

A major benefit of using Slideshare and my blog this way is that it also gives me more blog traffic. I end up with a few new readers every time I present and give out the link. Some folks then come back for more or sign up to my RSS feed for regular updates. I know that these folks are the exact Oregonians I want to reach because they came to my training. They may share my post with others in their network–thereby increasing my reach.

One other use of Slideshare in blogging:  if I’ve had a chance to see someone’s talk that I think the rest of the world would appreciate, I can post that to the blog if the author has put it up on Slideshare. For example, I’ve posted presentations by OSU colleagues Todd Jarvis and Mark Crossler (with permission). In the case of Todd, I introduced him to Slideshare to get the post up.

Like all social media, Slideshare gives us an opportunity to broaden the audience as we blog. It links to just about all of the other social media out there too (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, most blogger applications, etc.).

In my opinion, the combo of Slideshare posted presentations and blogs with resources on them is the single best discovery of how to use social media as an Extension faculty member.

A recent discussion on the Sea Grant webmasters’ email list suggests that while most of the 30 (or 32, depending on how you count us) Sea Grant programs are interested in the outreach and information possibilities posed by social media, few have had the time or staff resources to do much about it yet.

For those few programs that have tested the social media waters, the effort appears to be paying off. Here’s what they report:

Michigan Sea Grant: Primarily uses Twitter, making multiple posts a day. Much of it is “recycled” program content, but they also tweet about breaking Great Lakes news.  They also maintain a presence on FaceBook, YouTube and Flickr. Their web referral statistics show that those who come to the program’s site via a Twitter link stay longer and go deeper into the site than the average visitor. Insights gained, according to communicator Stephanie Ariganello:

  1. Whatever social media platform you choose, keep at it. Fresh content is what keeps people reading your blog, Facebook page or Twitter feed., and draws new followers.
  2. Keep your posts interesting and give them a human voice. If the content isn’t engaging, people won’t keep reading. At the same time, don’t mix your personal blog/page/Twitter account with your personal one.
  3. If multiple people are contributing to a single social media outlet, a management system (such as Hootsuite) can help you stay organized by setting up posts to be released on a schedule, managing multiple user accounts, etc. And use Google Analytics or other statistical services  to keep track of the metrics.
  4. Social media is an accompaniment to, not a replacement for, traditional outreach.

Louisiana Sea Grant has a Twitter page, a YouTube channel and a new members-only discussion forum. So far, writes Melissa Dufour, “Our main problem with this so far is that many of the ‘members’ that have signed up are spammers.”

Connecticut Sea Grant has a FaceBook page “but so far most of the ‘fans’ are other Sea Grant programs,” writes Peg Van Patten. As a member of the Long Island Sound Study, the program has been working on a social media plan for over a year with  communicators from the EPA, Sea Grant, state agencies others. “The stumbling block is figuring out exactly what the behavior change we want to bring about is, and what target age set, in order to define the audience and the message.”

New York Sea Grant uses Facebook and Twitter for general news distribution, and blogs for specific projects such as the Eastern Lake Ontario Dune and Salmon River Stewards program. They find blogs to be “a great marketing tool for specific programs or efforts .(while)  Facebook and Twitter have helped to further promote what we’re putting in our regularly-published newsletter, New York Coastlines, as well as other publications and new content added on our Web site.” Writes Paul Focazio: “We’re all certainly very busy, but using these and other social networking tools can serve to enhance the great work we’re doing,  and there’s really not that much time investment when you think of them as other outlets to get out your messages already being circulated via email and other more traditional methods.”

Delaware Sea Grant: Outreach specialist Lisa Tossey manages the program’s YouTube, Facebook and Twitter presences, and writes, “Twitter in particular has been a great local networking tool to connect with the community, educators, and leaders. Because of our Twitter feed we were recently invited to an event with the Governor to discuss engaging Delaware residents through social media.”

Most other Sea Grant programs appear to be in the position of Mississippi-Alabama, where Melissa Scheier writes, the two-person communications staff is interested, but “quite busy with what we have to do now.”

Observations: It appears that SG programs with newer/younger communicators are the ones leading the way on social media, probably because they’re already comfortable with the tools. In most cases, social networking seems to be seen as a communications and marketing enhancement, not a tool for direct outreach and engagement.