Lessons Learned

ACOM 5308 enabled me to take a more in-depth look at how social media impacts agricultural communication. Listed below are the three most important concepts, ideas, and principles I have learned in this course. In no particular order:

Social media’s presence is everywhere!                                     

Frito lay picWe are inundated with it on a daily basis. I can honestly say I underestimated social media’s influence before this class. This became evident to me one night while watching TV and noticing the majority of commercials ended with a Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or Instagram logo present on the screen. Having been previously lost in the fog, my eyes had been opened!

Its ubiquity is easily seen by looking at statistics. In class we learned that six billion hours of video are watched on YouTube each month and Facebook has 1.3 billion users, approximately 20% of the world’s population.

I recently went to Subway and purchased a bag of Frito Lay chips and sure enough the back of the bag read, “Find us on facebook.com/fritolay!” If you’re a business and not incorporating social media as part of your marketing plan, you should be. Businesses need to embrace social media to thrive and stay competitive. Similar to an athletic scenario, they need to get in the game instead of watching from the sideline.

Building a fan base

So you’ve decided to use a social media platform and identified your target audience. This is great but there are a few basic housekeeping tasks to gain an audience and keep them engaged. One of the most important elements, consistency is integral to any social media platform. Followers don’t want to read or see what happened two years ago, they want to see what’s going on today. Publishing content must occur on a consistent basis to sustain a viewer’s interest. Content must also be relevant to your target audience. You need to resonate with them or satisfy some need or purpose. Quality, valuable, useful content gets and keeps followers. Another key element, creating dialogue among audience members, enables viewer’s to connect with each other. Through dialogue and conversation followers can share stories and make comments making them feel their input is valued and appreciated.

As with any technology, social media has benefits and drawbacks

Listening and responding to comments, building relationships, reputation control, and enhancing brand recognition are all benefits of social media. And even better yet, having an online presence through social media is FREE! With 93% of shoppers’ buying decisions influenced by social media, consumers are more apt to believe testimonials over advertising (Source: Erik Qualman, #Socialnomics 2014).

With these benefits also come drawbacks. Commonly social media serves as an outlet or venue for people to vocally express their opinions. News travels in exponential rates on social media, faster than it does by word of mouth. A fire that starts can quickly get out hand. Privacy is another concern with social media. People willingly post personal information about themselves, pictures of their children, videos of coworkers getting drunk at the company Christmas party, etc. This digital footprint exists forever in the cloud. Unfortunately we live a world where trust is hard to come by.

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Social Media in Agriculture

I have been a Facebook user since 2009. However, I didn’t realize the true magnitude of how social media impacts our lives until I enrolled in the course Utilizing Social Media in Agricultural Communications taught by Dr. Courtney Gibson at Texas Tech University. Multiple social media platforms exist and all feature benefits such as free advertisement, information dissemination, and providing a means for viewers to share their opinions. Using social media in agriculture is very important! It’s a form of technology enjoyed by users that shouldn’t be ignored.

The following is a list of 10 examples featuring good social media use in agriculture.

YouTube                                                                    

John Deere                                        youtube-logo[1]

John Deere demonstrates good social media use with their YouTube channel. Videos are grouped into segments such as agriculture, forestry, and construction in addition to playlists featuring specific topics such as John Deere Financial, Improving Your Efficiency, and Haymaking Tips and Tricks. With Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn plugins on their home page they are also easily accessible on other social media platforms.  John Deere engages in conversations with viewers through their discussion page as well.

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)  

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) does a good job of putting time and effort into their YouTube channel.  They consistently post media with their last video uploaded two days ago in addition to featuring their logo as their profile picture. The USDA also has other channels they subscribe to and are persistent in displaying their contact information at the end of every video. The USDA extends their influence on social media by not only utilizing YouTube but Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Instagram, and Google Plus to name a few.

North Dakota State University Extension Service (NDSU)

Extension focuses on helping people better their lives through unbiased research. NDSU’s channel features videos grouped into playlists such as Horticulture for the Home, Fall Lawn and Garden, and Farm Safety. These videos show the results of people utilizing their services. NDSU consistently uploads videos with their last one added three weeks ago. Subscribing to other channels also helps viewers identify similar topics.

Twitter                  

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)twitter

Although I do not support HSUS and their agriculture abolishment efforts, I figured they must be doing something right when it comes to social media because they are VERY effective in persuading people. Turns out I was right unfortunately! They publish about 3-4 tweets everyday for their followers to see what’s happening in real time. With about 2000 pictures and videos, utilizing cute pictures of cats and dogs and funny animal stories is what they do best. They also attract followers by commonly re-tweeting other messages. In opposition to HSUS, the detective group HumaneWatch is also present on Twitter where they share findings about HSUS’s donations to animal shelters.

Fastline

I will admit that my strength in agriculture lies in dairying and animal welfare. With a desire to learn about agriculture equipment, I enjoy reading Fastline’s Twitter feed. They practice good social media use by consistently posting at least one tweet everyday and frequently share other tweets and use mentions. These two actions provide more exposure to Twitter users and aid in searching hashtags. Their photos often feature timeless quotes and eye appealing typography. Fastline’s tweets are very positive and uplifting as well.

Facebook

Heartwood FarmFacebook_icon

Heartwood Farm is a great example of social media use for variety of reasons.  The farm is working to establish themselves in the social media world by using their logo in their profile picture in addition to a masthead with a beautiful cow picture. The majority of their posts also include a picture, video, or link to a website putting even more opportunities at the viewers’ fingertips. In their posts they also                                                        utilize hashtags which works to also cross promote their tweets on Twitter.

World Dairy Expo

With almost 20,000 likes, World Dairy Expo utilizes Facebook to promote this event held in Madison, WI. They serve as a good example of social media use for a variety of reasons but I believe they best exemplify this because of their extensive photo gallery. This helps attract prospective visitors and in addition to showcasing their pictures, they post messages consistently throughout the year even though expo occurs only for one week in early October. World Dairy Expo engages its viewers by hosting contests and encouraging dialogue with its followers.

Agriculture Everyday

Agriculture Everyday does a fantastic job of keeping viewers engaged with their photos, videos, and neat infographics that accompany their posts. They needed a timeline photo and sponsored a contest where followers could submit their pictures to be voted on. This way a great way to make viewers feel important by getting them involved. They feature newsworthy content and facts with brief, pertinent posts.

Instagram

instagramNational FFA Organization

The National FFA Organization effectively utilizes Instagram to promote their group with their display of attractive, high quality, and creative photos of FFA students across the nation. They incorporate other social media platforms such as Twitter into their pictures to create conversation with hashtags such as #goffa and #ffathanks. My favorite photo is a screen shot with Easton Corbin’s tweet mentioning National FFA. It’s a great example of how they used a celebrity and his influence to their benefit.

Bonnie Mohr

Instagram is a great social media outlet for Bonnie to showcase her paintings and photographs. As one of the most well-known artists in agriculture, her work is conveniently assorted by date.  All of her images are of excellent quality with hashtags such as #lifeonthefarm and #summer as Twitter identifiers. Her tagline provides a brief description of her that includes her website and subsequent blog link. She really makes her site personal, sharing who she is and her love for painting and rural life.

 

 

 

10 Examples of Blogs I Like

Below are 10 examples of blogs that I enjoy reading. They include topics such as agriculture, country living, relationships, fashion, and food. In no particular order without further adieux…

Agriculture

The Adventures of Dairy Carrie

Carrie’s blog is aimed at sharing about life on a dairy farm and the real truth about what goes on behind closed gates! The picture on her homepage is so captivating; it immediately draws my attention every time I view the page. Carrie shares information (for example, June Dairy Month facts) that is timely and easy to understand for those without an ag background. I like how Carrie’s Twitter feed also shows up on her home page. It’s very easy to read her short posts saving me time.

Michele Payn-Knoper’s Gate to Plate Blog

Focused on communicating agriculture with the public, Michele encourages comments on her page but most importantly, takes time to respond to her viewers. She also makes her blog simple to share by putting Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus, and LinkedIn social icons on her page. Her posts are well-written and professional and she is a true ‘agvocate,’ one of the reasons she is one of my favorite bloggers.

Living My Dream, Becoming a Vet

With an interest in animal husbandry, this blog appealed to me because I am very impressed with the author’s sincerity. In class we learned to start blogging and not stop to be effective, but in this blogger’s case, she announced her retirement from blogging because she is graduating from vet school in June. Her posts were brief and focused on helping others by sharing questions about entrance into vet school. It’s nice to read a blog that doesn’t have a narcissistic feel from the author.

Country Living

Betsy’s Backyard Blog

Oodles of pictures accompany this blog! Below each picture is a short caption making skimming the article much easier. Betsy’s photograph is located on the home page and I find it to be a nice touch because it makes her blog more personal. I am always looking for new adventures and opportunities. This blog offers a little bit of both.

The Pioneer Woman

It seems like anything you would ever want to know about country life can be found on this blog!   Her posts are so humorous, detailed, and engaging that you could probably spend all day reading. If you are more of a visual learner this is the perfect blog…. a myriad of pictures follow the text.

Relationships

What’s Love Got to Do with It?

Featuring true relationship stories, this blog’s content is consistently brief and humorous making it a light read. At the bottom of the page you can easily click on the next post in the series; this makes it very addicting because you want to keep reading! Often in relationships you can’t explain a person’s actions and reading these stories makes you realize this is actually normal!

Fashion

Travel Underwear: How Many Should I Pack for My Year Round Trip?

It may sound like an odd blog but in a girl’s world it’s such a pertinent question because it seems like we ALWAYS over pack! I like how she has links on the sidebar relating to checklists and guides for packing when traveling. Throughout her text she also uses a bright color to set keywords apart that link to a different website that open up in a new window.

Food

The Messy Baker

It’s a catchy title for a blog with mouth-watering pictures. A list of tagged keywords are easily accessible at the top of the page. She also has a save and print icon conveniently located next to her recipes. I really enjoy how Charmian also uses humor and you can tell she really is passionate about baking and its okay to make a mess in the kitchen!

A Farmgirl’s Dabbles

As a food connoisseur, I love to eat- I would do it professionally if I wouldn’t gain any weight… and got paid! Brenda’s blog features recipes with pictures of delicious dishes inspiring this new thing I have been trying for me and my boyfriend- cooking. She has about 2 giveaways a month, perfect for people like me who like to win free things.

Safe and Healthy: Preserving Food at Home 

Because of my love to eat as mentioned earlier, I figured a blog about food safety might be worth investigating. The University of Wisconsin-Extension’s blog incorporates images to complement the text and tags each post with at least three keywords. This makes searching for a specific word a piece of cake. They also use narrated videos to help viewers safely learn how to preserve food. The content (ex: Grilling in the Summer) is also timely and immediately applicable.