While studying the usage of social media as a wonderful marketing tool, I can’t help but wonder what affect these tools would have as a tool for spreading agricultural awareness.While exploring on Twitter, I see an increasing number of posts and accounts related to agriculture and agriculture awareness. According to David Hest in a recent article for Farm Industry News, “a growing cadre of farmers is harnessing social media as a tool for communicating with consumers about the business of agriculture”. But, are these farmers and other agricultural leaders “harnessing” the social media tool to it’s full advantage?
In the Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications program where I work, we are experimenting with social media in a variety of ways in an attempt to see which tools are most effective for us as a program. We have had a presence on Facebook for over a year now, but limited availability of interesting new content to post has caused a very slow growth in membership for the page. We recently have been attempting to update our Facebook page on a more regular basis and include more agriculture related content. In the next few weeks, we will begin posting weekly agricultural issues clips (written and produced by undergraduate and graduate students in our department) to share current agricultural information through our Facebook and Twitter pages. The short clips will be part of a weekly web show titled, “Ag in under 10”, which we will be posting on our YouTube channel. We will then link back to the YouTube video with our Facebook and Twitter accounts, and our eventually our program website.
The ALEC program is also experimenting with social media as a teaching tool to stimulate conversations about agriculture within our student body. So far, we have experimented with Blogger as our primary blogging platform, but hopefully we will be able to incorporate a wider range of social media into our Agricultural Communications classes in future semesters. This semester, we are using Blogger as a discussion board for students in ALEC 211: Foundations of Agricultural Extension and Education. You can visit our blog to meet our student bloggers here. They will officially start posting commentary and comments on agriculture related topics in the next few weeks. It is still to be seen, however, whether incorporating blogging into our classrooms will prove effective. We do know, however, that it is necessary to engage in the social media community and promote agriculture as often as possible to counter negative messages portrayed by anti-agriculture groups.
It is our jobs as concerned agriculturalists to help promoted agriculture through all possible media-whether that be Facebook, Twitter or the local newspaper.You can use these 6 tips for using social media for agriculture to help promote your farm, a favorite agricultural cause or a national event-such as the 2011 National Ag Day. According to Andy Vance in ABN, “By engaging both their critics and customers via Facebook and Twitter, farmers are able to forge relationships with consumers and opinion-leaders 24/7, giving them a more stable foothold when radical enemies assault the farm family in the mainstream press and in the halls of power in state capitals and the Congress of the United States.” In other words, the playing field is being leveled between agriculturalists and organizations such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) who are constantly downing agriculture quite vocally through a myriad of media channels. Here in the realm of social media everyone can have a voice, and it is our job to use our voice to support the things we care about — in this case, agriculture.
UPDATE: Here’s the link to our video update on Alternative Fuel and Energy!