Lately, people have been wondering how to share their recent Zoom recordings and handouts, and how to let communities know we’re still providing useful activities and resources. The website can play a part in this communication, alongside your emails, social media, newsletters and outreach to local media. We have some guidelines and examples and considerations to get you started and coordinated related to: Prepping recordings, Program pages, County pages.

County pages

The county landing page already is a spot to feature your current events, your newsletter and feature a few new pieces of content either from your county or statewide news and resources. You can also use announcements to share resources like Lincoln county.

This action of keeping your landing page fresh shows you are active. Featuring a couple pieces of new content could be done at the same time you are pulling together your newsletter.

If you have a lot of new resources, then keep your focus areas under “What we do” updated too. In addition to announcements, Lincoln county added a new focus area to encourage supporting local food, for example.

We’ve also had requests from other regions that they want one place to showcase all that’s happening across their program areas. In this case, an “Online resources and activities” focus area can be featured at the top of your What We Do section on your homepage. We will push out a template to counties later this week, which you can customize.

We want to elevate visibility and awareness of OSU Extension’s work with Oregon communities with particular focus on local and county-level impact and resilience in the face of COVID-19. Next week we’ll share another focus area template to help you in directing people on where to find local food, health and financial assistance too.

Program pages

Other than the event lists, program subpages are a good place to communicate with participants and volunteers in your program what new resources you have that they can do at home. The key is coordinating how these resources are added, although the design on the page can vary.

Here’s a short decision tree.

  1. Is the new resource only relevant to your local program in your county?
    1. Yes, add as a program resource to your local program group.
    2. No, see below.
  2. Is the new resource of interest to or being duplicated by other local programs in other counties?
    1. Yes, add as a statewide program resources and tag for the local county programs. This way it only needs to be updated in one place.
    2. 4-H Jackson county is an example that could be done this way since they have good resources that could be of interest to other 4-H county programs that are also adding new home activities subpages.
  3. Is the new resource of interest to other statewide programs and the general public?
    1. Work with related faculty to add through a content team as an educational material and tag for the program(s). This way it can show up on topic pages too.
    2. Oregon Master Naturalist is an example that shifted to this way.

Prepping and sharing your recordings

Content teams have shifted to giving virtual programming since the pandemic started. When giving your programming as a scheduled webinar, the recordings are posted in OSU MediaSpace within hours. You can use this recording in several ways, but there’s a few things you need to do first.

Make sure that you have informed attendees it is being recording and received the needed permissions from those attending. Please remember that recording meetings or events with youth is prohibited without express consent from their parent or guardians. See specifics on the Virtual Extension program delivery page.

To ensure we meet our ADA responsibility, please request captions for your Kaltura video, and proof and fix any issues. This will ensure the recorded content is as widely accessible as possible.

  • You may need to edit your Kaltura video to snip the beginning or end of your recording. You can find instructions here.
  • Check in if you have any branding for pre and post-production to be added.
  • Lastly you will need to share your video.

Once you have completed these steps, you can post the video on the website.

  1. Add the recording link to the event page (which can still be found by searching on the website after the event) along with any handouts. However, don’t share publicly “meetings”, especially that contain youth in the recording, on the website. See program delivery info on Zoom safety and security on our Virtual Extension website.
  2. Get the attendee list from your Zoom Oregon State report dashboard afterward and email it to them. Contact us for any questions on getting that list.
  3. Add the video on the related county focus area if the content is a webinar not meant for broader distribution (check with the appropriate content team first). See a Coos county example.
  4. See if faculty want to edit portions of the webinar to add as educational content through their content team. Visitors to the site often want quick answers not whole webinars when they find videos on the site.

You still want people to attend the program, rather than just wait to find the recording. The value of people attending the webinar live is that they can engage with you and other participants – a chance to ask questions and network. However, analytics on numbers of views of the recordings could be included in your Digital Measures reporting.

Web updates

It is important for our learners, stakeholders and funders to know that OSU Extension continues to actively serve, engage, respond and innovate during the COVID-19 pandemic—even while locations are closed and employees are working remotely.

To align with the current way we deliver services, we adjusted small but meaningful wording on the site:

  • We adjusted the emergency announcement from emphasizing we are closed to we are still here for you with related resources.
  • We made it clearer on the homepage how we are offering many online events from across the state.
  • We made sure that postponed events are now separate from active events.
  • We shared information on wearing a face covering on county sites.
  • We feature new resources on the homepage and COVID-19 topic page, like the new “Sewing cloth face coverings for beginners” educational gallery.

We also improved the speed at which you can enter and update content behind-the-scenes.

Across OSU Extension, email newsletters are used to educate, convey information to, and build trust and community with industry-specific, program-specific and general audiences. However, each newsletter within the division looks different, sounds different, provides varying levels of effectiveness and offers varying levels of brand alignment and accessibility.

There are best practices we all can adopt to improve the effectiveness and accessibility of our email newsletters. In the coming weeks, we’ll be rolling out Extension newsletter templates to make it easier to tell our stories better. These templates will be designed to work on MailChimp and Constant Contact platforms. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, adopt the following best practices and we’ll make significant strides in readability, effectiveness and accessibility.

10 Best practices to adopt now

1) Write engaging and informative subject lines.

This is the first opportunity to make your audience curious about the content of your newsletter. Try to limit the subject line to no more than 50 characters (including spaces). Check out these websites for guidance on writing engaging subject lines:

2) Make the preheader work for you.

Preheader text is the short line of text displayed next to or just below the email subject line when an email is viewed in the inbox. Preheaders are often overlooked opportunities to engage the reader and tell them more about what’s in the newsletter.

3) Build a clean list and remove unengaged email addresses.

If someone hasn’t opened any of your emails for a year or more, find out if they still want to receive your email newsletter. Send a “We miss you” email to see if they want to continue being a subscriber. A clean list will give you a more accurate email open and engagement rate.

4) Personalize your greeting.

Using the first name of your subscriber is more likely to capture the attention of the reader. This can be in the subject line or start the newsletter with “Dear {first name}.”

5) Keep content short, simple, personable and focused on the interests of the readers.

Think about what the payoff is for the reader. What’s the essential takeaway? How does the story reinforce the value of Extension to the community? Then write two or three compelling sentences as your lead-in to tease the reader into continuing to read the story by clicking on the call-to-action.

Limit the number of articles to three to five. Enough white space within the overall newsletter will make the newsletter easier to read. The Extension website is a good source for newsletter content: news stories, publications, event information and other content. Use links to encourage visits to the website.

6) Use compelling calls-to-action.

Instead of “click here” or “click this link,” use more actionable language, such as “Learn more,” “Download,” and “Register today.” If calls-to-action are images, use alternative text to make sure readers can click them even if images aren’t enabled.

7) Improve accessibility.

Increase font size to 12 to 14 point for body copy. Use the Georgia font for headlines and Verdana font for body text. Use alternative text to describe story images so that subscribers that disable images or those with disabilities know what you’re showing them. Do not use text over photos or PDFs embedded into the newsletters. Avoid text-heavy content.

8) Include links to social media sites.

This allows readers to share content easily. (And consider including a link to your newsletter in your email signature. Refer to email signature guidelines for the way to do it.)

9) Include an email signature.

People are more inclined to read and open emails if they come from a person rather than info@companyname or noreply@companyname.

10) Send your newsletters consistently.

Choose the frequency of the newsletter and settle on the day and time of delivery (this may take a little time to find the best day and time for open rates and click-throughs). Then stick to the schedule so your readers watch for and anticipate it.

Additional tips

Review metrics to see what content is of greatest interest to your audience.

During the Stay Home, Save Lives mandate and beyond, reinforce in headlines and body copy that OSU and Extension are here for our communities.

Set expectations when someone first signs up for your newsletter so that they know what to expect for frequency and type of content.

A/B test subject lines and calls-to-action between two groups of subscribers to learn what language creates a greater response. Read: Effective email marketing subject lines.

Segment your audience to appeal to their interests. The value of the content will be elevated if it’s of interest to the reader.

Add video and animated content to increase engagement with the reader. Also increase engagement and learn more about your readers by adding a quick poll.

Reinforce the personality of Extension with the tone of story selection and writing style. Personality characteristics for Extension are defined in the Extension Style Guide:

  • Collaborative – We’re better together
  • Conscientious – Aware, with integrity and conviction
  • Visionary – Creatively leading the way, taking on issues
  • Welcoming – Friendly, open to all and enriched by difference
  • Progressive – Pursuing innovative practices that lead to proven methods of thinking and doing
  • Helpful – Focused on service that meets the needs of our communities
  • Adventurous – Having the courage to seek out new solutions

Sources:

Virtual Extension

OSU Extension’s educational outreach teams — PACE, EESC and ECTU – are continually adding new resources and updates to the Virtual Extension site on the Extension Employee Intranet.

Virtual Extension complements OSU’s Keep Working and Keep Teaching websites, with information specific to our Extension and Engagement context. The website features a list of resources to help you:

Virtual Extension was featured on this week’s First Monday video.

The Virtual Extension team seeks your feedback, and for you to share your needs and ideas so we can work together through this current situation and position us for even more ways to serve Oregonians in the future. Let's talk button

OSU Extension Professional Development & Connection Opportunities

Starting this week join us for daily Zoom training sessions.

  • Marketing Mondays
  • Technology Tuesdays
  • Water Cooler Wednesdays
  • Teaching Thursdays
  • Financial Fridays

 

Extension Website Training

Wednesday April 8  8:30-10:30

Join us for a special 2 hour session for all staff and faculty who currently work on the Extension website or would like to start. This training will include an overview of Extension’s web strategy initiative, a tour of the website, and demos and Q&A based on audience interests.

Presented by: Victor Villegas, Technology & Media Support; Michele Scheib, Content Strategist; Bryan Mayjor, Web & Content Strategy Leader; Tamara Hill-Tanquist, Web Designer; Amerie Lommen, Web Developer

Join via Zoom

 

Kudos

We’d like to give a big shout to Washington County’s Jenifer Halter who posted tips for searching the Extension website.

 

Zoom Security

Learn how to properly configure your Zoom Meetings to prevent Zoombombing.

 

Web updates

The events content type has two new features:

  1. Zoom meeting information. You can now add Zoom link, meeting ID, and phone-in numbers
    Fields available for zoom events
  2. Event status. You can now add the status to events.
    screenshot showing status options

Online events now have a dedicated page. A link to the Upcoming Online Events can be found on the Statewide Events page.
onlne events list image

While people across Oregon and the world practice social distancing in response to COVID-19, they will continue to stay connected via social media. 

Since March 1, around the time the first COVID-19 case was discovered in Oregon, traffic to the Extension website from social media has risen by about 8% compared to the previous period, and we expect to see it continue to rise as our offices around the state begin to use social media more heavily. 

Learn what content has been working well when shared on social media. This can help you make your social media posts more effective.

Where is content shared?

On many pages on the Extension website, there is a “Share” button that visitors can use to easily share the page to social media, email it to someone, or save it to a bookmark service. In analytics, we can see the platforms where people have shared our pages.

Here are the shares since January 19, 2020. The following stats only include visitors who have used the “share” button on the page. We cannot determine how many people have shared a page manually.

  • Facebook: 140 shares
  • Twitter: 12 shares
  • WhatsApp: 9 shares
  • LinkedIn: 4 shares
  • Reddit: 2 shares
  • Tumblr: 1 share

We can also get an idea about how often our content is shared on various platforms by looking at how many times people arrive to our site from those platforms. In total, people arrived to our site from social media 10,074 times. The most common platforms people arrived from were:

  • Facebook: 9,398
  • Pinterest: 242
  • Twitter: 176
  • YouTube: 53
  • Instagram: 29

What this means for you

  • Facebook is by far the most common place where our content is shared. If your county/program does not currently have a Facebook account or doesn’t use it regularly, consider creating one or becoming more active.

What kind of content is shared

Similar to the above, we can look at the pages where visitors most often used the “share” button to share content to social media:

  1. Coffee Grounds and Composting: 26 shares
  2. Clackamas County 4-H Tack and Bake Sales: 10 shares
  3. Monthly Garden Calendars: 9 shares (all months)
  4. Rural Living Day 2020: 4 shares
  5. BBB Exercise Tutorials: 4 shares

We can also see where on the site people most often arrived from social media platforms:

  1. Put rose pruning and planting on the calendar: 309 times
  2. When to start seeds indoors in Oregon: 304 times
  3. Coffee Grounds and Composting: 302 times
  4. Branding: OSU working to settle the debate of the ages: 281 times
  5. Are there male and female peppers: 268 times

What this means for you

  • Educational content is the most commonly shared type of content. Especially during this social distancing period, consider including more educational content in your social media presence.
  • Content that tends to be popular is ones that address timely seasonal topics (such as gardening in the springtime), “hot” or “highly-discussed” issues in an industry, and “myth busting” content.
  • Events are also fairly commonly shared. If you are putting on an event (including virtually), be sure to advertise it on your social media and encourage others to share it. 

How effective is sharing content

To see if visitors are engaged with the content on our website, we often look at our website’s statistics.

  All website visits Website visits starting  from social media
Percentage of people who viewed only one page 65.76% 69.12%
Number of pages visitors saw when visiting our site 1.82 pages 1.55 pages
Average length of time people visit our site 1 minute 42 seconds 1 minute 17 seconds

This shows  when people arrive on the Extension website from  social media, they tend to not stay on the site as long as people who arrive from other means.

What this means for you

  • When you share content on social media, make sure that the page you share includes a “call to action”. For example, on an article like “Put rose pruning and planting on the calendar”, you might add a statement to the end of the article, such as “Find your local county Extension office to see when rose pruning classes are offered in your area.”

As you think about ways to engage the public from a distance, there’s new visual features on the website to try out. If you need quick ideas to fill out your newsletters, then a tool coming soon will give you ready-to-go content teasers and photos to use. Finally, we give a few tips about sharing coronavirus updates and content on the website.

New tools to try out for digital delivery of information

You often get asked how to identify a plant, a spider or many other things that people encounter in their homes or fields. Or how to build a raised bed or landscape wall. Content teams that need to share identification photos and descriptions, or step by step instructions, can do so in the new virtual “educational gallery” content type.

Learn more about how to set up an educational gallery in our web guide.

If what you need to share is more text than visual-based, then programs and projects also have the option to add collapsible page sections to their subpages. This helps people see the process at a glance, and expand to read more.

Here’s information in our web guide on how to add page sections.

In the coming weeks, our outreach may rely on our social media and newsletters for ways to engage with and deliver information to our communities. If you postpone or cancel an event, maybe there’s some good content online on the same topic to share in the meantime. When you log in to the Extension website, you will soon be able to access a “content bank”.

This will be an easy way to find existing web or video content that meets a need (e.g. blueberries is the top search on our site this week), and be able to download a photo, URL and short blurb you can share. This directs people to read the full article online.

Once this is ready, the content bank will be found on your My Groups page when logged in.

Also, check out the Virtual Extension webpage for other ideas. It is a growing resource! EESC will continue to solicit from across Extension more shareable content and engagement suggestions to share on this page. We’ll also continue to add tutorials, such as on how to do a video from your smartphone or set up Facebook Live, and the best situations to use those tools.

Adding web updates related to COVID-19

An emergency announcement appears in red across the top of Extension website pages to let the public know of recent decisions.

If you have specific updates for your county or program, then you can add a regular announcement that will show in an orange bar across your page. Make the title specific, so when people search the site the announcements are distinguishable.

Your county pages office hours now indicate that offices are not open to public traffic but that you can be reached via phone or email during regular business hours.

On event pages, you have a standard COVID-19 statement too that you can change as you know more about if the event will be postponed, canceled or done virtually.

The homepage directs people to the CDC fact sheets on handwashing and other important information in English and Spanish. If content teams add videos, web articles, or online resources from other places on hand-washing and topics related to Extension’s work, please select the keyword “COVID-19” so it can be compiled in searches. We may add a new tag, collection page or other ways to gather the information down the road.

You can always contact us through our beav.es/extension-support request system if you have a question along the way.

Oregon Master Naturalist is an excellent example of a statewide program using the website layout. Kudos to Jason O’Brien!

Let’s take a look:

These are some of the things we love

The landing page has:

  • A lush and inviting photo
  • Engaging information about the program.
  • Titles and text are user-friendly and help potential participants identify if they would enjoy and benefit from the program.
  • An enthusiastic testimonial video
  • Stories sharing the heart of Oregon Master Naturalist
  • Straight-forward sidebar navigation

Other pages

Become a Master Naturalist

Volunteer

  • Great impact statistics for Master Naturalist volunteers. These were added using the new “impact stats bar,” available for programs and counties.
  • Easy to find exciting volunteer project ideas

What is the cost?

  • Easy to understand the cost and financial options.

What you can do now

Review your program pages. Is there anything you can do to improve the text or images based on the example above? See instructions for updating program content.

Please contact us with any questions.


Web updates

These are some new features:

  • You can tag an event with a project. Then add a “project events list” to your page to display them.
  • You can add a “project faculty/staff list.” Contact us to add users to display on a project.
  • You can override the title of a piece of content selected for a “highlighted content item” page section.
  • You can now specify what text shows when county event lists have no events to show.

The about us section on the website has new information, including a new career opportunities page.

 

We write so that others will read.

No matter what we write — an email, a newsletter article, a research paper — we want people to read it and understand.

The key to understanding isn’t some complex formula. It’s actually quite simple: a form of writing called “plain language.” Plain language conveys meaning in short, spare sentences and simple words. Plain language is:

  • Accessible. Plain language helps us reach everyone, including people with learning or other disabilities, people whose first language is not English, and people who may be reading online while feeding a toddler and waiting on hold with the cable company.
  • Active. In active voice, the subject of the sentence performs the action: “The mouse ate the cookie,” not “it is believed the cookie was consumed by the mouse.”
  • The law. Government agencies like the IRS and the state of Oregon have adopted plain language guidelines. OSU websites should follow web accessibility guidelines, including those on readability.

There’s an app for that

Oddly, it’s hard to write simply.

Thankfully, some great new tools can help us measure and improve the readability of our text. One we like is called Hemingway Editor.

Start with a rough draft. Call up Hemingway in your browser, and copy and paste your text into the home screen. You’ll see a screen like this:

Zero in on the figure that denotes the reading level of your text. If it’s ninth grade or higher, start working your way up the Hemingway rainbow:

  • Clean up everything in light red. Cut unnecessary words. Divide complex sentences in two. Sub in some active verbs.
  • After pink, tackle yellow.
  • Re-check the reading level. Is it lower? Good job.
  • If the reading level is nine or above, keep working. Most audiences — including academics — prefer to read at an eighth grade level or below. Great writers like Jane Austen, Ernest Hemingway and J.R.R. Tolkien all wrote at the seventh grade level or below.

Make reading easy

Many readers today don’t read but instead scan written material. They’re looking for solutions in a hurry. Here are some ways to help these readers out:

  • Avoid long paragraphs. Long blocks of gray text turn readers off. Limit your paragraphs to one topic — about three sentences.
  • Use bulleted lists instead of long sentences filled with commas.
  • Use bold-faced lead-ins and subheads to help readers scan your text to find what they are looking for.
  • Read it out aloud. Before turning in anything to an editor or colleague, read it out aloud. You’ll be surprised how many awkward phrases you’ll find to revise.

Writing is hard, but reading doesn’t have to be. Use the tools of plain language to tell your story, and your readers will thank you.

Editor’s note: This article is written at a fifth-grade level.

More blog posts to come:

  • Science writing simplified: improving the readability of complex topics
  • The ABCs of acronyms
  • Tempting titles that click with readers

Authors: Janet Donnelly and Jim Sloan

Add a new “RFI” form to web pages

RFI stands for a Request For Information. A RFI form is a simple way for an organization to give constituents a chance to ask questions or otherwise reach out to us to learn more about an event, topic, etc. Soon as someone reaches a spot in our website where they’re interested in something but need to learn more about it, a button click pops open a simple web form (see the example later in this post).

It’s here they enter their personal information and that is saved into our system. That activity is accompanied by an automated email notice that arrives to the right person in Extension. For example, users can provide their name and email address and the process will add them as a new subscriber to one of your newsletters.

How is this useful?

A web form allows us to collect and manage information from constituents easily and efficiently. The forms are embedded right into relevant places on your website, which makes it easy for your audience to provide their information.

As soon as somone completes the RFI form, their information is stored until it’s ready for analysis.

Meanwhile, in the same step we are able to offer a chance to subscribe to some type of digital communications, such as newsletters. This can become a crucial tool for you to obtain new audience members eager to hear what you have to say.

What we’re poised to learn about our audiences

We can use the Extension website as a quick case study for how to employ RFI forms, however the premise works similarly on other websites.

When a visitor to this Oregon Master Beekeeper Program page stops and takes the time to fill out our RFI form on this specific page, we consider it an opportunity to infer some small bits of information about this person.

In the actual, real-life implementation of this premise, we would in fact engage directly with the right people inside each program to actually be very thoughtful about what inferences we’d plan to make about any one visit to any one particular page—for example, an analysis of the content of the page will support being able to draw certain conclusions or not.

For example, if the page content includes info on bee colony health, but does not have any info at all on honey production, we would want to consider if the visitor’s interest in this page revolves around bee colonies due to the ability to produce honey or, rather, in terms of bees as pollinators.

Clearly, we want to consider our options very carefully when forming these types of conclusions.

 

AND… What about a page that has a specific call to action?

Well, I am so glad you asked! 🙂  Let’s look at a page that’s aimed at cultivating interest in a specific thing—like an event.

To the right, you see a page I navigated to from the Events tab on the Master Beekeeper program page. If a normal website visitor made their way to this page, we can begin to make inferences about them at another level of specificity and accuracy.

We know the ultimate goal of this event’s organizers is to have viewers click on the “Register” button, but what about anyone who is feeling interested in the event while still not being quite ready to register? What can we do for that person?

The answer would be to provide an RFI form—simply a second button which would allow them to ask any question about the event for which they don’t already have an available answer.

After submitting this RFI form, the inferences we can make about their interests are far more specific. We know they want to attend an event. And not just any event, but this particular event with this event’s specific content. Arguably, there’s a lot to work with in this use case.

The impact on newsletter subscriptions

The question, then, is how does this help to build up our list of subscribers? The exact details of the plan continue to be sorted out, but the goal is to begin to understand how the inferences we were just talking about can help us point people to digital communication options—newsletters being one of those options—that are of significant interest to them.

Soon as the data lands in our database from the successful processing of an RFI form, we know for certain we want to send that person an email with a simple “thank you” message, because we want to provide an immediate reward to them for taking the time to fill that thing out. It’s important to do this.

In addition to our “thanks” message, there’s room in the body of that same email to appeal to them with a subscription (opt in) opportunity to newsletters. Thus, taking into account the opt-in opportunities that already exist, then adding in all of those people who submit RFI forms, we can see that as a pathway to adding more contacts to our lists.

Example of an RFI form

Check out this straightforward example of an effective web form.

It is true that the form can be designed to ask additional questions, however we know from numerous usability studies that the shorter a web form is the more likely our average website visitors will actually stop and fill them out.

Our #1 goal will be to increase our ability to engage with our target audiences, which means that simply garnering their direct email address—thus facilitating being able to digitally communicate with them—is our top priority.

Conclusion

An RFI web form will help you add new contacts to your contact lists, track topics in which people are interested, follow up with constituents, enhance users’ experience, and provide Oregonians with the information and expertise for which they are searching.

A web forms should be straightforward, simple, and visually appealing. And it should communicate to the viewer exactly what they can expect to receive in exchange for their valuable time they will spend filling it out. This is how you will ensure a professional, user-friendly experience on your website.

A successful RFI form will lead to an increase in your number of contacts and engagements. So, why not get started working with the Navigator team to help you grow and expand your network today?

 


About the Navigator digital engagement team. For months now, many of you have heard from me as I produce a long-term CRM strategy for OSU Extension and non-credit learning. I look forward to talking with you and ensuring the CRM plans are in alignment with the business needs of your unit and the long-term vision of the university. The Navigator team is looking forward to talking with you about how digital engagement is aligned with your work and can provide new benefits.

Extension website updates.

  • People in county and program groups can tag or untag themselves from events entered through other groups. Go to the event page and go to the “Modify tags” tab at the top of the page.
  • All users can now tag themselves with languages they speak and have it shown on their profile. The language options are fairly limited right now initially, but you can submit a support ticket to get other ones added.
Posted in CRM.

In Extension we work in a variety of fields and with many great folks all over Oregon and worldwide. If you’re looking to reach people where they are at, video is an excellent medium to consider. YouTube is the 2nd most used search engine(1), and an excellent way to reach 18-49 year-olds. 80-90% of that age range uses YouTube monthly(2)!

With all of these billions of questions being asked on a regular basis, we need some help to find out what those questions are and how to best address them. We are regularly looking at the analytics from our Extension YouTube channel to harness our past data to help inform a better future.

Knowing how people search

If you’re curious about what the world is looking and searching for check out Google Trends. This is a great place to start when thinking about creating a video. You can break things down by region, look at related terms or topics, view seasonal popularity, and more. It’s useful to think about the terms that your audience will be using and not what you might use in academia.

Here are some of the search terms that have brought viewers to our YouTube channel recently:

 

  • Blue: how to get rid of moss in your lawn (and other variations)
  • Light Green: insect collection (and other variations)
  • Purple: plant pathology (and other variations), quinoa (and other variations)
  • Dark Green: small farm (and other variations)

All of these are terms and phrases used to search on YouTube. These are just for videos we currently have, there are many search terms where we have either no videos or we could use something more recent. Consider entering some search terms your audience would be looking for into YouTube, Google, or Google Trends. You very well could find some gaps in relevant content or perhaps a topic that needs refreshing.

Some of the most popular uses of video, in the case of YouTube, is for How-Tos and trying understand the world or products(3). This is right in Extension’s wheelhouse! Here are some videos that are currently harnessing curiosity well on YouTube:

From left to right:

  • Pinning Butterflies and Moths,
  • How to Identify a Plant or Weed
  • Collecting Insects with Traps and Lights
  • Collecting Insects: Tools and Supplies
  • Sweep Net Technique
  • Using A Plant Press.

All of these were in the top 12 for views in 2019, and as you’ll see below they are also some of the best at holding the audience’s attention.

Holding the audience’s attention

Think about your current audience. What are the questions that are being asked on a regular basis? What kinds of skills or procedures could you show through video?

While explaining the research and science behind topics are great, most viewers are looking for a solution to a problem. Get to the point and then explain the reason behind the solution. Looking for the “I-want-to-do ___” moments in your area of expertise is a great place to start.

We use the Audience Retention metric to see how a video is doing at getting to the point and meeting the viewer’s needs. Views tend to have a steep drop-off after the beginning. It’s important to hook the viewer in right away and prove that the video will meet their expectations. The first 15 seconds are the most crucial. These videos are doing well at holding viewers’ attention:

From left to right:

  • Scotch Broom Removal
  • Income Opportunities from Logs
  • How to Make a Trap to Catch the Spotted Wing Drosophila Fly
  • Sampling for Varroa Mites from a Honey Bee Brood Nest
  • Sweep Net Technique
  • How to sample a lot of hay
  • Collecting Insects with Traps and Lights
  • Managing Moss in Lawns.

All of these have over 60% viewer retention (very good), and you’ll notice that each one does a good job at directly addressing a problem or showing how to do something.

Audience Retention is also important for another reason: Google uses this in their algorithm when showing related videos at the end of a video. Having a high retention rate increases your chances of showing up in viewers’ feeds.

How to approach creating your video

Video is an amazing tool at reaching audiences, but because it is so widely used, it’s important to approach creating a video with a strategic plan otherwise you risk being drowned out. Here are some questions to ask if you’re thinking of getting into video:

  • Who is my audience (both existing ones and new ones you hope to attract)?
  • What kinds of questions are you hearing regularly, and what does data from sources like Google Trends say about your topic?
  • Do any of these questions work well as a How-To or to help someone in that “I-want-to-do ___” moment?
  • Is this a topic that can be shown well visually?

Something else to consider is to use YouTube as a social media platform. If you are willing to check the comments and to make your video interactive, it can be a good space to have conversation and address other questions that might come up. These interactions can also inspire future video topics.

Author: Stephen Ward

 

(1) 54 Fascinating and Incredible YouTube Statistics

(2) The latest video trends: Where your audience is watching

(3) Many Turn to YouTube for Children’s Content, News, How-To Lessons

Occasionally, we still hear from Extension faculty or staff worried about people not being able to find things on the website. Extension does have a lot of content on the site, and we do care what audiences think. This year EESC will continue our work on website usability and use analytics to help improve the visitor experience. Yet, the design solutions may not be what you thought, and focusing on content may be a better approach.

Where you can worry less: the changing design trends

Forget the “three-click rule.” The idea that web visitors will get frustrated if they have to click more than three times to find a piece of content has been around for the last couple of decades. Logically, it makes sense, but how many times they click doesn’t matter(1) and can make for unruly menus. What matters is each time they click, the page should deliver something to get them closer to an intended goal.

Also, our home page isn’t as important as you think. Visitors to our website are less likely to land on our home page than in the past – approximately 3% of visitors. This is a common trend happening across all websites. Search engines and social media are a big factor, as they will link to whatever page is relevant on our site. People go to a page of interest and don’t see the homepage.

A greater focus on organized, well-titled content and landing pages (vs. home page and navigation) can give you more visitor retention opportunities.

What to focus on: the content most asked for or that meets your goals

Give people the good stuff upfront when it comes to landing pages. What do they often ask about? Feature it prominently anywhere on the page, and then direct them to related content that may be less intriguing but still critical information. EESC can work with you on how to surface these top tasks.

One Nielsen Norman Group study(2) found that, like general web readers, the professionals we serve want content easy to scan and digest. They differ in that most are looking for detailed facts, verifying the credibility, and comparing data or related findings. Overstating outcomes or having out-of-date content diminishes credibility.

Two types of information particularly attract their attention:

  1. New information that they haven’t considered or heard of
  2. Contradictory information that is contrary to their existing knowledge or beliefs

This may be one reason a web article, Branding: OSU working to settle the debate of the ages, surpassed others in the high number of pageviews recently.

Do you have emerging research to share on a long-standing issue or trending topic? Share with your content team to get their input and then add as an article online. Web visitors can leave you feedback on the article, and then you could potentially develop the article further into a catalog publication or journal submission.

After reading these popular articles on the Extension website, the majority of people then leave the site. What action would you want visitors to take or what could they read next to further their engagement? How can we work together to improve that?

If you find when looking at the new analytics dashboards that a piece of your content does not reach people as hoped, then let’s look into it. What can we try with the content or on the landing pages, or in the promotion of it, to help? Also, assess your goals (e.g. attracting new participants) and ask how your online content can help to better meet them.

These actions keep content, and the related strategy, at the center of what we should be worrying about on the website, and helps us to better support people in our online communities.

 


Extension website updates

Are people still having trouble finding information online? Tell us on our beav.es/extension-support form (click the last option).

Newsletters now have a button link that goes to a “past issues” page, so the list on the main page only shows the 6 most recent issues. This will happen automatically once you reach more than six back issues.

Want to see who all the members are of a specific content team? What about contacting all web group leaders, or reaching out to a specific member of your web group? You will be able to do this now through the content management system when logged into the website. Just look for the link to this on your My Groups page.


(1) The Three-Click Rule for Navigation is False, Nielsen Norman Group 2019

(2) Writing Digital Copy for Domain Audiences Nielsen Norman Group 2017