Promoting & Learning about Nutrition and Food Safety through Social Media

Questions or comments? Email author, Alice Henneman, MS, RD, Extension Educator

Alice Henneman sitting at a computerDefinition of social media: "Forms of electronic communication (as Web sites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (as videos)." Source: Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

(Author's Note: I've been experimenting with a variety of social media. Following are some tips I've learned [as of September 9, 2011]. I hope they either help you get started utilizing social media or, if you're an advanced user of social media, give you some additional ideas.)

Are you missing out personally or professionally if you're not involved with some type of social media? Whether or not you  tweet, post to Facebook, etc., you can still benefit from social media.

A Pew Research Center Study on Social Networking Sites and our Lives, published June 16, 2011, found an increased use of social networking sites (SNS):

  • 79% of American adults said they used the internet and nearly half of adults (47%), or 59% of internet users, say they use at least one of SNS.
  • Current use of SNS sites is close to double the 26% of adults (34% of internet users) who used a SNS in 2008.
  • Facebook dominated the SNS space in this survey: 92% of SNS users are on Facebook; 29% use MySpace, 18% used LinkedIn and 13% use Twitter.

Most forms of social media provide a FREE version. For a fee on some sites, you may be able to obtainadditional features such as ability to post more content and additional types of statistical data.

For consistency and branding, keep a similar name for the various types of social media you utilize. For example, you'll always find me listed as alicehenneman. Many people use some variation of their name to aid in identifying their content and help people find them. You might combine your first name and last name, perhaps capitalizing your first name and last name. Or, you might separate them by an underscore.

Almost all the forms of social media give you the option of sharing what you presented on their site with other sites. For example, YouTube videos can be shared via Facebook, Twitter, and many other social networking sites. So ... when you begin with one, you can leverage your presence to others.

Many sites let you assign different levels of usage rights to your material. The default is usually copyrighted material. However, you might assign one of several types of "Creative Commons" licenses, which allow certain uses by others. Sites that offer this form of licensing wil provide you more information about it.

Examples of common forms of social media that can be used to promote nutrition and food safety include:

Here are examples of some of the types of social media I've started using to share information about nutrition and food safety and what I have learned about them.

  • Though you can make a 15 minute video, 1 to 2 minutes will more likely get watched. Once you create an account, you have automatically created a YouTube channel. People can subscribe to your channel to learn when you upload another video.
  • Videos can be embedded on websites and in blogs (such as I did to the right). "Uncheck" the option that says " Show suggested videos when the video finishes" unless you want to show viewers other videos -- which will not necessarily be YOURS.
  • You can determine the size of your embedded video. You don't need a YouTube Account to embed a video. The video is still actually on the YouTube site and will be removed from any site where it is embedded if you remove it from YouTube.
  • Videos may be shared via Facebook using the "share" option on YouTube. Your friends can play them within Facebook.
  • It's possible to create an "unlisted" video that only those to whom you give the URL can view. It is not picked up by search engines nor does it appear when searching on YouTube. Still, when you share it with others, they can also share it or embed it ... so it is not entirely private.
  • Check a video carefully for typos, etc. before uploading it as its web address will change if you re-upload it later. One way to check it is to upload it and make it "unlisted" the first time. Share the link with others and have them help you review. Re-upload if necessary and make it public only after you know you feel confident is is accurate "as is" and any link and/or embedding code shared will stay constant.
  • When making a YouTube video through various software, choose a 16:9 aspect ratio. This will give you the wide screen aspect ratio currently used by YouTube. Formerly, a common aspect ratio was 4:3. You can still upload a video with this aspect ratio; however, it will have black bands on each side. If you embed the video on a website or in a blog, however, these bands will not show.
  • You decide such features as whether people can comment on a specific video, etc.
  • Include your website or blog web address so people can access further information from you.
  • An example of a Youtube "channel" promoting  food safety is the USDA Food Safety Channel

  • Vimeo videos are often more artistic than videos on other video-sharing sites. Farhad Manjoo, writing in, calls it a "YouTube for Artists."
  • Vimeo videos can be longer than 15 minutes -- you're limited as to how large a file size you can upload.
  • You can re-upload a video to Vimeo and it will keep the same web address and embed code as long as the video you re-upload has the same filename as before.
  • NOTE: If you're a PC user, it is now possible to make a video with sound and animation using PowerPoint 2010. I made thd video to the right entirely with PowerPoint 2010.
  • Vimeo videos also can be embedded. It is possible to customize the size of your embedded video.
  • You can decide such features as whether people can comment on a specific video, download the video, etc. For this video, I decided NOT to let people download or comment. There is so much potentially harmful information about canning on the Internet in forums, etc. that I didn't want to open the door to more misinformation through a comment section. Likewise, I wanted people to view the entire video with my comments just as it appears on the Internet.
  • You can grant permission for people to embed Vimeo videos on their own website or blog. To help share safe information about home food preservation, I granted that permission to my video.
  • You can make an unlisted videos, the same as with YouTube. This can later be changed to a public video, if desired.
  • Include your website or blog web address so people can access further information from you.
  • For some additional examples of using Vimeo teaching or learning, check out these Vimeo videos by Rugters Cooperative Extension colleague Joanne Kinsey.

  • Presentations, documents, and professional videos may be shared on SlideShare.
  • Slides can be embedded on other websites and blogs, contributing significantly to additional views.
  • When embedding a slide set, choose the option to customize so you can decide the size.
  • Check "without related content" when you're embedding a slide set, unless you want include the option to show slides other than yours.
  • Make the fonts on your PowerPoints easy to read, preferably a sans serif font, such as arial. Also, make them large enough to see when shown on the web. I  try not to go below a 28 point font and use an even larger one when possible.
  • You can allow others to download your slides from -- opening the opportunity for more sharing of your information through presentations by other people. People have to create a (free) SlideShare account in order to download slides. However, you can have an account without actually having to upload slides to it.
  • SlideShare slides do not include animation when you view them on the Internet. User click through them at their own pace. Any special effects do not show up. However, when they are downloaded, any animation you may have included is present. Consider this when designing slides for SlideShare so you will be satisfied with their appearance both on the web and when downloaded.
  • Viewers can't see your speaker's notes when they view your slides on the Internet. Provide enough information in the slides so they can stand alone.

Alice Henneman twitter site
  • Twitter had 200 million users as of 2011.
  • Messages are limited to 140 characters -- this includes your username or "Twitter handle." Try for fewer words so it is easier for someone to retweet your message.
  • Think carefully before choosing a long twitter name as this uses up some of your 140 characters! The @ sign is used to identify Twitter names -- for example, I am @alicehenneman
  • Twitter provides several ways you can communicate with others beyond sending tweets. For example:

    • Retweet another person's tweet.
    • Reply to someone - this is an update posted by clicking the "reply" button on another tweet and will show up in the tweets you send out.
    • Mention someone by including their @username in the body of the tweet.
    • Message people (often referred to as a direct message) by sending a private message to them. Only people who are currently following each other can send private messages to each other.
  • Hashtags ("#" symbols) are used before key words to make it easier to find relevant tweets in a Twitter search. Clicking on a hastagged word shows all the other tweets with that hashtag. Limit to about 3 related hashtags per topic.
  • Keep messages short by using Twitter shorthand -- always consider if your intended audience will understand what you're trying to say. For example, LOL stands for "laughing out loud" -- however, I heard someone who could not understand why people were responding to her humorous tweets with a "lots of love" message! Some common, easy-to-understand abbreviations include:

    • RU (are you?)
    • & (and)
    • b/c (because)
    • 4 (for)
  • Include some type of picture with your Twitter account or you'll be identified by a nondescript egg shape. The picture could be of some object related to you ... it doesn't have to be a portrait. Also, describe yourself in a way that will atract the interest of the type of people you want to follow you.
  • Consider keeping track of your tweets through some type of Twitter client (download free from the web), such as TweetDeck or HootSuite. If your Twitter client doesn't include a way to shorten a web address you include in a tweet, use an URL shortener, such as

  • Flickr is an image and video hosting website. It has a partnership with Picnik, an online photo-editing application (basic features are free).
  • Photos can be shared publicly or privately.
  • Photos on flickr with a Creative Commons (CC) license may be suitable for use in your own work, as long as you follow the guidelines of that particular form of CC license. Here is a list of all 6 CC licenses and their explanations. These are frequently asked questions about CC licenses.
  • Photos can be organized into "sets" (groups of photos that are under the same heading). A photo can belong to more than one set, or none at all.
  • Photo sets can be viewed as a slide show and may be embedded in websites. The set at the right is an embedded set of photos I took at farmers markets. After clicking on it, it will automatically advance as a slide show. Check "customize" when you are getting the code for your embedded slide show if you want a particular size of slide show. You are welcome to use my photos according to my Creative Commons license.
  • A link to a photo set slide show can  sent via email to share your show.
  • Flickr "galleries," according to flickr, are "a way to curate up to 18 public photos or videos of your fellow members into one place. Here is a gallery on Food Styling curated by photography a la Pauline. If you're interested in curating your own gallery, search for "tags" or words that reflect the content of the type of pictures you desire. For example, search on "vegetables" for assembling a gallery of vegetable photos.
  • Include a link back to your website or blog under each flickr picture.


  • Facebook had more than 750 million active users as of July 2011.
  • In 2010, an online Computer World article stated Facebook was the most visited site on the Internet.
  • Facebook is composed mostly of personal accounts and of "pages." According to Facebook, "Pages allow real organizations, businesses, celebrities and brands to communicate broadly with people who like them. Pages may only be created and managed by official representatives." "Groups" according to Facebook: "... provide a closed space for small groups of people to communicate about shared interests. Groups can be created by anyone."
  • Even if you don't have your own organizational or public figure "page," you can use your personal Facebook account to tell friends about your latest project, ask them to "share" a program you are giving, etc.
  • Keep up with what is happening in your profession and various areas of interest by "liking" a page developed by one of your professional organizations or a professional you admire. You'll receive posts from the page through your Facebook. Also, many times, you can "write on the wall" of a page and start a conversation with others "liking" that page.


  • LinkedIn is used mainly for professional networking.
  • More than 120 million registered users, spanning more than 200 countries and territories worldwide, were reported by LinkedIn as of March 22, 2011.
  • It's possible to coordinate your tweets and SlideShare uploads so they appear as part of your LinkedIn profile.
  • LinkedIn does not include games or sharing of personal pictures, stories, etc.
  • LinkedIn enables you to ask questions and for advice from your network.
  • It can help you connect with others through your contacts who may be connected to that person.
  • You also have the opportunity to join various groups on LinkedIn where you can connect with others who may not be your direct contacts, but share a common interest.


(I haven't experiemented with a blog as of this writing. These are some of the tips, however, I've learned from workshops and colleagues who blog.)

  • Three common sites on which you can set up a blog are Wordpress, Blogger, and BlogHer.
  • A blog serves as a website for many people.
  • Make your writing personal, more like a conversation than a formal article.
  • Pick a topic you're passionate about and know something about. Then, stick with that focus, such as my colleague Georgia Jones, a food scientist and a "foodie," who blogs on DiscoveringFoods.
  • Match your URL to your blog's title.
  • Post frequently ... but only if you have something worth saying.
  • Consider partnering with others and doing a blog together to share the responsibility, such as my colleagues, Cindy, Carrie, Nancy, Joan, and Audra do in their blog Nutrition Know How.
  • Network with and support other bloggers.
  • Photos enhance blogs. Especially if you're using large photos, use some type of photo-editing software -- such as Photoshop -- that will let you decrease their file size for the web. Otherwise, the photos may make your page really slow to upload and turn away visitors.
  • If you don't have a blog but do other forms of social media, such as sharing slides or videos, encourage bloggers to embed and share these in their blogs if they're working on a similar topic.
  • For an example of several nutrition blogs, visit the Nutrition Blog Network.

Final Tip on Social Media

bilboard about social media

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