What's the difference between these things? Since they are all carried on the Internet, it can be confusing, but they each have their best uses. Once you understand them, they can all work well together.
A website contains factual information and resources. Our YD website provides all the information and resources for Minnesota 4-H, the Minnesota 4-H Foundation, the Youth Work Institute and our Youth Development research. For example, if you want to know the rules of the Minnesota 4-H Project Bowl and obtain any forms for participation, you would visit this page:
If you want to know what courses are offered by the Youth Work Institute next term, you would go here: www.extension.umn.edu/youth/training-events/ywi-all-scheduled-courses.html.
We discourage staff and volunteers from using other websites to distribute the same resources and information provided on our YD site, because visitors will not be ensured of receiving the most up-to-date and comprehensive materials and resources that they need. But it's perfectly fine for staff or other groups to have online discussions about their projects or activities using social media, and then link back to the appropriate page in the YD website to obtain any related resources or materials for participating in 4-H, YWI, etc.
Social media such as Facebook are like a town square - a meeting place with many voices and groups to talk, share likes, dislikes, ideas, photos and videos, and network online. You can find friends, business contacts and become part of a community or a bunch of different communities. Visitors to your page can easily see your affinities with other individuals and groups, based on the other pages that you "like". Facebook is useful for 4-H clubs, youth workers with a common cause or interest, or anyone who wants to share information (point them to a website with great resources, share links to interesting articles, etc.) or converse about what they are doing. Facebook tends to be used by individuals, and social groups and causes.
Tip: For professional networking, use Linkedin, the social media network for business. Like Facebook, Linkedin has individual pages, which resemble resumes, and group pages for companies and organizations. A Linkedin group called "4-H youth development professionals" has 145 members, who can ask others for advice and post invitations to professional events. A key word search for "youth development" turns up 9875 individuals who list that term somewhere on their Linkedin page.
Blogs are another form of social media: a conversation hosted by the author. Youth Development is developing an organizational blog to be launched in January, where our faculty and educators will share opinions and host conversations about current youth development research and news, and invite others in the field to comment.
A potentially confusing wrinkle: blogging platforms such as Moveable Type and Wordpress are often used as content management systems for running websites or delivering newsletters. Strictly speaking, a blog is a conversation hosted by you.
Here are a couple of guidelines when using social media for YD purposes:
- When you want to provide materials and resources related to 4-H or YWI, send them directly to the appropriate page on the YD website via links, so that they obtain the most current and comprehensive set of information and materials.
- Contact me before using Extension or 4-H branding (including the clover) on social media. We are working on policies and guidelines to help differentiate and identify organizational social media (ex. the "X County 4-H" Facebook page) vs. social media created by volunteers and youth (ex. the "X County 4-H club" Facebook page).
Youth Development web manager