December 14, 2009

Social media & agriculture...are you wired?

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At the Nebraska Ag Classic in Lincoln, we had the privilege of listening to Michele Payn-Knoper of Cause Matters Corp., with her presentation, “Farming Your Online Community: Social Networks and Beyond.”

Michele (or for you Tweeps, @mpaynknoper, as I always remember her) is a professional speaker and advocate for agriculture, as well as a social media guru, which you probably read about in a previous post about Ag Classic.

As she said in her presentation, 15 years ago everyone thought the Internet was just a fad. According to the Internet World Statistics web site, there are currently 6,767,805,208 Internet users worldwide. This is a number that has grown 380.3 percent since 2000. I'd say they were wrong about the Internet being a fad, and I don’t see social media being just a fad either with more than 350 million people just using Facebook.

So back to Michele: First, she setup a special hashtag for Ag Classic #NEAC09, and Twitter users all over the place were tweeting information shared from the conference using this to "tag" information.

In her presentation, she shared some great points about social media (SM) in agriculture.
  1. SM = Influence; Leadership = Influence; Leadership + SM = Mass Influence 
  2. 4 out of 5 Americans are active on social media. Have any of you watched a YouTube video? Have you read a news article online. Have you marketed grain online? This is all a part of social media… See, you all are doing it, now just take one step more and be on Twitter and Facebook! 
  3. Opinions are formed daily in communities; ~99 percent of those without any connections to agriculture. It’s our chance as agriculturists to be proactive!
  4. ~1/2 of large acreage farmers spend 5+ hours per week online; 23 percent spend 10+ hours online.
Some of you still skeptical about social media? Think of it as an investment in agriculture. Millions of consumers of your products are on Twitter and it is the perfect venue to share what you do as a producer of our nation's food product!

Take Ray Prock of California’s Ray-Lin Dairy (@RayLinDairy) for example.

When the dairy crisis in the U.S. began impacting his farm, it was only natural for Prock to share his experiences with the public via Twitter. In June 2009, Prock was one of three farmers who led a campaign on Twitter using the hashtag “#moo” to gain public awareness for American dairy farm families suffering through low milk prices. Over the course of eight hours, “#moo” became the fourth-most-popular term in the system, with 3,000 different people saying “#moo” more than 6,000 times! They were successful in reaching about 10,000 people. (Hubbart)

There is a lot of value in using social media to reach the public. Prock simply wants to "get the message of agriculture out there." This is the challenge for all farmers and ranchers nationwide: to get the story and truth of agriculture into the ears of consumers. HSUS, PETA, environmentalists, food critics, etc., are all trying to destroy our industry. Let's be on the offense instead of the defense, and use social media as a new, and effective avenue in today's communication world.

Michele's message drove home the same concept: "Humanize your story."

Consumers need to see a face of the farm from which their food comes from. When farmers can put their stories out for consumers, more knowledge, facts and information can be gained, and we can hope to reach a goal of no more misinformation and myths in agriculture.

If you want to “check out” Twitter without actually setting up a profile, go to: http://www.search.twitter.com/ and see what people are saying about food and agriculture

For those SM'ers online, be sure to check us out on Twitter at @NECornBoard and Facebook!

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