How to use technology to promote, brainstorm and share professional ideas: Part 1

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

Working with youth who were born into a world filled with constantly evolving technology can sometimes be a challenge. I grew up in a time when “you’ve got mail” was still a phase that rang clear, giving me the social ego boost that someone cared enough to send me an email, every time my clunky desktop computer finished connecting to my dial-up internet.

Now, as a youth development professional with Michigan State University Extension, I know the importance of presenting information in a way that appeals to my youth audience. I also know how hard it can be to stay on the “up-and-up” with what’s relevant. Part one in this series will be a quick introduction to Facebook and Twitter, how to utilize them in a professional setting, and examples of other professionals who do the same.

  • Facebook groups: While to some, Facebook might feel old hat, current users (there are billions) collectively spend about 10 million hours per month on the site. This means, Facebook is still a useful method for connecting with others, sharing ideas and promoting programs. Outside of the usual “friending” colleagues and like-minded individuals, users can utilize Facebook pages to share large collections of photos from youth programming events, like 4-H Capitol Experience. Facebook groups can also be utilized to facilitate conversations, brainstorming sessions and information sharing amongst youth-adult planning committees. Rather than keeping up with a string of emails, think about the interactive, efficient and on-going collaboration that can occur between you and the youth you work with, if you utilized an online message board platform like Facebook groups.
  • Twitter: A tweet is a short post, 140 characters or less, that can be as simple as a statement or quote, and be as complex as including photographs and hyperlinks. With almost 650 million users, Twitter offers a unique opportunity of staying accessing new ideas in the short amount of time it takes to open the site and search for a topic or user. This platform can be used to follow professionals and organizations that often contribute big ideas, or research, to the areas of youth development in which you specialize. Some users that may be valuable to follow include: U.S. News and World report on Education, the Center for Creative Leadership, Learning Frontiers, the Bailey Scholars Program and of course MSU Extension. Twitter can be used to quickly access new perspectives and ideas, while keeping in touch with what any community partners are doing. You can share the successes of your youth programs, while keeping track of what other leaders in your field are engaged in. Also, tweeting kudos to a colleague or participant after they achieved some success can help you actively maintain those relationships.

Keep an eye out  for part two of this series, which will focus on utilizing LinkedIn and RSS feeds to stay connected. For more articles on youth development and staying connected, explore the Michigan 4-H website.

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