Social Media: Cultivating Cooperative Conversation
As NMSU Extension educators, if you manage social media for your program, it’s worth reading through NMSU’s Social Media Guidelines. The guidelines state:
NMSU welcomes feedback and encourages participation on its social media sites, but retains complete editorial discretion over the sites. When commenting, please keep in mind that people of all ages may view NMSU’s social media sites.
The policy then goes on to describe rules that limit discussion to on-topic, lawful, civil, non-commercial, and non-discriminatory comments. If a comment violates these rules, it may be deleted. Repeat offenders can be banned from posting on NMSU social media sites. Keep in mind that these policies exist not to stifle conversation, but to guide it to be most useful and welcoming.
Don’t feed the trolls (or ban them either)
Some people like to be controversial on social media simply for attention, and purposefully make inflammatory statements. If these comments technically don’t violate NMSU guidelines and shouldn’t be removed outright, the best advice is simply “do not engage.” The power of trolls comes from the effort it takes to combat them, and – much like Freddy Kruger – if you ignore them, they will disappear. Do not respond to them, and discourage others from responding too.
Even though negative comments and posts can cause some discomfort, NMSU’s Marketing and Communications department recommends not deleting or hiding these interactions. According to the NMSU social media guidelines, the recommendation is to only delete or hide a post if it contains profanity, spam/links, attacks on others, hate speech, commercial advertising, political endorsement, or unlawful activity.
New Mexico Cooperative Extension is fundamentally a service to improve people’s lives, giving training and education around the ACES pillars: agriculture, water conservation, health and family development, and environmental stewardship. Take note of the questions you are getting directly, from phone calls to questions at in-person events. One person posing a question likely represents many others with the same question! Consider creating a social media post based on the answer you gave, with specific information on the topic. Enlarging our audience furthers the mission of improving people’s lives with researched-based knowledge.
Every interaction with people is an opportunity to build community – the “cooperative” part of Cooperative Extension. You can re-emphasize this aspect by showing – through social media – what you offer to the community and how you interact with people. Reports and photos from in-person events or online programs show how people can join in and be part of that community. For those who participated, it reminds them of what they gained. Promoting events after the fact is just as effective for getting attention as promoting upcoming events.
Of course, social media is only a part of what your educational programs have to offer, and the way you interact on social media should reflect your approach elsewhere.
If you have questions about social media approaches and comment moderation, reach out to Jeffrey Buras (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Written by Jeffery Buras, Social Media Specialist