The Importance of Digital Engagement
Now more than ever, digital engagement and online learning are vitally important to the future of Extension. Engaging audiences through digital content like video, webinars, and social media allows us to be meaningfully present in our communities even when we aren’t in front of a face-to-face audience.
As we design and develop Extension programs, we should aim to create a hybrid engagement strategy that allows audiences to engage with us when and where it’s convenient for them. Some audiences desire a deep relationship with their local county Extension office and others simply desire on-demand science-backed information. As such, some audiences will only ever engage with us during face-to-face events and others will only ever engage with us online. Others will engage with us in both face-to-face and virtual spaces. Embracing digital literacy will prepare us to better engage with those audiences that desire convenient and on-demand information and online learning opportunities while deepening our connection with our face-to-face audiences.
The relative ease of digital content development means we can jump right into offering virtual programming with little planning and preparation. However, planning and preparation is necessary for polished and professional digital content development and delivery. Before creating new content or scheduling an online event, you should consider whether the proposed content or program is truly needed. Who is your primary audience and what do they need from you? What change do you want them to make as a result of engaging with your digital content or attending a virtual event? How will you measure the impact of the proposed content or online program? What’s the best way to reach your audience (what platform makes the most sense)? With what content type are they most likely to engage (video, webinar, social media campaign, etc.)? The LIFE framework can help you get started in designing a blueprint for strategic engagement.
LIFE Framework for Strategic Engagement and Storytelling
The LIFE framework helps answer the following questions:
- Who are the major audiences with which we work?
- What are the challenges and opportunities facing our audiences?
- Why do our audiences care about these issues or opportunities?
- How have we framed our content to meet the emotional and intellectual needs of our audiences?
- When and where will we engage with our audiences?
Digital Engagement Platforms
Zoom meetings and webinars
With The Ohio State University Zoom license, all faculty and staff have the ability to host virtual meetings for up to 300 participants. Meeting rooms allow all participants to engage with presenters through video and audio. Meetings offer a great solution for situations where audience discussion is key. Hosts have the ability to share content (like a PowerPoint slide deck) through the screen share feature. Additionally, hosts can engage audiences through chat, polling, breakout rooms, and discussion.
Zoom webinars are a great solution for virtual programs where large audiences are expected. Webinars make large virtual events easier to manage since participants will not have video or audio privileges. To view compare features and functionality of meetings vs. webinars, check out the comparison chart. If you’d like to request a webinar license, complete the webinar request form.
Virtual Office Hours
Take advantage of your Zoom meeting room by offering county clientele virtual office hours where they can drop-in to ask questions and discuss solutions to problems. Consider hosting regular virtual office hours at the same time each week so clients know when and where they can reach you.
Learning and Organizational Development (LOD) Zoom Training Center
Office of Distance Education and eLearning (ODEE) CarmenZoom Resource Center
Social media is an important and necessary means of reaching audiences in the 21st century. While not everyone is using social media these days, it’s safe to say that most people are using at least one social platform. When considering which platforms to use, think about the LIFE framework – who are you trying to reach and where are they (your audiences) spending time? If you’re using Twitter to reach an audience that primarily uses Facebook, it’s time to rethink your strategy. Identify your audiences and objectives before selecting which platforms to use.
Your overall objectives for using social media should include a mix of the following:
- Diversify your reach
- Inform clientele of important information
- Market programs and events
- Engage, educate, and entertain the community
To get started in understanding who's using which social media platform, explore the most recent Pew Research Center social media factsheet that outlines social media usage across major socioeconomic demographics.
University Social Media Policy
The purpose of the University Social Media policy is to provide guidance regarding the creation and management of institutional social media accounts for university marketing or communications purposes. The primary objective is to maintain security and integrity of accounts while maintaining access across all platforms for the remaining collaborators. Additionally, social media accounts representing The Ohio State University are expected to maintain a minimum set of requirements to ensure a shared quality standard. Please note, all new social media accounts created on behalf of Ohio State University Extension or College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences must be approved through the social media application process.
Branding of Social Media Accounts
Make the most of the medium and your message by leveraging the power of the university brand in all you share. Visit the univeristy brand website and the CFAES brand website to learn more about best practices, branding, and to access digital assets for use when designing social media content.
A podcast is an episodic series of spoken-word digital audio files that a user can download to a personal device for easy listening. Podcasts offer a great way to disseminate information to a wide audience base while offering your clientele the convenience of engaging with your content when and where they want. Even better, when hosting a podcast through services like iTunes or Stitcher, your audiences can subscribe to your show so they never miss an episode. Your podcast might represent a dedicated content area like farm business management, or a general field of interest like gardening or healthy family living. Podcasts offer an easy and inexpensive method of inviting guest speakers to share their expertise and stories with your audiences without the hassle or cost of bringing them in for a live event.
Zoom is a great option for recording audio for a podcast. It’s best to record each speaker on a separate audio track for ease of editing in post-production. If one speaker is very soft-spoken and another is very loud, it’ll be much easier to correct this if you have a separate audio file for each speaker. You can change your settings in Zoom to record each speaker separately.
It's best to use an external microphone to record your podcast audio. The Blue Yeti USB mic is a commonly used USB microphone that offers flexibility and great sound quality. Consider investing in a pop filter for your microphone to reduce pops, hissing, breathing, and B/P plosives in your audio tracks.
Adobe Audition is a great tool for editing your audio and is available through our Adobe Creative Cloud license through The Ohio State University.
Finding the Perfect Audio Logo
If you plan to create a regular podcast, invest a few bucks in finding the perfect audio logo (sometimes called a musical indent) for your show. Envato Market’s Audio Jungle offers a huge database of audio logos that will offer the perfect intro to your podcast episodes while building brand recognition for your show. Search audio logos and musical indents to find the perfect podcast intro!
Once you’ve filmed your first episode, reach out to the folks from our Office of Distance Education and e-Learning to set up hosting on iTunes. You can call 614-688-1135 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for help.
Your county website should serve as content hub for community clientele to access static information like office hours, location, and staff profiles. Your website should also serve as a first-line of contact for learning about upcoming events, important announcements, and recordings or resources from past programs. For Drupal training opportunities, contact CFAES program coordinator for college communication training, Bonnie Scranton.
Video Best Practices
From instructional videos and demonstrations to live streams on social media, video is one of the best ways to engage online audiences. Check out our tips for making the most of your video content!
Best Practices - Technical
Use a lavalier microphone for best sound quality.
Use a tripod or gimbal mount for stability.
Frame your subjects appropriately. Use the rule of thirds to add visual interest to your shots.
Keep your camera at eye-level when filming human subjects. Avoid positioning the camera too low or too high.
Ensure subjects are well-lit. Position lights at a 45˚ angle on human subjects for visual interest.
Avoid using your phone's selfie or forward-facing camera as it tends to be lower resolution than your back-facing camera.
Best Practices - Content
Be sure there are no brand names shown in your video.
Be sure to wear appropriate and professional attire.
Always demonstrate best practices during instructional videos (e.g. food safety protocols during food preparation videos).
When filming video, there are some technical considerations you should keep in mind. Frame rate is one of the most important settings in video. Frame rate is a measure of how many frames (or individual photos) are in one second of video. Slower frame rates create a more cinematic look to your video and are great for interviews that will be played back at normal speed. Faster frame rates are great for shots that will be slowed down in your final video.
Frames Per Second (fps)
Shooting at 24fps is appropriate for any content that will shown at normal speed like interviews. 24fps is similar to how our eyes see the world around us. This slower frame rate provides a sense of motion in your video.
Shooting at 30fps is common for broadcast videos and has been a standard in television for many years. Videos shot in 30fps are perfect for instructional videos or demonstrations.
If you're interested in including slow motion video in your film project, you'll want to shoot at a higher frame rate like 60fps. This will allow you to slow your video clips down to 50% speed in post and still achieve the standard 30fps feel.
The 180˚ Rule
The 180˚ rule states that your shutter speed should always be double your frame rate.
- 24fps = 1/50 shutter
- 30fps = 1/60 shutter
- 60fps = 1/120 shutter