Jan
25
Filed Under (Examples, Facebook, Social media) by emanuelr on 25-01-2010

I use the ubiquitous social networking site Facebook. Yes, you may sigh and say you do too and see it as sort of mildly distracting and maybe tangential to your work.  But is it really??

FB-blogMy blog, H2ONCoast is broadcast through a nifty thing called an RSS feed. That means new blog posts go to someone’s RSS reader as neatly digested intros or even just a title.  That can get delivered to email or another reader. They can chose to pay attention or ignore, but ultimately don’t have to keep checking the original blog for new posts. Facebook–that 350 million strong body of people all communicating with each other–allows RSS feeds too. That’s a handy step into a big audience.

So last year, I told Facebook to look at my blog’s RSS feed through one their many applications.  It now feeds my new blog posts to my Facebook wall. When my on-line friends go look at my FB wall (or their own pages where my wall posts also appear as new activity), the new blog post is there and attracts them to the original blog, or they can just read the material posted to Facebook (a clone of the original, if you will).

As an example of how useful this is, two weeks ago we published the new Oregon Rain Garden Guide. Judy Scott from EESC helped with some PR. Pat Kight posted it to Breaking Waves.  I then put the same post on my blog.  The RSS feeder then posted it to my Facebook page and all of a sudden, I’m getting requests for copies and help through Facebook. It’s yet another social media domain for linking people and information.

Furthermore, if OSU Extension used FB to market our materials, we’d be able to tailor the adds to go the very types of people we expect will want to be our audience.

Facebook may seem silly sometimes, but at 350 million+ members, it is now equivalent to the 9th largest country–if social networks could be–and a lot of eyeballs to consume our information or generate interaction.

h2oncoast

I’ve now tried to convince you that social media is important and why it should be more important to Extension, Education and Communication professionals.  I’ve shown you numbers in my previous post that should make you feel that social media is where many people are “at” these days and that our job is to reach them there (as well as in the traditional places where OSGE goes).  So what did H2ONCoast do for me as an Extension Educator? Did it reach people where they are at? Does it still?

The answer is much more complicated than a simple Y/N can convey. Yes, it reaches more peo0ple than I could ever reach in person, phone or email.  According to Electronic Papyrus, a blog by colleagues (and friends) Mark Anderson-Wilk and Chris LaBelle of EESC, between March 1st through August 24th of last year, it H2ONCoast had about 28,000 visits and 38,000 page views, making it the third most popular blog on the OSU blogs server. Not bad, but what does that really mean? Who are these anonymous visitors? For this, we need to get a little more apocryphal. Here are some stories:

  1. In December of 2008, I was contacted by an old friend who has since become a colleague in watershed extension at North Carolina State University. That connection led to an invitation to present on climate change research and stream restoration at a significant SE regional meeting.
  2. Fall of 2007, I was contacted by members of a Lego robotics team in Silverton, OR (these are grade and middle schoolers) about my post on Vibrio tubiashii and climate change. The back and forth contributed to their wining performance at the statewide championship when it came to explaining a current scientific issue and its impacts.
  3. My postings on ocean pH changes, hypoxic upwelling and Vibrio resulted in about 10 contacts for more information.  One from a NOAA science writer who asked to use my photos of Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery.
  4. A post this winter resulted in a lively back and forth between the fire chief of Manzanita on what drought will do for his job on the North coast.
  5. A request for help from a consulting firm in the UK looking on controlling North American skunk cabbage.
  6. Requests for rain gardens guides by friends and colleagues who saw the post or read it through various feeds on Facebook and elsewhere.
  7. I was asked by Jess Whitehead of SC/NC Sea Grant to help her start her blog on Climate Extension. I’ve also been queried by Chad Cook of Wisconsin Extension.
  8. Most significantly, the blog has led me to discussions, presentations and appointments within OSU Extension where I am asked to discuss the how, what, where and why of social media. This is by far one of the best outcomes.
  9. A prod by Jay and my staff chair to get something scholarly out of the blog. This challenge turned me  an on-going research project with my colleagues from EESC. We’ll be exploring why people don’t or do adopt social media in the context of P&T, professional development, and engagement.

But all of this is just stories–stories from an impact perspective, but what about the quantitative measures of success?  Next, I’ll discuss the stats–what do they really mean?