Since organisations maintain the pages, groups, and accounts on social media platforms, it is easy to retain oversight. However, policy guidelines need to be followed properly and reviewed regularly. Social media policy is usually specific to the communication goals of the organisation. Policy should be built on principles such as keeping content up-to-date, commenting and providing feedback in a timely manner, encouraging relevant and meaningful content, following and engaging audiences, providing accurate information, and avoiding arguments and comments on legal matters. An organisation should anticipate challenges in managing social media to maintain a professional reputation, whilst encouraging the free flow of information. There are technological, organisational, institutional, and capacity challenges that may restrict the impact of social media (see Box 1).
BOX 1: GLOBAL SURVEY ON SOCIAL MEDIA IN RAS
In 2015, GFRAS conducted a global survey on the use of social media in agricultural extension and RAS. The survey was conducted online across 60 countries and 226 respondents provided results. Facebook was found to be the most popular platform used by RAS actors. The main uses for social media were searching for news and events and sharing information. A major impeding factor for social media use was the lack of authenticity of information shared online. Social construction of information (development and publication of information socially by the users) was considered the most important feature of social media (95.1%). Ninety five percent of the respondents believed social media can play an important role in bridging the gap between stakeholders in agricultural innovation systems. Reaching clients (77.4%) was a major use of social media in RAS. Training in social media use was uncommon, and 71% of the respondents said they need training. If and when there was training conducted by the respondents’ organisation, it mainly focused on the specifics of different platforms, and on the uses of social media in agricultural extension or the creation of social media tools. But at an organisational level, social media is still not given much importance by higher authorities (45.6%), and social media policy restricts rather than encourages its use (41.9%). Also, weak or non-existent connectivity in rural areas (69.9%), high data costs (52%), illiteracy of the clients (43.4%), and low participation and lack of interest (16.2%) of clients are reported to be major problems. Overall, the survey found that social media is still a very useful tool. To quote one respondent, “Social media is not only a tool for reaching large audiences; it is also an opportunity to develop relationships.”
Cost effectiveness is one of the major advantages of social media use for RAS. Hosting pages, groups, and accounts, and sharing multimedia content on social media is free of cost in most of cases. There may be nominal costs for paying external experts to develop the capacity of staff in using social media and/or to formulate organisational policy guidelines for social media.
Social media campaigns and subscription fees have been used to raise funding for a special project or group activity. They should not be overused.