Implementation

Baseline survey: Baseline surveys are used to understand the social media preferences of clientele. This information can help to determine the correct platform, expected frequency of use, and set targets such as maximum reach.

Creating interest groups: Depending on clients’ needs and also location specific problems, interest groups or lists can be created with a moderator from the organisation for the sake of gatekeeping information.

Formulating social media policy: At the organisational level, social media policy/guidelines will help achieve the full potential of social media for RAS. The policy should be flexible to allow some personal approaches to communication. For example, one extension worker or producer may focus primarily on their area of work or interests. Guidelines also ensure that sensitive information sent or discussed over social media is appropriately managed. There should also be a risk management strategy within the social media policy.

Sensitising and training of extension professionals and clientele: Social media literacy training on its effective use by extension personnel and at the grassroots level, specifically among the rural youth and women, will enhance the use of social media in RAS.

Timing is everything: Both in social media and agriculture, timing is of the essence. Timely updates become much easier through social media in extension. Well planned and strategically timed posts can be more effective than frequent messages. Quality as well as quantity of posts should be considered.

Using pictures and videos: Pictures and multimedia content always attract more attention. Sharing information with relevant pictures and videos sends a clear and effective message. Don’t forget to ask permission before taking and sharing photos or videos.

Adding value and acting on feedback: Remember, two-way communication is about asking not just telling. User engagement in discussions and comments should be highly encouraged.

Capacities required

Social media based communication requires technical and organisational capacities, such as the knowledge and skills to use relevant tools, graphics, or metrics. It also requires organisational buy-in. A once-off process won’t be sufficient for a successful social media strategy. The organisation will need to ensure their clientele has social media know-how and provide basic technical support on how to use social media on their internet enabled devices. Training should be tailored to specific target groups – extension personnel, researchers, and academics will have different needs from farmers or other stakeholders at the grassroots 

A clear understanding of the extension organisation’s domain of work and clients’ lives and livelihoods, as well as their needs for accessing and sharing information, is important. Engagement with the clientele is also needed on a regular basis to hold their interest. On social media this can be done by using direct messages or ‘liking’ posts from clients.