June 23, 2010

Nebraska farmers not only work dirt, they work agvocacy!

Last Friday transpired a “first” for several Nebraska farmers – they engaged in social media! Farmers and individuals involved in agriculture met up from across the state in Beatrice, Nebraska to participate in the Social Media Training Workshop, conducted by Michele Payn-Knoper, founder of Cause Matters, Corp. and AgChat Foundation. This workshop was coordinated by the Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Corn Growers Association and was sponsored by the National Corn Growers Association’s Image and Activism Campaign Project.

Michele is one of the foremost experts on using social media tools to get positive messages out about agriculture. She started out the session explaining the importance of farmers using social media to agvocate and the power that conversations within social media hold.

“Are you concerned about how the media is portraying agriculture, and how consumers view where their food comes from?” Payn-Knoper asked. “Because the conversation is happening, whether you are there or not.”

Real headlines in today’s online communications and news articles read, “Dirty Corn Ethanol”; “The Vulgar Truth about U.S. Meats”; “Is the Ethanol Industry Failing or Flourishing?”; “Corn industry brazenly turns Gulf disaster into marketing opportunity”; “Why High Fructose Corn Syrup is Bad For You”. These journalists are reaching people with their messages, and consumers believe them! This is why it is so important to get the real voice of agriculture heard.

Michele shared some important facts with the participants about social media and networking. According to Jupiter Research, social networking users are three times more likely to trust the opinions of peers over advertisements when making decisions. This leads to the fact that what farmers do is novel to most consumers and that farmers are a trusted source of information about where their food comes from. The average American consumer spends 2.7 hours per day on the mobile web, which allows for a great audience for farmers to put out positive messages about agriculture!

Michele also set some ground rules for agriculturalists using social media:
1. Be 100% authentic and transparent.
2. Build a community around your purpose for engaging in a social network.
3. Understand that your updates are a novelty to 98.5% of U.S. population.
4. Expand beyond agriculture; test messages and ideas in new circles of connections (i.e. If you like running, connect with other runners in social media which gives you a broader audience to share your positive agriculture messages.)
5. Engage in conversation with your community. (i.e. Don’t just be a listener to read what others are saying about agriculture – contribute your ideas!)
6. Put a face on the plate, helps consumers relate. (i.e. Choose a picture of yourself instead of your farm equipment or field.)

In the morning portion of the workshop, participants were introduced to the essentials about facebook and those who didn’t already have an account got hands-on help signing up. In the afternoon, participants learned all about twitter and everyone who didn’t have twitter signed up and started “tweeting” on the spot! Tweeps at the workshop who started twitter before included: @mpaynknoper, @rrjanousek, @NECornBoard, @Ag4Front, @NeCGA, @Cornfrmr, @NESoybeanBoard, @megamaru, @nebrnancy, and @cornfedfarmer. New tweeps after the end of the day included: @NE_AFAN, @kyleregelean, @bzanga, @farmproud, @kaggdaddy, @farmdrg, @weselyfarms, and @kathyu13.

Michele gave Nebraska a compliment that we had some of the most tech-savvy farmers in all the workshops so far she’s seen. But that just allowed her to challenge the group to continue using social media for a bigger and broader voice for agriculture!

To read more about Nebraska Corn’s efforts in social media, visit these websites:
Nebraska Corn Board on LinkedIn

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