California producer uses Facebook, Twitter and his own Web site.
From his dairy in Hanford, Calif., Dino Giacomazzi wields a personal sphere of influence that extends to thousands of people around the world.
Through social media like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and his own Web site, Giacomazzi communicates regularly with friends, family and business colleagues. But this fourth-generation dairy producer does more than trade baby pictures and make restaurant recommendations.
Giacomazzi uses social networking sites to advocate on issues he believes are critical to dairy's survival.
"I am trying to help save my industry,” says the 41-year-old Giacomazzi, who milks 950 cows on the dairy his family started in 1893.
Among the causes he has espoused: "Save California's Milk Supply,” with nearly 4,100 members on Facebook. He created the campaign last year to fight proposed legislation aimed at eliminating California's milk pricing system.
Other online causes include Farm2U, developed with California dairy producer Ray Prock, Jr., and connecting farmers and ranchers with answer-seeking consumers; and Support Your Farmers, They Feed You.
Giacomazzi also blogs. In October, he used his Web site to vent his displeasure with how Congress appropriated $350 million to the dairy industry.
Giacomazzi may be one of the few U.S. dairy producers who fully embrace social media to advance industry issues. But he's just one of millions of people around the world who use online sites to get their news and share their concerns. Facebook alone has 350 million users, about 70% of whom are outside the U.S.
Such numbers tell Giacomazzi that social media platforms are the places to be. "People are having online conversations everyday about where their food comes from,” he says. "To influence their opinions and buying decisions, we have to be there. Facebook makes it easy for anyone to join the conversation. You don't have to be a computer nerd or a marketer to do it.”
Giacomazzi knows of some 20 U.S. dairy producers and 200 farmers and ranchers who are using social media for advocacy. They represent "an infinitesimal fraction of the 2 million family farmers” nationwide, he says. "If we got just 1% of them to participate in some way, we would have a huge impact.”
Giacomazzi doesn't expect every producer to join the online conversation. "But it is a new world where consumers and voters are skeptical of advertising and more likely to take recommendations from peers,” he says. "Either we can be the ones to make those recommendations, or we can let the radical vegans and environmentalists do it for us.”
- January 2010