Facebook, Anyone? Don’t Be Afraid to Jump on the Social Media Bandwidth
Jul 23, 2010
By Jane Hillstrom, Hillstrom Communications
People talk behind your back everyday. Opinionated people who have never set foot on a dairy farm click away on their computers and phones discussing eliminating chocolate milk in schools; why calves are separated from their mothers; and the damage from manure spills.
If you aren’t talking back, you are allowing a small group of people to dictate what others need to know about dairy farming and it may not be factual.
Even though you are the expert on all things related to dairy farming, the conversation occurs with or without your presence. As a small business owner, it’s time to embrace the opportunity to converse with the public directly. The megaphone of social media adds your voice and believability to the conversation.
Conversations take place every day on Facebook, Twitter, on blogs and on YouTube, all examples of social media. In the U.S. alone, there are more than 103 million people on Facebook; more than 91 million users of YouTube; and 900,000 new blog posts every 24 hours.
Barbara Luhring, founder of Dairyland Digital, says social media can feed the pipeline of information on dairy without overwhelming the user. "The best way to get started is to take technology baby steps," says Luhring. "Begin one social media platform at a time. For example, join Facebook, the social media gated community and fit it into your daily life. Once you are comfortable with Facebook, add a Twitter account and tweet from your phone."
A year ago, a few dairy producers jumped on the bandwidth as Dairy Advocates. MyDairy, started by Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) — who manages the national dairy checkoff – helps to mobilize dairy producers to speak out using social media.
"We started MyDairy because we wanted to balance positive information with the negative information," says Jolene Griffin, Manager of Industry Communications, Dairy Management Inc. "Who is better to tell dairy’s story than dairy producers?"
Through webinars and workshops, Griffin educated 1,200 dairy producers on the importance of social media and mobilized a fleet to incorporate positive dairy messages into their Facebook and Twitter accounts.
"We see social media as another channel to spread positive information similar to promotions in the grocery store or farm tours," Griffin says. "It’s another way to connect dairy farming with consumers."
Some dairy producers navigate social media like it’s their own backyard. Shannon Seifert, Minnesota dairy producer, began with a personal Facebook page. Next, she created another Facebook page specifically for her dairy, along with a Twitter and YouTube account. Her topics may appear mundane — caring for cows during a heat wave, harvesting corn silage, and chopping hay — but they captivate the average social media voyeur. Seifert inserts dairy messages while discussing how she keeps her animals cool with fans and misters and how high-quality forages convert into quality milk for consumers.
Another social media celebrity, Will Gilmer, a dairy producer from Alabama, started his social media experiment by writing a blog. Today, Gilmer has his own YouTube channel, MooTube Minute, and Twitter account spreading the word on topics from "Water ‘n poo" to weighing milk. He is one of a handful of dairy producers feeding the conversation while driving his tractor across a field or milking cows.
"Social media presents an opportunity to converse and dispel myths," Luhring said. "Some see it as intimidating, but would you sit at a dinner table with 100 other people and not speak up if they were spouting myths about dairy farming? Most likely, not. Consumers find dairy producers credible and admire their authenticity. Take a seat at the social media table to join the conversation."
For more information or to get involved in social media email firstname.lastname@example.org or start a Facebook page for your dairy.
Jane Hillstrom owns Hillstrom Communications, a public relations firm, and is co-founder of Dairyland Digital, the owner of AgVille.com, an educational and networking website for people who work in agriculture. She can be reached at 920.839.5032 or email@example.com.