It is a hot topic in agriculture — lots of discussions about agriculture are being held online. One of the points that several have made clearly is agriculture’s messages are being communicated online and if farmers want to be part of the conversation, they need to be on the major social media networks. And while I know there are LOTS of farmers online telling their personal story — we will always need more! And those of us in ag who are here already need to make sure we help people get the tools they need to tell their story. As farmers join the ranks, they know their farm & their story. Sometimes they don’t know where to get started though and I figured I could put a few quick thoughts together.
TELL YOUR STORY — With farmers, frequently I hear people say what they do isn’t that interesting. Not sure if that’s humility or lack of understanding of what people can connect with, but I do know that it’s wrong! LOL. Seriously, a tweet saying what you have ahead for the day, what through a kink in your plans, where your crop is growth wise, how your livestock are, those are all things that help people understand what it’s like to be a farmer. If you can take a picture with your mobile phone or something , all the better! (Click here to check out some of the pics posted by MegRaeB.)
When you tell your story, think about using a hashtag so people who aren’t following you can find it. A hashtag is the pound sign # with a word to make it easily searchable. Lots of us in agriculture use #agchat, #farm, #ag & #food — watch to see what others are using too. Sometimes we use them for a special event like the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting (#AFBF10). Look through a few of those hashtags now & then, it’s amazing how you can find new followers who may just become dear friends in the coming months.
LISTEN — There are lots of others online telling their stories. Incredible things to be learned! From others in the ag community as well as from consumers. It was by listening and asking questions that I’ve become aware about many aspects of agriculture I didn’t have first-hand experience with before. If someone else is tweeting things you think others should see, you retweet it so your followers can see it as well. You can also quote it which is an RT with a short note you add to personalize it.
PARTICIPATE IN THE COMMUNITY — Agriculture is a really big tent. And the online ag community is the same. We have people out here with small farms and others with big farms; people who like traditional methods of production, some who like biotech and others who prefer organic. All are helping feed their communities and the world. There are a lot of shared experiences & knowledge, some differences of opinion and choice too. A lot of the ag community participates in #agchat on Tuesday nights (info on agchat), once a month is #foodchat that more directly engages consumers, food scientists, etc.
With such diverse participants, differences of opinion are to be expected. And those differences can frequently help us move the conversation forward. The vast majority of people do not see things in black and white but there are lots of shades of gray. And lots of people who are our customers may not have heard a lot of information come right from the farm. Sometimes we need to slow down & listen to their stories & questions with open minds. Only after you’ve listened well can you really clear up any misunderstandings.
One community activity that has grown during 2009 is the types of programs that depend on voting. There have been voting campaigns for things as diverse as the top twitter user of the year to best college-produced video. In many of these, the ag community has come together to be sure that some of our folks are in the mix. It’s a great morale booster to see what we can do, but more importantly every vote helps provide additional visibility for our livelihood. And it’s usually a very easy process of sending a tweet or logging into a website.
HOW TWITTER WORKS
Some of the mechanics of twitter can be a bit daunting for a newbie too. There are basic questions like what does ___ mean & why is it in a tweet?
@____ is a way to address something to be sure someone sees it
RT or via in front of @____ means the tweet came from another user
#____ is a easy to use search (for an earlier post of mine talking about hashtags – click here)
Jody Donohoe (aka agropinion) wrote this great blog entry to help folks get a start.
DOWNLOAD AN APPLICATION OR TWO — One thing I can’t recommend enough, is to load a program on your computer & your mobile phone to make it easy to find and share information. Find out what programs you know are using. I use Seesmic on the laptop — that and tweetdeck seem to be the most popular. Those programs let you organize your tweets — they default to have columns for the tweets people you follow are sending, a column for replies/mentions (something that has @ & your userID — someone either retweeted or forwarded what you’ve said or thought you’d be interested in something) and one for direct messages (a private version of a tweet that usually is coded with a d & the username). You can actually reach these programs by simply clicking on the word in the information section of someone’s tweet.
Hope this helps someone out there get started! If you have any questions, there’s a great community to help out. I for one will be glad to answer some questions as people try to figure out twitter out… and I happen to know we have some farmer rockstars out here who do a great job of lending a hand!