Tag Archives: social media

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

Bringing health to social media

As part of an initiative to reach out to a larger audience, the Michigan State University Extension Health and Nutrition Institute has enlisted the help of Julia Terhune, MSU Extension educational media coordinator, to establish a presence for the institute on social media. Julia and the team have created a Facebook page, Twitter handle, Pinterest account and more with the title “MI Health Matters.” They have been working tirelessly to reach the public with a steady stream of new information and content.

One of the projects that Julia has been working on to reach the public is a monthly podcast. The first episode, about nine minutes long, was posted on their Facebook page at the end of September.

The podcast talks about the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Project Fresh Program, and features Teressa Young, MSU Extension nutrition program instructor in Saginaw County, as well as James DeWise, mid-Michigan farmer. The Project Fresh Program provides vouchers to recipients of the WIC program, which allow them to purchase fresh Michigan-grown produce at local farmers markets. This is helpful both to the recipients, who have more fresh options with these vouchers, as well as to the local farmers who receive new business because of this program.

Listen to the whole podcast to learn more:

Great job, Julia!

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Filed under Accomplishments, health

N:15 ‒ ANR Communication creates news in 15 seconds

In today’s fast-paced and constantly connected world of smartphones, social media and more, we have to stay competitive if we want to attract people to our material as they scroll over multiple news items a day. Michigan State University Extension is well known throughout the state in the agriculture community and among people in the older population, who are more likely to rely on traditional news delivery. But how can we make sure that we’re catching the eye of the younger generation who want information now?

Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) Communications is working to create 15-second videos that will offer a quick-pitch delivery of relevant news. These videos could work either as an introduction, to entice viewers to watch a longer video or to read an article, or as a full explanation of a concept, such as in “How to Convert Grams of Sugar into Teaspoons.

Kraig Ehm and Katie Gervasi, who lead the project, have created a few short videos based on content they already have. They’ve found that they can film an entire recipe in 15 seconds, as they did on this video:

The possibilities are endless!

Check out the ANR N:15 YouTube Channel to see the videos created so far, and stay tuned for more to come!

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Filed under Social Media

It starts with social media

You’ve heard our communication’s folks talk about leveraging social media to tell our story. Karen Waite gave us a good lesson in the power of social media when trying to spread rich, educational information.

On Jan. 29, Karen, a Michigan State University Extension equine specialist, used her Facebook status update to remind horse owners to be mindful of extra precautions they should take during the extreme temperature drop about to occur.

Beth Stuever in ANR Communications saw the update and made this simple suggestion, “This would make an excellent post on msue.msue.edu.”

Within an hour, Karen forwarded a short, science-based article called “Watch Horses for Hypothermia When Temperatures Drop” to ANR Communications. Fifteen minutes later the article was live on the MSU Extension website.

From there, ANR Communications worked to push the information out via Facebook and Twitter. By 5 p.m. on Jan. 29, it had been shared at least 35 times by people and groups on Facebook. By 9 a.m. on Jan. 31 (right about the time the temperatures were beginning to drop), the article had been viewed 841 times. More than 630 of those views were from people who saw it on Facebook. As of Feb. 6, the article has been viewed more than 1,000 times.

One of those early views was by Rosemary Parker, a Kalamazoo Gazette reporter and MLive contributor. Rosemary used it as fodder for two articles: “Horses, Livestock May Suffer Hypothermia, Colic With This Week’s Weather Swings, MSU Expert Says” and “Wednesday’s Weather Swing in Southwest Michigan Can Be Deadly for Horses.” Though we don’t know exactly how many people saw these articles, Rosemary tells us they received “wide readership.” And we know that they were shared collectively on Facebook by nearly 800 people.

So what’s the lesson here? Timely information is important. Our MSU Extension News articles don’t have to be long or time consuming to gain a following. Timeliness is key. And when the media calls, we need to be ready to talk.

Some may argue that Facebook spreads a lot of false or misleading information. Unfortunately, that’s true. But let’s not let that stop us from using social media to educate with facts.

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Filed under Social Media

‘If you see your stuff being used somewhere else…’

“…be sure to let us know.” It was with those words that Beth Stuever, communications manager for ANR Communications, ended her presentation on the May 21 Michigan State University Extension Update Webinar this week. Beth had finished presenting some data on the characteristics of users who are coming to the MSUE web site and the pilot News for Ag, News for MSUE web sites that preceded our current site. In our efforts to present our information in a more accessible, more timely way and in a way that shows the impacts of our work, we have leaned heavily on the professional expertise of Beth and her colleagues in ANR Communications. One of the lessons they have taught us is that it’s not enough to write a good piece, click on “Send” and assume our job is done. Actually, even an excellent communications product needs to be promoted – through social media, through traditional press releases and through the old-fashioned tool of “word of mouth.” The beauty of using electronic media as part of our communications tool kit is that we can quickly link it to other avenues that people may be following to capture information and insights. The ANR Communications folks are expert at making sure that our communications get linked into the main thoroughfares of information flow and get to the people who most need them and can be most influenced by our communications. I still feel like a novice at this, but I’m deeply appreciative of the expertise that our ANR Communications colleagues bring to our team. You can hear all of Beth’s presentation on the recording of this week’s webinar, beginning at the 9-minute mark at https://connect.msu.edu/p3ldt5ef9ji/. Thanks to ANR Communications for their help in making us better!

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Filed under Technology

Mind your (electronic) manners

We’ve discussed email etiquette in past Spotlights, but the information is important enough to repeat. Nowadays, this advice also applies to Facebook posts, blog responses, Twitter tweets, text messages and any other type of social media.

 Whenever you take part in any communication, do so as if everyone is going to read what you have written – because it’s possible they will. An email can be easily forwarded and often an email that was never meant to be forwarded will end up in a long string of emails. Stop and think before you send an email. Would this be better handled over the phone? Save sensitive issues for phone calls, or better yet, face-to-face conversations.

 Avoid sarcasm in an email or social media post. People may also wrongly interpret a joke as a serious statement.

 Be sensitive to others’ points of view. Avoid adding quotes after your signature that may offend. Remember that you represent a publicly funded university, and all communications must be politically and socially neutral. That includes your signature lines.

 When responding to a string of emails that may be five or six – or even more – emails long, it’s helpful to delete the quote or any extraneous information under the signature.

 Check the names of all of the recipients on the email. Think before you hit “reply all.” Is it necessary for all of these people to hear your answer?

 Avoid writing in all capital letters. It’s often perceived as yelling. Check spelling and grammar.

 Though the smartphone is a common and convenient method of communication, it can create its own communication problems. Smartphone users should take special care to check their spelling before sending a message. Those of us who are sending emails to smartphone users – and that is most likely all of us – need to be aware that smartphone users may only see the first part of our email. It’s helpful to give a heads-up in the first line of our message such as “There are five points in this email that I’d like you to address” or “Please answer the two questions in this email.”

 Your MSU email address is legally official university communications. And since we are representing Michigan State University Extension, we want to present ourselves in a professional light. Read over your emails before you send them. Make sure that what you’ve said reflects positively on our organization. Many individuals have a separate email account from a private provider that they can use for voicing their personal opinions with friends, family and decision makers. I encourage you to make full use of the Internet for personal and professional expression. Just remember to communicate as a professional when your communications are a part of your work and to communicate as you wish to present yourself personally when you’re off the clock.

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Filed under professional development

MSU Extension lends expertise to eXtension webinars

Michigan State University Extension is now able to offer professional development webinars nationally through their eXtension “Learn” system. These are open to Extension colleagues from all states, and are recorded and archived on their Learn site: http://www.extension.org/learn. Land-grant university content providers exchange objective, research-based knowledge to solve real challenges in real time in eXtension, an Internet-based collaborative environment.

Jeannie Nichols, health and nutrition educator, and the MSU Extension Food Safety Team in the Health and Nutrition Institute will present a webinar on May 27 at 11:00 a.m. EST, explaining their new “MI Cottage Food Law: Food Safety” online training for those interested in selling cottage foods. This webinar is an overview of the training for Extension professionals from all states and those from Michigan who may want to encourage their clients to take it. The site for the 30-minute webinar is http://breeze.msu.edu/cottagefoodlaw/.

 Another MSUE staff member, Brian Wibby, children and youth educator, will present the eXtension webinar, “PowerPoint – Friend or Foe?” on July 20 at 2 p.m. EST.

 To view past webinars, go to eXtension Learn at http://www.extension.org/learn. Two previously offered by MSUE are included there: “Radon, Something You Can Live Without” by Jeannie Nichols and “Innovating with Social Media to Connect Communities: Learning from Disasters, Aiming for Resilience” by Theresa Bernardo, associate professor of veterinary medicine.

 If YOU want to offer a professional development webinar to a national audience, contact Lela Vandenberg, senior Extension specialist, at vanden34@msu.edu.

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The face of Extension, online and off

I was pleased to learn that our first virtual conference encouraged several people to become active on Facebook for the first time. Social media is an outstanding way to deliver information to people in a new way. However, it’s important that we take a close look at how we mix our personal lives and professional lives online. “Personal” does not equal “private.” What we say as Joe or Jill Resident is interpreted by many as an official recommendation from Michigan State University.

 So how do we ensure that our personal opinions are not misconstrued as our professional views? Molly Frendo and Jillian Tremonti gave an excellent presentation during FEC10 about Social Networking Boundaries and Professionalism. I encourage you to watch it and learn from their examples. A few highlights: 

  • It is against Facebook’s terms of use (TOS) to have more than one profile. Therefore, DO NOT create one profile to communicate with close friends and family and another one to communicate with colleagues and clients. If discovered, Facebook will remove both.
  • Use your privacy settings to ensure you are not sharing your personal views with Facebook “friends” you only relate to on a professional level.
  • If you have a lot of information you want to share about programming, consider creating a Facebook fan page and concentrate on that as a place to share professional information. Phil Durst’s Young Savvy and Into Dairy page is an excellent example.

Another suggestion you may consider is to use one social media site as your “personal” site, and another for your “professional” site. For example, you may use your Facebook site for keeping in touch with family members, former classmates and friends, and a LinkedIn site for remaining connected professionally. If you’re a relative newcomer to social media, you may want to check out Intro to Social Networking and The Ins and Outs (and Ups and Downs) of Social Media. If you’re a veteran, take a gander at Advanced Social Networking.

Regardless of how you connect, if you want to use social media as a way to express your political thoughts and advocacy for a candidate or a cause, it’s a good idea to remind folks

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Filed under Social Media

Social media guidelines to be unveiled at FEC

I continue to notice that more and more of our staff members are embracing social media. Though I am not a tweeter, I appreciate those of you who use Twitter on behalf of MSU Extension. And I really enjoy reading your facebook updates—especially the ones that refer to MSUE programming.

Recently, several people have been asking about how to use social media for the greater good of MSU Extension. One of the challenges is how to appropriately mix reference to your personal life and your professional life when using social media. You’ll find some good examples among your colleagues who have “friended” me. Rule No. 1: use common sense. By all means, jump on the social media bandwagon, and remember that you’re also a representative of MSU Extension.

During Fall Extension Conference in October, our communications staff members will introduce some more guidelines for using social media as it relates to MSUE. If you’re interested in learning more about this, be sure to sign up for “Social Media is NOT a Social Disease” when you register for FEC.

In the meantime, please help us out by adding your own thoughts about SM guidelines in the comment section below.


Filed under Conferences, Fall Extension Conference