How Social Media Shook Up Crop Tour's Playing Field

September 7, 2016 02:29 AM
How Social Media Shook Up Crop Tour's Playing Field

Online tools give fans virtual access to yield-gathering process 

Pro Farmer has always been transparent in conducting the Midwest Crop Tour—ask a question and you’ll get an answer. Yet in the first year of the Tour in 1993, we couldn’t have dreamed of the clarity we see now.

Facebook brought the Tour to a wider audience, but Twitter is the platform crop scouts emb-raced. It’s quick, it’s easy and followers identify with individual scouts to follow. Twitter has turned a four-day marathon with once-a-night, whole-state results into a horse race of individual field results. Some tour-watchers have taken to handicapping the results from one area of a state against another, all in an effort to front-run actual results.

Pro Farmer has tried not to rein in Tour tweeps. In fact, the nearly instantaneous flow of information from the Tour fits nicely with one of our original goals for the event: “To provide the ind-ustry with an unbiased, unrestricted view of crop potential.” But we’ll admit: In 1993, we felt we had a tad bit of control. We had to compile and release results, and outside of the rare bag phone that came on the trip, minute-by-minute and stop-by-stop results just didn’t happen.

Shift To Digital. Now that’s the norm. Scouts, dedicated to keeping followers informed of what they’re seeing, tweet with consistency and broaden their Twitterverse—this year, with the hashtag #pftour16—to thread their observations along with those from others. 

Scouts dive into digital conversations with Tour watchers and include the photographic evidence to support the data they’ve collected. For scouts, these tweets are a running journal of what they see. For followers, it’s like being on the Tour without the mud, heat, bugs, allergies, long days, short nights and corn-leaf cuts.

“I am glued to Twitter along with Periscope, trying to follow both the East and West legs, hopefully catching a glimpse of yields and how the remainder of the marketing year will be structured,” says Illinois farmer Grant Curtis. “Secretly, I hope it rains during the Tour—not because I like seeing pictures on Twitter of mud, soggy clothes and boot-driers, [but] more for the simple fact I don’t feel so guilty sitting in front of my computer in my air-conditioned office, trolling Twitter instead of completing the endless list of jobs needing to get done around the farm.”

Following the Tour on Twitter can be nearly as time-consuming as being on the Tour itself. During the 2015 event, Tour tweets numbered in the thousands, and most included one of those glimpses into yield potential Curtis is seeking.

Be Patient. That’s where Twitter can turn dangerous. Trying to piece together each nugget into a complete picture of what scouts are seeing that day is nearly impossible. 

The best summary of each day’s Tour is still the once-a-night, whole-state result, which include all input from 10 routes on the western leg and 12 routes on the eastern leg. Final results are a complete picture of each day’s activity, and that’s something that can’t be constructed 140 characters at a time.

In a era with nearly instantaneous flow of information, patience pays. Too many times, we’ve seen one route be an outlier in a state, either gathering pitiful corn yields in a good year or outstanding yield data in an average year. 

Yet even with that warning in place, we welcome your tweets. These daily journals from scouts help make the Tour real for followers, document how data are collected and make it possible for followers to participate in discovery. 

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