Chat for a cause
Eighty-seven percent of online community members participate in causes that are new to them.
What if one of them is agriculture?
Auburn University’s Anne Adrian says some of the public pressure agriculture now feels could be a result of various action groups being active in social media and on the Internet. Nearly all Internet users also log on to find out more about social causes.
“It may help explain why there’s more pressure from an environmental standpoint,” Adrian says.
Deltapine spokeswoman Janice Person can see that.
• Online community members are likely to join new social causes.
• Ag leaders are a credible online source for information.
• Ag advocacy also is good for ag business.
“They’re out there telling their story,” Person says. “They’re shooting more than arrows at us.”
Those arrows, often shot from the hip, are being deflected with science and reality as more farmers log on, tweet, chat on Facebook and become YouTube movie stars.
“At this point it’s an ag advocacy sort of thing,” Adrian says. About mid-2009, the number of farmers involved in social media expanded — almost exponentially. Now, Adrian says, “there’s beginning to be understanding from an empathy standpoint.”
It’s all about connecting with people, Person says.
“It gives us a chance to be a lot more aware of what’s happening and connect to some of these people who might not have any other opportunity to connect to somebody in ag,” Person says. “On Twitter, in those 140 characters, you have the opportunity to say something that gives people that stop-and-pause moment.”
The Southeast United Dairy Industry Association uses an ambassador program to put farmers before the general public. Many of those ambassadors also now use social media to spread their message.
Started in 2001, the program is making a difference, says Cheryl Hayn, SUDIA executive director.
“What that does is it really puts a face on the dairy industry. We’re finding more and more it’s important to consumers to really put a face on the product,” Hayn says. “Having the dairy farmer speak directly to the public makes a real difference to the public.”
It’s a difference that positively impacts the industry’s bottom line — and its image.
“We do see some increase in sales results,” Hayn says, “but we also see an increase in general goodwill through this program.”
This article published in the February, 2010 edition of SOUTHERN FARMER.