You likely haven’t gone a day recently without seeing a or reference to social media. The iconic bird of Twitter on a magazine ad. A funny video on YouTube. Your class reunion being organized on Facebook. Whether you are actively participating on these social platforms or not – they have arrived – and are integrated into our daily routine.
Social media has been a culture changer; it’s been adopted at record pace, with Facebook reaching 150 million users nearly five times faster than cell phones. There are now more Facebook users than cars (one billion vs. 750 million). Pinterest is changing online shopping. Nearly 900,000 videos will be uploaded to YouTube today. Our social world is vast and overwhelming.
Yet, if you care about food or farming, I’d encourage you to actively use at least one of these tools for 15 minutes/day. Here’s why:
- Only 1.5% of our population is on a farm, which means rural photos, videos, tweets and people talking about farming is a novelty to the majority. It’s about giving a voice to the minority.
- 66% of online adults are connected to one or more social media platform. If people with firsthand experience in food production aren’t speaking up, you need to know there are many anti-agriculture activists groups will be glad to be your voice. Misinformation is prolific
- Farmers share best practices, foodies share ideas and get questions answers, specialty farm products are marketed, agro tourism is promoted and much more. You can connect more closely connecting with others that have an interest in food, feed, fuel and fiber.
What should you do to talk about food and farming in our social world? It’s not as complicated as you might think. Invest 15 minutes a day for a few weeks and you’ll be surprised at the connections you make. If you’re an “owners manual” person, check out the Ohio Farm Bureau Guide to Getting Started at http://ofbf.org/uploads/social-media-guide.pdf. And if you’re a farmer who really wants to go deep with social media, see http://agchat.org for a wealth of resources on “advocacy.”
There’s no need to be embarrassed or make this difficult. I keep a reference list around social media as it relates to food and farming at http://www.causematters.com/ag-social-media/. Let’s look at three social tools and my recommendation of where you can get more details.
- Facebook: Likened to a coffee shop, it’s one of the most intuitive tools. You control which “friends” are in your coffee shop and how much information you share. People stop in to chat about what they care about, share photos, link to videos and articles of interest. Pages are a bit like the place mat ads of yesterday, linking you to businesses and organizations with common interests as long as you “like” them. And groups are similar to that group of old guys in the corner – groups are built around specific commonalities or goals. The best place to figure out more about Facebook is using the help function at the bottom right.
- Twitter: This is the social gathering that involves people from all walks of life, with a fire hose of information spraying on you. You determine which room of the party you go to with hash tags (#), lists and keywords. Each tweet is a message that’s 140 characters. The Twitterverse is a little crazy, but worth your effort if you want the latest news and connections with a wide variety of “tweeps” (people). You can learn more at http://www.causematters.com/news-and-media/tiptoe-into-twitter-twools-to-get-started/ or simply roll up your sleeves and try it out.
- Pinterest: The new kid on the block is virtual bulletin board. It is retaining and engaging users 2-3x better than Twitter was at a similar time in their company history. Around 10.5 million people “pin” images, 80% of which are women. I just wrote a piece on the value of this tool at http://www.causematters.com/advocacy/farming-the-human-value-of-pinterest/ or see the Food & Agriculture
You may not agree with our social media dominated world, but 57% of people talk to people more online than they do in real life. Couple that with 2/3 of those purchasing food are thinking about how it’s produced on a regular basis according to U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance research. It screams opportunity for the majority of folks reading this!
If you’re not on a farm, try a social tool to learn more about your food. You can find farmers blogging all over the country at http://www.causematters.com/ag-resources/ or simply do a search on any of the tools – you’ll likely be surprised with what you find from the people producing food.
I hope farmer readers understand groups such as HSUS increased their Twitter following more than 100x in the last three years. Don’t you think your voice needs to be part of the conversation around food and farming in our social world? I know your voice is needed – hope to see you online!
*Note from MPK ~ Maryland Farm Bureau recently featured this piece in their member magazine, so I wanted to pass it on in case you had someone in your life who might be a later adopter of these tools. Feel free to add your tips and tricks.