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Tell your ag story before someone tells it for you

dairy cows in barn
TRUE PICTURE: You can use social media to share true pictures of how animals are cared for today. If you leave the task to someone else, the pictures posted may be appalling and inaccurate.
Commentary: Facebook makes telling your story easy.

By Sheradan Hill  

Online media has exploded within the past few years, and it has become a valuable network for individuals. You might be thinking that social media is just that — a place to connect with people. And while it is, it has also become a source of information.

Over 70% of individuals use social media daily. As these individuals are browsing through posts online, they’re absorbing information and actively seeking it.

As consumer expectations and demands begin to shift, it’s important that positive and accurate information about agriculture is available. The best source of information is a farmer or producer, yet if people are turning to online sources, who are they really learning about agriculture from?

Organizations such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, better known as PETA, have produced very graphic depictions of what animal agriculture looks like. Videos show animals being tortured, stomped on and skinned alive. It is not an accurate depiction, yet this is the type of information consumers are seeing when they search for facts about raising livestock.

Don’t believe me? Just Google something related to the industry, such as “how are dairy cows raised?” The first search result comes from a site that claims the following: “The dairy industry continues to subject cows to abuses in the name of increased profit.”

Share your story
Sharing your own story of agriculture doesn’t have to be complicated. You can use Facebook the same as you would every other day — just add a post about your daily life on the farm. Snap a photo while you’re feeding the calves, record a video while you’re sitting in the combine or even do a live Facebook Q&A. The best part about this is that you can do each of these things easily on your phone.

Facebook is currently the most-used social media platform, and it is user-friendly. It allows you to upload photos, videos and even polls. It is an easy way to interact with consumers.

The possibility of sharing your life on the farm might be overwhelming, but this has become an essential part of storytelling and consumer engagement. People want to know the person behind their food.

Sharing an accurate and positive message about agriculture is becoming more important as our communication shifts toward online media. It is becoming necessary that producers branch out by using Facebook and other platforms to show people what agriculture truly looks like.

Hill is a senior in ag communication at Purdue University.

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