Plans to increase the use and visibility of EcophytoPIC, France’s Integrated Pest Management portal, have received useful insight with the completion of a 10-month study into the portal’s use of social media, in particular Twitter and Facebook.
The study was conducted by four students from Montpellier SupAgro’s Engineering Diploma course (equivalent to a Master’s Degree) as part of an ongoing scheme whereby students are given the chance to complete their first professional project. These projects are requested by outside organisations (research institutes, companies, chambers of agriculture, professional associations etc) and cover a wide range of sectors (agronomy, viticulture, horticulture, food processing, environment etc).
Alongside the project examining EcophytoPIC’s use of social media, requested by ENDURE member ACTA, which is responsible for the portal, projects this year included ongoing professional training in agriculture, issues and possibilities in biocontrol for viticulture systems and a study of microbiological products to stimulate soil and improve plant growth or pest resistance.
Students Cécile Cochetel, Pauline Duval, Elise Rivière and Raphaëlle Roux presented their findings on EcopyhtoPIC before a jury, including ACTA’s Philippe Delval and Frédéric Boyer, at Montpellier SupAgro in December (pictured above right).
In particular, the Montpellier quartet had been asked to study EcophytoPIC’s use and notoriety among agricultural students and their lecturers in France, a target group a review of the portal had revealed to be underrepresented.
Through survey work, they discovered a clear differentiation between the formats through which students and lecturers like to gather information. For students, Facebook was a clear favourite, followed by social media including YouTube, and Twitter, while their lecturers preferred ‘classic’ sources, such as books and papers.
The Engineering students have produced a guide to help ACTA better reach its target groups. Noting that Twitter attracts more professional users, for example, they have recommended the use of specialised vocabulary and the publishing of three to five Tweets per day. Around the end of the working day on Wednesdays is a particularly good time to Tweet, they say. For Facebook and its younger user group, they recommend more generalised vocabulary and the publishing of at least one post per day.
Identifying key words for successful communication through social media (fluidity and rapidity, professionalism and creating loyalty, for example), they have emphasised the importance of stimulating responses, asking users what they think, and encouraging users to share links and posts. They also emphasise the importance of a community manager, who brings particular skills to running social media accounts.
ACTA will now be using the report to stimulate its own debate on how best to use social media in the ongoing development of EcophytoPIC.
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