Extension mindset leads ACE professor to earn LinkedIn Top Voice title

man poses for headshot
Scott Irwin

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign professor Scott Irwin recently became part of a prestigious group of social media users — earning the LinkedIn Top Voice title. The recognition draws attention to the ways Irwin takes his Extension mindset to social media.

The invitation-only LinkedIn Top Voice program features a group of experts from around the globe who cover a range of professional topics. Those honored with the blue badge on their profile are not solely chosen for sharing valuable knowledge in their fields, but they are also assessed for being trustworthy, posting consistently, and providing original contributions to the platform. 

“I was shocked to be named a part of the LinkedIn Top Voice — what I’ve learned is that they’re looking for strategic influencers, not influencers who can get a lot of attention, but true thought leaders,” said Irwin, a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics and an Illinois Extension specialist; both units are part of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) at Illinois.

Irwin’s ventures over the years have certainly earned him the right to be called a thought leader. He has been researching and teaching agricultural economics for the past 40 years and has an impressive list of accomplishments to display, including his time as director of farmdoc and his recent book Back to the Futures

What fuels these ventures?

“I’m just trying to make a little dent in the universe,” said Irwin, who adopts an Extension mindset with all of his endeavors. He thinks of himself as a public servant and considers it his responsibility to take everything he has learned and share it with others. 

Irwin first brought this extension mindset to the world of social media ten years ago. He decided for a summer project he would get on Twitter and figure out how to use it. He quickly learned that Twitter (now called X) was an incredible tool to engage and influence broadly. 

Working with the farmdoc media team, which included Keith Good and Lee Bynum, Irwin soon learned that LinkedIn was not just for resumes and the job market, but instead offered a blog-like space somewhere in between the 120-character Tweets and long-form farmdoc articles he was writing. 

“I found huge networks of professionals who were hungry for real-time, original analysis and data — LinkedIn offered the sweet spot that I was looking for,” said Irwin

Within a year of starting his LinkedIn “experiment,” he was invited by the LinkedIn team to learn more about best practices and insider tips about their algorithm, the most efficient frequency of posting, how to improve profiles, and the ideal format for posts. 

From there it took off — Irwin’s page continued to garner attention and influencer status. Now, he is officially a LinkedIn Top Voice, another achievement to add to a long, but not yet complete, list. 

“It’s a testament to the University of Illinois – I like my job and what I’m doing today more than I did when I started 40 years ago. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work at a great place like Illinois, and I've been very supported in my work,” Irwin said, promising, “I don’t feel like I’m stale and ready to retire yet.

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