Developing and Evaluating Social Networking Tools for Viticulture

We sought to 1) determine how familiar our academic and industry colleagues were with blogs, Facebook, and Twitter, and provide training for them if necessary, 2) extend more viticulture information through social networking tools, and 3) develop some metrics to learn how often the tools were used, and by whom. Surveys distributed separately to core clientele, viticulture specialists and advisors in California, and out-of-state extension faculty, suggested that many academic and industry colleagues were potentially interested in using social networking tools to extend and receive viticulture information, but they needed training to learn how to use them, particularly in a professional context. Therefore we provided social media training at several meetings throughout the state. Perhaps due in part to our training efforts, our sites have steadily attracted more users over time; the number of people who ?like? our Facebook page has increased from 93 people in January 2010 to 249 people in January 2011, and our followers on Twitter have increased from 182 last January to 357 this January. Further, our blog was accessed nearly 50,000 times in 2010 and, in December 2010 alone, our Facebook page was accessed more than 11,000 times. We dramatically increased the content provided in 2010. For example, we sent 87 ?tweets? in 2009 versus 272 tweets in 2010. In 2010 we also began to use special software that allowed us to integrate, to some extent, our social media tools. This provided content at varying levels of detail and may have helped us expand our reach. We intend to further extend our reach by developing other types of content including video and pictures which can be shared on specialized social sites such as YouTube, and Flickr, respectively. Monitoring social media is complex, but we?ve learned that our sites are regularly accessed by men and women of a wide age range, from at least 20 different countries. The social aspect of these sites, especially Twitter, has facilitated sharing of information beyond our immediate users, thereby expanding their impact.