How to use technology to promote, brainstorm and share professional ideas: Part 3

This is a brief look at how to utilize Pinterest and Instagram to support and collaborate with other professionals on youth programming.

Instagram and Pinterest can be great tools to utilize to gather ideas, promote programs and collaborate with youth and like-minded professionals. | MSU Extension

Instagram and Pinterest can be great tools to utilize to gather ideas, promote programs and collaborate with youth and like-minded professionals. | MSU Extension

Part 1 and Part 2 of this Michigan State University Extension series focused specifically on tools you can utilize to gather ideas, promote programs and collaborate with youth and like-minded professionals. This is Part 3 of that series, which examines two more tools, and provides some recommendations if you’re just getting started.

  • Pinterest: Pinterest is like a virtual filing system. All those cool science experiments, funny ice breakers or service learning ideas that you would have normally photocopied from a magazine or printed out and put in a filing cabinet, you can now “pin” onto a Pinterest board. This is a great platform for getting inspiration. Whenever you’re in a rut and feel like your programs need sprucing up, do a quick search on Pinterest. The ideas and activities fellow pinners have pinned can be great sources of inspiration, starting points to adapt to audiences’ needs and stimulate ideas to spice up your program! That being said, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Pinterest can also be a great source of ready-to-go activities! If you find you’re repinning frequently from the same user, you can follow that user’s boards. This populates your homepage with pins from users you find most relevant; making the search for ideas even quicker. Pinterest is also a great platform to share your successful ideas, activities or programs! Post a link to an annual event, a curriculum you use or helped develop, or even a photo and written instructions to one of your own original ideas or articles.
  • Instagram: As a photo sharing network, Instagram can serve as an impactful pre- and post-promotion platform. Before you host a workshop, event or program, you can post photos that represent positive themes from your programming or actual photos from previous years’ programs to an Instagram page. You can utilize the caption space to write a short statement about the program or to get your followers thinking about the value of your program’s thematic goals. During and after the program, you can actively post photos of the ongoing activities along with a link to learn more information about the program. Another great tool is using a predetermined hashtag on all photos related to a specific activity or program. You can then share that hashtag with all your participants and encourage them to tag their photos from the event as well. This way anyone can search the hashtag and see all the photos with that tag. An example would be “#CapExp2015” for photos during next year’s 4-H Capitol Experience program. An important note, especially when working with youth, is not to post any photos of participants for whom you do not have a media release.

It is important to note that while all the tools above are valuable in various ways, it can be overwhelming to try and create a presence on all of them at once. If you don’t currently use any of these tools, here’s a word of caution… it is easy to lose track of time and get bogged down in the complex web of who follows who and who follows you. When you’re starting out, set a specific amount of time aside to start building your network. This will help you focus on finding connections and will prevent the dread of realizing you’ve been “pinning” for the past four hours (trust me, it can happen).

Also remember, this isn’t a comprehensive list of every online tool available, and each has its own merit. Take it slow. If you already have an account on a social media site, start there. This can be a great exercise in creative thinking and perspective shifting. How are youth in your community utilizing these tools? Hint: if you don’t know, ask them. Showing youth you are genuinely interested in their perspective will help them feel valued and increase their investment in communicating with you openly. Lastly, consider using Instagram to keep track of what Michigan 4-H is up to by following them at @Michigan4H!

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