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Social Media Can Serve Agriculture

In a recent poll on our website we asked the question: Do you use social media tools?

In a recent poll on our website we asked the question: Do you use social media tools?

Fifty per cent of those participating in the poll said they don’t use social media at all; 42 per cent said they use Facebook, and eight per cent said they use both Twitter and Facebook. What the poll didn’t reveal was how respondents are using social media. 


Those of you with teens and tweens are likely aware of social media tools, and may have a Facebook account to keep up with family and friends. But if you think this application is only for the under­-20 group, think again – the fastest-growing age group on Facebook are users over 35. 

The decision by Prime Minister Harper to prorogue Parliament earlier this year was a catalyst for this growth. A university student was appalled that the prime minister had shut down the government twice in a year, and protested by creating a Facebook group. More than 200,000 people joined. Amazingly, 55 per cent of those joining the group created a Facebook account for the very first time, and most of them were over the age of 45.

That’s a powerful statement on how social media can bring likeminded individuals together for a common purpose or cause. Twitter is also a social networking site but works differently – instead of sharing with only your “friends,” joining groups or becoming fans of web pages within Facebook, Twitter allows users to exchange frequent, quick messages. The reach is global – and Twitter can be a very effective marketing tool.

It can also be beneficial for finding and correcting the misinformation that exists in cyberspace about how food is produced and where it comes from. I read a very good article on the use of social media and farming from the California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF) entitled “Blogging on the range: Farmers link to consumers via social media.” 

The article features four U.S. farmers and discusses how they use blogs and Twitter. Dairy farmer Ray Prock says in the article that what’s key is that Twitter allows him to “see what people in the global community are saying – and talk back to them.”

The target groups for activists are teens and young adults – groups who are adept at social media and often use it as their first stop for news. As Prock says, “If you’re not part of the discussion, then you are the discussion, and if you’re being discussed, you might as well be there.”

If you feel you don’t have the time or the computer skills to master Twitter or Facebook, or set up a blog, ask one of your kids to show you how to get around the social networking world.

Twitter is a great place to start – you can do a search and read what others involved in agriculture are saying. You can sign up and follow what others are saying, and participate only if and when you want to.

Using Twitter is a great way to see what the next trends are and what’s on consumers’ minds, and the site gives consumers a chance to communicate with real farmers and ask questions. As dairy farmer Barbara Martin says in the CFBF article, “The harsh reality is that we will be driven by consumers who do not understand agriculture and anti-agriculture rhetoric if we don’t choose to take 10 to 15 minutes a day to reach out and communicate with folks.”

If you are looking for some ideas on how to put Twitter to use, there are resources available at . Click on “Current Issue” and then “From the Editor.”

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