With Dino Giacomazzi
"Dairies are nothing but factories that torture animals and pollute the environment for profit!"
Have you heard this before? Have you read statements like this on websites? How does it make you feel when you read or hear misinformation about your business? Do you get angry and feel like there is nothing that you can really do about it?
It’s easy to ignore this type of blatantly false information and expect that someone else is going to deal with it. But here in California, we have learned the hard way that inaction is no longer an option. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the Humane Society of the United States and many other anti-agriculture groups are influencing people who are walking into grocery stores and ballot boxes in your town.
So what does this have to do with you? Everything! The best defense against misinformation is the truth. And the best opportunity we have to show consumers and voters the truth about dairy farming is through social media.
Social media is a collective term used for the different ways that people can interact on the Internet. Sometimes, it’s a website. Sometimes, it’s a mobile app or a program on a computer. There are plenty of these tools, and they’re valuable for sharing a message—your message, the truth about what you do on your farm.
Facebook is the most popular form of social media. It offers opportunities to share your words through status updates and comments, but you can post video, links and photos from a profile as well. You can also use Pages, which are similar to profiles but are meant to represent non-
humans: businesses, organizations, ideas, brands, etc. All of this can easily be managed straight from a smartphone.
There are other social media options aside from Facebook. Twitter allows you to post short messages of up to 140 characters. It’s a great tool for reaching people you don’t already know, which is one of the biggest hurdles that farmers and dairy people face. Twitter is also a great venue for discussion, using keywords called hashtags. Hashtags make it easy to find tweets relating to a particular topic, which is incredibly useful.
Instagram is another way to tell agri-culture’s story. It’s a picture-sharing platform, and it’s incredibly easy to use on a smartphone. As with Twitter, people you don’t always interact with are able to see your photos. Sharing pictures of day-to-day happenings on your operation could help introduce them to a more honest and accurate view of agriculture.
It’s highly unlikely that we’ll ever be able to address every type of misinformation that’s out there, but social media allows us to speak to a broader audience with a better use of our time. Social media is still a relatively new concept, and it may seem intimidating. But when you come right down to it, farmers starting Twitter accounts today may help us avoid overregulation and public misunderstanding down the road.
I can’t stop and chat with every concerned consumer in the grocery store, but my social media presence may make all the difference to someone who’s never spoken to a dairyman before.