What are Social Networks?

Today’s web users are prolific creators of content, and they upload photographs, audio, and video to cloud-based social networks, such as Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and many others by the billions. While the initial emphasis of social networks was placed on producing and uploading media to these popular sharing sites, as the notion of social media has evolved it has ultimately become more about the conversations started and relationships formed via this media. When users log in to Facebook and Twitter, two of the sites that have the most subscribers and daily traffic, they are there to see what their family, friends, and favorite brands and organizations are doing and who is talking about what. For educational institutions, social media enables two-way dialogues between students, prospective students, educators, and the institution that are less formal than with other media. New tools, such as Facebook’s social search engine, promise to mine these interactions using a concept known as the social graph. A person’s social graph represents the sum of all of a person’s online social connections (who he or she is friends with, who likes the things she or her friends are interested in, who among those connections is where, etc.) and provides a means to search and navigate those connections. Social graphs can be visualized in a variety of interesting ways, but far more interesting is the information embedded within the social graph and what it can tell us.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • Within the world of youth development, we use social media to communicate directly with youth and adult volunteers. Young people tell us they prefer communication through social media and we have had to train our staff and volunteers to utilize this technology to reach youth effectively. - mefrendo mefrendo May 4, 2016
  • - greg.johll greg.johll May 6, 2016 As our audience changes, social medial will only increase in its importance as a channel for communicating and working with them. We need to meet people where they are and will be in the future.
  • To utilize this technology, training will be needed for Extension staff; many at present are not even utilizing these technologies - ahenneman ahenneman May 8, 2016
  • Perhaps social graphs can be used in the future as a metric for P&T (promotion & tenure) decisions; it is as much a measure of outreach as impact factors on journal articles. Agree with Alice Henneman that training is needed on social media use and impact evaluation - oneill oneill May 22, 2016 - amanda.christensen amanda.christensen Jun 1, 2016
  • Social media erases the geographic boundaries of county agents to world agent. We need to account for this new dynamic in how we plan programs and evaluate agents. - wolforkt wolforkt May 30, 2016
  • Extension Educators must be given the time to explore what their audience is using and how they may use that platform. - cstamper cstamper Jun 3, 2016

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • The definition above is missing the Extension audiences: typically we are not communicating with students, educators, and prospective students. Rather, we communicate with 4-H members, volunteers, the general public, program participants, other Extension professionals and stakeholders, local and state government, funders, etc. - mefrendo mefrendo May 4, 2016
  • it is not enough for Extension educators to use social media platforms. They need objectives for this work and impact evaluation metrics.- oneill oneill May 22, 2016
  • Social media use is only one strategy. It should be mentioned it cannot stand alone. - cstamper cstamper Jun 3, 2016
  • The world is increasingly digital. In order to be found, you must work in this digital environment. At a minimum, Extension educators should be blogging and working out loud. This will increase the odds of being discovered in a digital search. - Stan Stan Jun 4, 2016
  • Again, Extension can learn a great deal from the private sector where very successful entrepreneurs are capitalizing on the strengths of social media. For them, social media is a key component of what they do and as a result their success. They have YouTube channels, blogs, podcasts, and other social media channels to help get the word out about their programs. Extension needs a better business mindset. - Stan Stan Jun 4, 2016

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on higher education?

  • Social media changes the way that we work together - since many individuals already use it to communicate, they congregate online to work together and share information. While this is beneficial, it also changes the way that nwe need to educate and prepare staff and volunteers to set boundaries about what information they share online and who has access to that information from a youth development and risk management perspective. - mefrendo mefrendo May 4, 2016
  • - greg.johll greg.johll May 6, 2016 Social media means that Cooperative Extension will need to keep pace with the changing world of social media to make sure we continue to use it effectively. Youth started with Facebook, when mom started using it there was a shift away from it. We also need to be aware of the different uses of the many different types of social media and their related strengths and weaknesses. I had a colleague say "I have to Facebook, then Twitter, and Pinterest or Snapchat and I can't keep up, but they're all the same, so do I have to". This lack of awareness needs to be addressed on an ongoing basis.
  • I don't think many staff in Extension see the need to use social media if they don't have people using it in their county and if their receive no recognition for using it or can derive impact data from it. This must be addressed to move forward. - ahenneman ahenneman May 8, 2016 - amanda.christensen amanda.christensen Jun 1, 2016
  • Increased visibility for individual social media users and Extension; social media is where people are today and how people communicate and we absolutely need to be there with quality content and strong engagement with learners - oneill oneill May 22, 2016 - Stan Stan Jun 4, 2016
  • if we don't embrace social media than what's our purpose. Extension has always been about taking relevant and timely information to the people who needed it, until somehow we believed that we could hold a workshop when we wanted to and where we wanted and people would come to us. - wolforkt wolforkt May 30, 2016 - amanda.christensen amanda.christensen Jun 1, 2016 - Stan Stan Jun 4, 2016
  • I see it as a positive force, if it is used as an educational source. - cstamper cstamper Jun 3, 2016

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • Many states and counties have Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. https://www.facebook.com/Minnesota4H/ - mefrendo mefrendo May 4, 2016
  • - greg.johll greg.johll May 6, 2016 Many of our county offices have one or more Facebook pages along with many of our state level centers.
  • In the food, nutrition, food safety area, we have a shared twitter feed, facebook page and Pinterest account. - ahenneman ahenneman May 8, 2016
  • Yes, I am a Twitter "Queen" :-) Use Twitter for both PD and outreach and have organized almost a dozen Twitter chats and later Storified them. Sample: https://storify.com/moneytalk1/cooperative-extension-money-smart-week-chat-mswcha - oneill oneill May 22, 2016
  • I created the Social Media Marketing Map resource to help Extension professionals navigate social media marketing efforts. The map can be used to market classes, resources, even professional identities in Extension. http://www.joe.org/joe/2015august/tt3.php - amanda.christensen amanda.christensen Jun 1, 2016
  • I use Twitter as a way to get the participants in our KY 4-H Youth Development engaged in our next learning session. #ky4hydi - cstamper cstamper Jun 3, 2016
  • Mark Lubell and colleagues at UC Davis are doing some very interesting "Extension 3.0" research and outreach, looking at how Extension can leverage (and measure the impact of) social networks to enable "the right information to be accessed when, where and how it is needed", including insight and expertise by other field practitioners.- jeff.piestrak jeff.piestrak Jun 4, 2016
  • Working Differently in Extension Podcast is a great example of using social media tools. The resulting product is automatically distributed to other social media platforms. https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/agcomm/web-services/working-differently-in-extension-podcast - Stan Stan Jun 4, 2016

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