Tag Archives: msu extension website

MSU Extension’s digital presence makes impact

Our Michigan State University (MSU) Extension articles are gaining attention nationally and around the world. I’d like to highlight two articles that have made an impression online and especially through social media.

Dr. Julianna Wilson, tree fruit integrator/outreach specialist in the Department of Entomology, wrote an article about the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) “Report Sightings of Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs in Your Home or Business.” This pest can cause serious damage to crops. The invasive species’ presence in our state is a high-impact issue that was able to gain the attention it deserved because of our well-established digital presence.

As of Oct. 12, this article has had 96,500 pageviews since it was posted on Sept. 25, making it the seventh most visited article on the MSU Extension website overall. On Sept. 28, we had a record 25,594 visits in a single day (primarily because of this article). (We average 11,000 to 13,000 per day with a record of just under 15,000.) On Sept. 29, that record was broken with 42,812 visits (again spiked by this visit). At its peak, these numbers were growing by 100 pageviews every four minutes. Ninety-one percent of the traffic to the article has been from mobile devices. Average read time is 4:07, which means people are taking the time to read it and absorb what they’ve read. More than 67,000 of the visits to this article have come from social media. It has spurred more than 17,000 social media interactions.

The article asks readers to report any sightings of the stinky pest to the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network (MISIN). Before the article was posted, there were six records of BMSB in the MISIN database. As of Oct. 13, there were 1,860 records of BMSB from Michigan and northern parts of states that border us ‒ mostly from the Toledo, Ohio, and South Bend, Indiana, regions.

Julianna said, “What these numbers tell me is that social media played a huge role in getting the word out about the article, and then the fact that the MSU Extension website is mobile friendly helped keep people there and reading the article. The last two pieces that made this a success were having an established database for collecting reports and good timing. This is the time of year when the bug moves into people’s homes and they notice it. The fact that we have this well-established reporting site (MISIN) for invasive species meant that I didn’t have to create a way for people to report numbers to me ‒ the infrastructure was already in place.

“I plan to use this data to determine where other hotspots have been forming and to get the word out to growers in those areas that if they haven’t before, they should certainly be scouting for this pest next season,” she said.

One member of our MSU Extension Consumer Horticulture Team is getting the word out about a particular poisonous fruit. Extension educator Gretchen Voyle wrote an article for the MSU Extension website “What Fruit Is Growing on My Potato Plants?

As a potato disease specialist, I was particularly drawn to the article that talks about the phenomenon that occurs when potato plants produce fruit on top of the plants. In fact, one of the first questions I was asked when I got to MSU was about tomatoes growing on potato plants. It seems that our cool July weather was responsible for the fruit’s appearance this year. The alkaloid content of these fruits puts them into the “they are edible once” category. In other words, don’t eat them!

It seems that a lot of other people are interested in this as well.

Dennis Bond, manager of Web services in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources let us know about the spread of Gretchen’s words warning people about the fruit.

Dennis said, “The article helped the MSU Extension website set a traffic record of 17,471 visits (previous record: 15,960 on June 1) though that record was broken seven days later by the article on the stink bug. It also set a social media record of 4,381 visits from social media sources, another record broken a week later. At its height in popularity, it was viewed on all major continents, in 2,040 cities across 100 countries in 63 languages.”

That gives us great perspective on the extensive reach of our MSU Extension website! Congratulations to Gretchen and to Julianna!

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Filed under MSUE News

Welcome news

I’ve mentioned in Spotlight about how well our Michigan State University Extension website is spreading the news. We celebrated passing the million mark back in November 2012. At its one-year birthday April 18, 2013, the site hit 1.8 million pageviews.

We can get excited about the numbers, but the success of the site lies in the content. We bring reliable research-based information to the public, and they keep coming back for more.

I noticed an article posted yesterday (October 16) by Extension educator Gretchen Voyle, titled “Your Garden Party of Fall Cleanup Tasks.” I was feeling like a slacker since I hadn’t gotten started on her “party” list until this past weekend. On the other hand, we haven’t had a killing frost yet, so the continuing blossoms in my perennial beds have made it easy to keep putting off some of the yard work.

I’m always tempted to leave the leaves where they fall and trust the wind to move them to places where they can rest and decompose on their own schedule. I’ve only done that once or twice in my life and the neighbors have given me those disagreeable looks as I’ve pulled out of the driveway in the morning. Gretchen’s advice makes this seem less demanding – using the mower to chop and blow leaves as much as possible, though I still find myself with windrowed piles that I need to move elsewhere.

And any article that lists “things not to do” is a favorite of mine. In this case, it’s fall pruning that Gretchen advises to put off to late winter or spring. There are a few shrubs in my yard that need some trimming, but with Gretchen’s counsel, I’m not procrastinating, but actually doing the prudent thing for my landscape.

Of course there are dozens of other bits of information and advice posted on our website every day, and that is what attracts the millions of page views that we’re pleased to document. Thanks to Gretchen and ALL who contribute articles for our website. They represent the strength of our programs and the breadth of topics and communities that we serve.

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One-year-old performs beyond expectations

Our new Michigan State University Extension website is one year old today! With your help, the site has done extremely well. The latest statistics taken April 15 reveal we’ve had 1.8 million pageviews on the site!

The website’s beginnings go back to fall 2010 when Dr. Wendy Powers, director of the Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute, challenged Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) Communications to build on the success of the CAT (Crop Advisory Team) Alerts that entomology specialist Joy Landis and her team had produced so successfully.

Joy; Dennis Bond, web administrator for ANR Technology Services; and communications manager Beth Stuever made quick work of creating and launching News for Ag in March 2011. Faculty and staff members shared their practical knowledge in Internet articles. The site gave farmers and others in agriculture access to the latest information and research.

Dr. Powers said, “Our intent was to demonstrate how this would work and the impact if might have. Fortunately, the site now reflects the breadth of MSUE by including all of the institutes.”

Eventually, educators and specialists from all four institutes lent their expertise and the MSU Extension website was born on April 18, 2012 – one year ago today.

You may recall that during Fall Extension Conference in October 2012, we hit the million mark for pageviews. The number of people who are engaging on our pages grows steadily. This last week produced some new high numbers. Our current lows are as big as the past highs! When we began this process, we considered 2,500 pageviews in a week an outstanding result. The highest day ever in News for Ag was in March 2012 with slightly more than 2,200 visits. The portal averaged about 6,000 visits PER YEAR. Now, we get more than twice that almost every day. In fact, in the last 30 days, more than 100,600 people have visited the site. Collectively, they have viewed 220,695 pages. And about 29,000 people come back to our site EVERY DAY.

To compare ourselves to other Extension services, Iowa State in the last 30 days had 587,402 pageviews, while we had 210,616. In a year’s time, we have grown to have almost half as many as they have. Keep in mind, they have a more mature site that includes ALL their events and all their 4-H information. We also have three times as many pageviews during the last 30 days as Kansas State Extension, and two-thirds as many as the Ohio State University Extension and as North Dakota State University Extension Service – all sites that have been around longer and are considered more mature than our site.

Extension specialist Cindy Straus worked hard on gathering these statistics and putting them into a format we could understand. Thanks, Cindy!

And really, the website is only part of the story. Articles that appear on the site are often picked up by traditional and digital media, thereby extending the value of every article written and helping us reach more people with pertinent education.

We’re making some great progress, partly because we have great content. However, we need more content to attract people to our website. Extension educators, reach out to faculty – whether they are Extension specialists or not – and offer them the opportunity to get more visibility for the work they are doing through MSU Extension website articles.

The MSU Extension web team includes Dennis, Sean Corp, Michelle Lavra, Laura Probyn, Marian Reiter, Cindy Straus and Beth Stuever.

A team of posters regularly upload or “post” articles that educators and specialists submit (hence, the term “poster”).

Beth said, “The posters are our front lines in working with educators and specialists to ensure high-quality, timely information is added daily.”

These posters include Mindy Maxwell Pratt (poster team coordinator), Sean Corp, Sandra Ennes, Mallory Fournier (under the supervision of Joy) and Katie Gervasi.

Thanks to all of these staff members and to all of you who are writing the articles and lending your expertise to the site. You’re making our numbers go up! You’re bringing a lot of attention to our programs that we wouldn’t have been getting without the new website.

Watch this week’s webinar at https://connect.msu.edu/p14evbgs7ij (at 50:39) to find out more.

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Filed under MSUE News

Take 10 minutes to make your writing pop

In last week’s Spotlight, I mentioned that the Michigan State University Extension website passed the million mark in page views. The articles you write remain the most popular. I’m pleased you all are working so hard to share your expertise online.

Some of you may be looking for some guidance in writing those articles. In a 10-minute webinar, Natasha Berryman, Agriculture and Natural Resources Communications technical writer, gives some great tips to help make your article one that draws in readers.

Watch the webinar to find out how to write a headline that will help your article rank high in search engine optimization (SEO). Find out what a deck is and how you can turn your deck into a teaser. Discover what’s best to put in your lead, and find out why embedding links is crucial to boosting SEO.

Find the webinar on SharePoint under “MSUE All Staff.” Click on “Explore the elements that make an MSUE News article strong.” Then copy and paste the vimeo link into your browser.

If you can spare 10 minutes, it’s 10 minutes well spent.

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Filed under professional development

MSU Extension website passes million mark

Sometimes it takes years to see our hard work pay off and often success is difficult to measure. I’m happy to tell you about one example where it didn’t take long to see the results of our efforts backed up by the numbers. Our newly created Michigan State University Extension website recently passed the million mark. As of November 14, the site has had 1,018,340 page views since April 18 when ANR Technology Services finished developing the framework and ANR Communications launched it. The number represents the number of times someone accesses the site. This amount in a seven-month period exceeded everyone’s expectations.

Your MSU Extension News articles are the most popular content – nearly half of all page views. Each Extension staff member creates two articles a month contributing to the diversity and expertise on the site. Obviously, your hard work is paying off. We are reaching a vast amount of people, sharing our knowledge through technology.

In our Nov. 5 MSUE webinar, we began a discussion on ways to ensure the quality of story content and to keep story ideas coming. Be sure to listen to the upcoming Nov. 19 webinar when we’ll go over some of those ideas.

Thanks to Extension educators and specialists who write the stories and to the ANR Communications staff and others who edit the stories and post them on the site. Thanks to ANR Technology Services, continually involved in the development of the site and working with us on goals to improve the site in a number of areas.

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MSU Extension continues to assist with drought-related issues

In last week’s Spotlight, I talked about our nimble response to addressing social-emotional health issues brought on by reaction to drought and severe weather.

Though some areas have had a little rain in the past week, the weather situation is still dire. Our staffers are continuing to do a terrific job of providing counsel and writing articles to help farmers and others respond to drought conditions. This has included everything from dealing with drought-related depression to the potential for spider mite infestation to keeping blueberries irrigated.

As you are working with folks, please direct them to some new resources that we have created on the MSU Extension website in response to the drought. For information about current drought and heat stresses, click on “Agriculture,” and then click on “Drought Resources” or “Animal Heat Stress Management Resources” in the far right column. Both pages aim at giving drought-related resources to people who need them.

Another new communication tool is a handy-dandy card that can be used to lead people to our MSU Extension website. This card has links to the new drought-related resources pages. You can find the card in SharePoint. To access it, log in and go to the documents section in the “MSUE All Staff” section. The card is titled “Drought Resources Info Card 7-30-12.” I encourage you to print it out to get the word out at fairs, trade shows or anywhere you communicate with people. I know that I will.

Folks across institutes and work groups are working hard and sharing ideas that make a difference. MSU Extension educator Marilyn Thelen and senior Extension educator Dan Rossman lead the field crop work group with our response to the drought. I appreciate their aggressive but thoughtful approach.

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Two communications projects receive ACE awards

I’m happy to announce that College of Agriculture and Natural Resources communicators and their partners received two awards from the Association for Communication Excellence (ACE) for their work with Michigan State University Extension in 2011. The ACE Critique and Awards program recognizes excellence in communication skills.

 Joy Landis, Beth Stuever, Mallory Fournier and Mindy Pratt were awarded a gold award for MSU Extension News for Ag. This pilot project was the launching pad for MSUE News, which now serves as the backbone of the new MSU Extension website. This award is in the Best Innovative Use of Communication Technology category.

 The four recipients focused on developing a system where all of our Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute field and campus staff could effectively deliver timely educational news through the new website. Joy and Beth note that this effort was truly a collaboration of many administrators and staff along with the communicators so in a sense we’ve all won this gold award. The communicators will be sharing their experience from developing MSUE News in a 90-minute session at ACE’s annual meeting in June.

 The second award is a bronze award for a Four-Color Popular Publication. Native Plants and Ecosystem Services (E3167) was a Project GREEEN effort by recent doctoral graduate Anna Fiedler, entomology professors Rufus Isaacs and Doug Landis, and communicator Joy Landis. Sold through the MSUE Bookstore, the colorful publication explains the value of using native plants to enhance the many landscapes that make up our environment. See nativeplants.msu.edu for more about the publication (find the pub under Resources, Teaching Tools) and the Project GREEEN research and extension behind it.

 Both awards will be presented at ACE’s annual meeting in Annapolis, Md., in June.

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Filed under Awards