Is Twitter Worth Using in Extension?

Name: Eric Stafne            Twitter handle: @EStafne

#Followers: >750              #Followed: >450

#Tweets: >9,000               Engagement rate: ~2.5%

When I first heard about Twitter I thought it was a ridiculous, narcissistic invention. Who cares what anybody had for lunch or what asinine thing a pop star did? So, I resisted it and made excuses; mainly that it was not worth my time and I didn’t have time to spare for it. It wasn’t until 2011 that I broke down and started an account. My thought was that I would use it to engage with clients. Well, things don’t always work out like you plan, in fact, only one client I regularly work with is on Twitter. Yet, as I used Twitter more often I began to connect with other interesting folks and it shifted my focus from using it as an education delivery tool to a continuing education service for me. Twitter has expanded my realm of ideas and beliefs on many topics, not only within my field of expertise. As with anything Twitter is not without its drawbacks – it can take a long time to build an audience of followers, it requires constant attention, it can be addictive, and trolls abound – but I believe it is worthwhile. Below are just a few reasons why:

  1. My involvement in EdTechLN is strongly tied to Twitter. I was invited to be on the Guiding Committee based upon my Twitter presence, blogging, and writing on these topics in the Journal of Extension.
  2. Twitter conversations have led to creative outputs, including refereed journal articles, professional society presentations, and Tweet-up moderation.
  3. I can report the metrics on my Extension reports.
  4. I view it as part of my service to the University (whether they officially view it that way is another story).
  5. My use of Twitter has altered my views on digital scholarship and the importance of understanding the challenges and talking openly about them.
  6. It has improved my leadership skills and creativity such that I view my work from a new perspective that I never would have had if not for Twitter.
  7. I am connected with other users all over the world, making me a more informed global citizen.

Those are just a few of the benefits I have realized – results may vary. I confess that I have nearly quit Twitter more than once, but the information I find there keeps pulling me back in.

So, back to the question: Is Twitter worth using in Extension? Twitter is a far more complex tool than it initially appears to be. I encourage all Extension personnel to give it a try and if you stick with it I believe you will reap the benefits. Maybe not in the same way I have, but that is the inherent beauty of the tool – the possibilities are endless.

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