~ guest blog post by Susan Crowell, http://farmanddairy.com
I’m a farm journalist. A writer. Telling stories is what I do best. No, not tall tales, but the stories of everyday people, the stories of how laws and policies affect farm folks, and the stories of great joy and unbelievable heartache — the stories of life.
Stories are powerful, because people pay attention to stories. Facts are boring, statistics are boring, lectures are boring, sermons are boring. But stories? We sit up and listen. Storytelling pulls in people with real world pictures and sounds and scents. Stories create connections.
Your participation in social media — by commenting on online blogs or articles, by starting conversations with strangers on Twitter, or by sharing your farm story on a blog — is powerful because your voice, the voice of “real” farmers, manure-splashed-boots-on-the-ground farmers, is the voice everyone wants to hear. They don’t want to listen to me, I’m just the middleman. They want to listen to you.
When you want a recommendation for a nice restaurant, who do you turn to? Most likely, your friends or family. But in today’s age, you might also turn to your social media networks, because you’ve come to “know” these people, even those you’ve never met face to face.
You have that same value and trust to individuals in your social networks, in return. Your stories can make agriculture come alive to a single parent in metropolitan Chicago. Your stories can bridge gaps between farm and nonfarm residents, between organic and conventional producers and supporters.
Your voice, your stories, give these other groups a bigger lens through which they can now view agriculture. Just like sharing a story at the coffee shop with the city councilman. Only your “local community” is as wide and deep as you want to make it. As you make those connections, a wonderful thing happens: conversations. Questions. And answers. Jokes. Suggestions. And, yes, challenges and prodding.
You are a living, breathing farmer, and your passion can impact others more than the cold, hard facts. You know, the boring stuff. There’s a reason the USDA developed its “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” campaign. It’s called “putting a face on agriculture.”
Social media brings us life on speed. We are connected to each other in nanoseconds. Things that used to take years now happen in minutes. News travels quicker than heifers find open gates. We have larger platforms to get points across, more quickly than ever before.
As Associated Press writer Andrew Welsh-Huggins Tweeted recently: “1st day thought from Kiplinger social media program: moving from “Mass Communication to Massive Communication.”
Agriculture needs to be in that arena of “massive communication”. Conversations are taking place, with or without you — conversations that impact public opinion and public policy.
We’re in a new media world order. Consumers don’t need me (a traditional journalist) anymore (well, yes, they do, but that’s a post for another day!), when they can get their stories from you.
The great thing about social media is that it’s not just a one-way street. Through it, farmers can look for other voices to learn from and grow with: mommy bloggers, gardeners, foodies, and yes, even journalists. They have stories to tell, too.
Don’t think this new media world order is out of your league, because it’s not. You don’t have to learn it all, but you do have to dip your toe in the water to get started.
Helen Keller said: “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”
The world is waiting to hear your side of the story.
Susan Crowell is the editor of Farm and Dairy newspaper in Salem, Ohio. They are one of the leading agricultural publications on social media; find them on Twitter and at http://www.facebook.com/farmanddairy on Facebook. Check out the newspaper’s new blog, The Social Silo. When she’s not writing farm stories, Susan takes long walks on the beach. Oh, wait, that must’ve been in her dreams. In the real world, she worries about her two kids in college (anyone hiring an elementary school teacher?) and has been known to write rant Tweets about poor spelling and grammar.