Moving the Coffee Shop to Your Laptop

Online social networks are putting a face on farm issues.


By Tricia Braid, communications director
Illinois Corn Growers Association

There's been an evolution, or perhaps a revolution, in communication methodologies and how these "social networks" impact the economy and politics. Putting your head in the sand and ignoring this change is not an option. You should seize this shift in communications as the most powerful tool to hit a farmer’s toolbox in quite some time.

The term for this tool is "social media." Social media encompasses a lot of different applications, but it generally describes any conversation that in one form or another utilizes the Internet. E-mail was the original form of social media; more than likely, you’re already involved.

Ag lags behind

Although observers have touted farmers as rapid adopters of technology, their adoption of social media has lagged behind the curve for many reasons. But at what price? It’s difficult to put a dollar figure on the costs or benefits of individual farmers participating in social media. But the absence of a voice from the farm is conspicuous, given that many conversations about you are going on without you.

There are discussions about atrazine, organic farming, ethanol, vegetarian lifestyles, farm subsidies... you name it, the conversation is taking place. In too many cases, there’s no farmer providing a farm perspective.

The conclusions of these conversations are predictable, but we may not realize their potential impacts are far-reaching. These same conversations move to the Facebook pages of elected officials. Hollywood stars tweet their vegan lifestyle. Cable news makes a reporter out of whoever posted the latest video on YouTube.

Don’t get left out

The threat of not being involved is being left out. In this case, it's not just being left out of the conversation, it's being left out of consideration in legislation, litigation and regulation at all levels, from the local school board to Congress. These are the things that social media is influencing.

Being involved can be as simple as starting a Facebook page or a Twitter account. Most cell phones now can participate in social media, allowing a farmer tweeting from the tractor to be as regular an occurrence as checking your yield monitor during harvest.

Before declining to participate, consider this: Recent research by farm organizations in Illinois indicates most people will have a positive impression of farmers and farming if they have just one experience on a farm. Middle-aged women who participated in the study harkened back to their grade school field trips, and the one time they met a farmer, saw a cow and got dirty.

Social media can deliver the farm to such people. It can put a face on the issue. Your face. Don't be mistaken, we all have a face for social media. This revolution in how information is shared and decisions are made is all about people. And people like us need to have a voice.


 
 
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