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Using social media to reach a more diverse audience in Extension programming

Alan Windham: Soil, Plant, and Pest Center

<div>Traditional outreach methods such as group meetings and field days reach a predominately male audience in horticultural commodity groups in Tennessee. A Facebook page was created for the UT Extension Soil, Plant and Pest Center (SPPC). Our goals were to: 1) create timely, illustrated posts of insects and plant diseases to alert growers and gardeners, and aid in identification, 2) inform our audience of educational opportunities, 3) reach an audience new to Extension and our diagnostic lab. Facebook analytics were examined monthly to identify our audience and their participation. In 2017, content from our posts reached over 1.2 million Facebook pages; over 35,000 unique Facebook users interacted or engaged with our page (likes, comments, questions). Users that engaged with our page were evenly distributed across age groups from 25 – 65+ yrs. and primarily female (65%). During the growing season, posts were shared daily by the SPPC staff. The most popular posts were original content accompanied by digital images. Posts were shared by Extension agents, horticultural businesses, master gardeners and gardeners maximized reach of posted content. Challenges of using social media include: time to create posts and interact with users, and documenting impact for reporting.</div>