Now, we have access to even more online resources including Facebook, Twitter and blogging — to name just a few. These online tools give us the chance to interact with our audience virtually. In these interactive social networks, you can post information, chat and message family, friends and colleagues 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

I firmly believe that we need to maintain the personal touch in delivery of Extension programming, but I have been pleasantly surprised to find that social networking resources can enhance and extend the reach of our information.

Following my first timid steps into the world of Facebook and blogging, I have now moved full-bore into using social networking as a primary component of my delivery program. I have found ways to save time by linking accounts together. The Louisiana rice insects blog posts are automatically connected to my Facebook and Twitter so that when I hit publish they are posted on my Facebook profile and Twitter feed. This distributes the blog information to all my followers and friends.

The audience includes family, friends, farmers, consultants and colleagues from around the world. This leads to discussions about observations with colleagues. The most surprising result of this information delivery approach is that I have created an interest in agricultural crop production among acquaintances that are urban dwellers and not associated with agriculture. The value of this educational component is impossible to measure, but without a doubt is positive for agricultural industries.

Paul Coreil, vice chancellor at the LSU AgCenter, recently formed the LSU AgCenter Social Networking Advisory Committee. You can expect to see many more opportunities to engage with LSU AgCenter faculty and staff via social networking resources. I encourage you to explore these tools and determine if they can enhance your career.

Personally, my biggest hesitation was in creating an account in Twitter. I had thought of Twitter as justa way for people to track movie stars and singers, and believed I didn’t have time for that nonsense.

I was surprised to find that you can follow the USDA, NIFA, the White House, EPA, USA Rice and many other agricultural-related entities. It’s a quick, easy way to stay connected to news and changes in our global economy.

I’ll talk more about social networking and online resources at a number of professional conferences this winter. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions as you take your first steps into the social network.

(Follow Hummel on Twitter @NatHummel, on Facebook or at www.louisianariceinsects.wordpress.com.)