Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications

Major Professor

Carrie A. Stephens

Committee Members

Courtney C. Childers, Elizabeth J. Avery


Over the past decade, Cooperative Extension and 4-H professionals have been faced with the decision of whether they should adopt new communication technologies such as social media to interact with their rapidly growing audience. Current research on social media and Extension shows that there are some identified risks and barriers (Fuess & Humphreys, 2011; Seger, 2011); however, many Extension professionals believe that social media usage could be very beneficial for Extension and\or 4-H usage (Coates, 2004; Rhoades, Thomas & Davis, 2009; Kinsey, 2010). In order to increase the body of empirical research on this subject, a quantitative study was conducted based on Roger’s diffusion of innovation theory (Rogers, 1983). The study was conducted via an online survey distributed to all 4-H program leaders in Tennessee, and received a 49 percent (n=196) response rate. This study sought to describe the usage of social media by county 4-H program leaders in Tennessee, and to identify key perceptions toward current and future usage of social media for 4-H. The most commonly utilized social media services were Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. The results indicated that the majority of program leaders had a positive view of social media usage and felt that it was an efficient and effective way to communicate information to their audience. While program leaders did not indicate lack of knowledge as a problem, they did express willingness to participate in training opportunities to learn more about social media and improve their current usage. Overall, the study determined that social media is gaining widespread usage throughout rural and urban county 4-H programs in Tennessee, and that increased efforts toward training and research in this area are warranted.

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