By Julie Woodard
Chew on this: Research shows it took radio 38 years to reach 50 million listeners. For TV, 13 years. The internet? It only took four years. Today, that number has swelled to more than 6 billion world-wide Internet users. These impressive growth figures are often attributed to one of the most popular activities on the web: social media.
Simply put, social media is media shared through social interaction on the Internet and mobile-based technologies. If you’ve ever commented on an article on a newspaper’s website, replied to a post on a message board, forwarded a YouTube video to a friend or created a Facebook page, you are frolicking in the world of social media.
But be warned: Social media is addictive. And its lure is even more tempting for teenagers with 73 percent of all wired teens using social networks. In order to connect with your ag students, it’s imperative that you’re at least familiar with their online hangouts. As you’ll read in this issue of Making A Difference online, many ag teachers are doing just that--connecting with their students via social media. At the National FFA Organization, we use social media to interact with FFA members as well as teachers, parents and supporters. Here’s a rundown on what social media the organization offers:
When you think social media, social networks such as Facebook, MySpace, and Linked In are probably the first that come to mind. Social networks, along with blogs, are the fourth most-popular online activity, even beating out e-mail. Social networks are online communities where people meet, socialize and share files. Facebook is the biggest player in the field, with more than 400 million users (the average user has 130 friends). FFA now has nearly 29,000 fans, mostly FFA members, of the National FFA Organization fan page. Many FFA chapters and state and alumni associations also use Facebook to communicate, and the National Officers maintain a fan page as well.
FFA has its very own social network called FFA Nation. More than 5,000 members strong and growing, FFA Nation allows FFA members to connect with other members across the country. Members can create profiles, add friends, upload photos, communicate on message boards and interact with other members with similar interests. Look for a new and improved site in April.
FFA members also frequent the organization’s MySpace page. Teachers and supporters use the organization’s Linked In site to stay connected with other FFA contacts and ag-related job opportunities.
Who would have thought 140 characters would be so revealing. Twitter has taken the Internet by storm and now has more than 15 million active users. Teens have been slow to jump on the Twitter bandwagon but many teachers use the site for everything from assigning homework to communicating with parents.
Blogger, LiveJournal, WordPress.com, Xanga, Tumblr…the number of free blog-hosting services are plentiful! Even though more than 133 million blogs exist on the Web, research shows that many teens aren’t big on generating content, but they do read blogs. You can keep up with the National Officers as well as the organization on ffa.org.
Flickr and Photobucket dominate the photo sharing category with users downloading millions of images each year. Both provide great ways to share photos with other FFA folks.
When it comes to sharing video, You Tube is king but most schools block the site. That’s where SchoolTube.com comes in. This school-friendly site makes it easier to see FFA Today and other FFA-related video during the school day.
A wiki is a collaborative website that allows visitors to create and edit the content. The encyclopedia-like Wikipedia is the biggest wiki to date; right now, the site hosts more than 14 million articles. If you’re looking for the latest, most accurate information on FFA, always visit ffa.org first, but in a pinch, the organization’s Wikipedia page can be helpful. Be careful though: Wikipedia is not always the best source for accurate information.
Other Sites to Check Out
Moodle.org—designed to help educators create online courses and websites.
Quia.com—features tools to help create, customize and share learning activities.
FFA New Horizons online—E-mail or comment on articles featured in the printed FFA New Horizons magazine.