I’ve really pondered this question lately: How do we tell the story of modern agriculture in the social media world? How do we truly “reach beyond the choir”? Although that was the very theme of the AgChat Foundation’s Agvocacy 2.0 conference this past August, I’ve pondered how well we’ve really accomplished the goal.
One thing I’ve observed recently is a sense of frustration among a few friends in the ag industry at the apparent slow pace of truly getting the modern ag story out beyond the friendly confines of the ag community. While I can certainly understand the concern, I truly believe that the difficulty in reaching out is simply a result of the great challenge in actually developing meaningful relationships via social media. The studies I’ve seen suggest that the VAST majority of social media users are there for the expressed purpose of connecting with family and friends, not to explore new areas of interest.
However, despite the challenges, I think there is tremendous opportunity. If there’s one thing we’ve learned in the last couple of years of this work, it’s that people want to connect with people, real genuine people. There’s a lot of that in the ag community, a lot of diversity in passion, interests, etc. I’m going to highlight a couple of examples that I think demonstrate very effective and doable agvoacy techniques:
First, Zach Hunnicutt (he’ll be a bit surprised to see his name show up here). I’ve gotten to know Zach fairly well over the last year or so as we’ve worked together on various agvocacy projects. Zach has some very strong passions, rather than re-describing them here, I’ll just send you to Zach’s own words on the subject. The key message to me is this, take what your passionate about, be involved/active in that on social media. Earn the trust and respect of those who share your passion, share your other interests/passions as appropriate, in a very similar model to how you would with friends in the offline world.
Another example I want to share is the “Real Farmwives of America“. If you follow the social media scene at all, you know that “mommy bloggers” represent a very important and influential group. It is a very difficult thing for me as a farmer to connect with a significant number of mommy bloggers, the good ones are constantly bombarded with pitches from folks quite frankly attempting to do the same thing. What the Real Farmwives has done is simply became a group of very effective/successful mommy bloggers (and more!) themselves, and that has led to connections and relationships in the larger mommy blogger community that has resulted in some very nice agvocacy success stories.
So, what’s the moral of this story? First, lets talk about what doesn’t work. I think a good many of us, when we first tried to be good agvocates, basically made it a race to see how much ag information we could share in a day. I know that was my approach at times, there will be some folks that works well for, for many part of the maturing process is realizing there probably is a better approach.
To me, the most effective agvocacy efforts come from simply living (BOTH offline and on) the passions that you have. It may be the passion you have as a parent, it may be a hobby or interest, it may simply be the enjoyment of interacting with a diverse group of people. You may be like me, and keep the other passions in your life more removed from the public online world and do most of the communication you really care about privately. Or you may feel your only passion IS agriculture, that’s ok, there’s plenty of opportunity there as well, maybe I’ll share some thoughts there in a future post! Whatever your passion, whatever your interest, social media offers wonderful opportunity to connect with individuals that share that, keep in mind it’s first and formost about enjoying and benefiting from that experience! And then, having developed some new relationships, share your ag passion as well. To me, that is agvocacy done right.