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A panel of social media influencers shares how its members reach broad audiences at the AAA virtual Stakeholder Summit.

Jennifer M. Latzke, Editor

May 18, 2021

5 Min Read
Person using phone to take picture of food at restaurant
INSTA-YUMMY: Consumers are seeking a connection to the people who raise their food online. Members of a panel during the Animal Agriculture Alliance’s virtual Stakeholder Summit shared how they’re using social platforms to reach them. Jacqueline Nix

With modern communications platforms, there are more ways than ever to reach the consumer today. Whether via blogs or social media, consumers are looking for a connection to the people who raise the food on their plates.

The trick is to tailor the message to the audience and the platform, according to a panel of social media influencers who spoke during the May 6 virtual Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholder Summit.

A panel of social media influencers  during the virtual Animal Agriculture Alliance
PANELISTS: A panel of social media influencers spoke during the May 6 virtual Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholder Summit. They included, top row: Moderator Hannah Thompson (left), Animal Agriculture Alliance; Jennifer Osterholt, creator of the Plowing Through Life blog; and Brandi Buzzard, creator of the Buzzard’s Beat blog; In bottom row were Markie Hageman (left), founder of the blog Girls Eat Beef Too; and Dr. Alexander Strauch, Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch.

The panel included: Markie Hageman, founder of the Girls Eat Beef Too blog; Dr. Alexander Strauch, Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch; Jennifer Osterholt, creator of the Plowing Through Life blog; and Brandi Buzzard, creator of the Buzzard’s Beat blog.

Choose your platform

Each brought their expertise in various platforms to the table. Hageman, for example, prefers to create memes on Instagram and Facebook to reach the average consumer audience.

“I mix in pop culture,” she says. Most people understand the context of a meme, even if they don’t understand ranching or beef production, she adds. By combining the two worlds into one graphic element, she can reach beyond the regular rancher follower and share information about beef production without dragging the reader down with confusing facts and stats.

Strauch, meanwhile, prefers to use LinkedIn, reaching a much more professional audience with his messages about working as a veterinarian in the poultry industry.

Osterholt uses her blog to share recipes and bits of farm life with consumers, which takes much more time and attention, she says. She spends her days testing recipes and researching words and phrases that are trending in search engines, and then crafting blog posts to reach those people searching for them.

“[The blog] is not a diary,” she says. “I started by sharing my farm and life. But no one Googles that. But a lot of ladies want to know how to make a boxed cake mix taste better.” By writing a post about that recipe and topic, she can then promote it over Pinterest and grow not only followers for her recipes, but also slip in a bit of agricultural education with those recipes. She uses the language that consumers are using in their searches, rather than language that farmers might use, because that’s how content gets traction, she says.

Crafting a message

Before hitting “send” on a post, advocates should really keep in mind their communication goals, explains Buzzard, who was an early adopter of Facebook and Twitter for agricultural advocacy efforts.

“When I first started down this advocacy journey, whenever a company would do something negative for agriculture or beef, I would write a blog post lambasting them with a headline and talk about how wrong they were,” she says. “Those got a lot of clicks and a lot of traffic, but they never did reach the goal I had of having real conversations with businesses. Or build a bridge with grocery shoppers.”

She changed her strategy in the past few years, adopting a more inviting, less inflammatory approach to her writing. By starting from a place of shared concerns and inviting a conversation, she was able to get the attention of national news outlets. Those outlets, she says, invited her onto their shows to share her rancher’s perspective on climate change and sustainability because she didn’t just shout down the opposition, but invited a conversation instead.

Is the intention to make yourself feel better by riling up the regular agricultural crowd, or are you trying to “preach” outside of the agricultural “choir”? she asks.

Practice and strategy

Putting yourself out there as an agricultural expert is one thing, but you also have to remember how what you write reflects on your own businesses, Strauch says.

“Interdepartmental communications is key,” he says. “You practice during times of peace so you can perform in times of war. If you work with your marketing, sales and HR ahead of time on shared messaging, that practice helps you.”

Practice also helps in navigating the world of algorithms on social platforms, Osterholt says.

“It takes a strategy,” she says. “You don’t get accidentally found in any algorithm. It’s easier for me to get the most traction with Pinterest immediately.” By answering the top questions that are searched in Google, her posts rise up in search results, which draw traffic. But she also has to be consistent in her posts and build her network of other influencer bloggers to share the messaging. That takes time, she advises.

To engage or not

There’s a point when you ask yourself if its logical to engage with people online or not, Buzzard says. She prefers to consider folks as one of three categories: people who very pro-beef, the movable middle and people very anti-beef.

“If they are hard core against beef, I won’t engage,” she says. “They’re just there to make an inflammatory comment to get your hackles up.” But, she adds, if it’s a genuine question from someone seeking answers, she’ll engage. That’s the “movable middle” — the people with open minds who want to know more.

It’s tough when there’s emotion involved, which is often the case with the subject of animal agriculture. But Buzzard advises to keep in mind the long-term goal of bringing more consumers to the table.

“I don’t believe getting angry at a company gets us the results we want,” Buzzard says. “Yeah, if you get angry enough, you might get them to retract a statement or delete the post. But moving forward, how likely are they to reach out to farmers and ranchers for open dialogue? Long term, will they ask our opinions, and bring us to the table the next time they have some kooky marketing idea? Short term, the anger might meet a goal, but long term, not so much.”

About the Author(s)

Jennifer M. Latzke

Editor, Kansas Farmer

Through all her travels, Jennifer M. Latzke knows that there is no place like Kansas.

Jennifer grew up on her family’s multigenerational registered Angus seedstock ranch and diversified farm just north of Woodbine, Kan., about 30 minutes south of Junction City on the edge of the Kansas Flint Hills. Rock Springs Ranch State 4-H Center was in her family’s backyard.

While at Kansas State University, Jennifer was a member of the Sigma Kappa Sorority and a national officer for the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow. She graduated in May 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications and a minor in animal science. In August 2000 Jennifer started her 20-year agricultural writing career in Dodge City, Kan., on the far southwest corner of the state.

She’s traveled across the U.S. writing on wheat, sorghum, corn, cotton, dairy and beef stories as well as breaking news and policy at the local, state and national levels. Latzke has traveled across Mexico and South America with the U.S. Wheat Associates and toured Vietnam as a member of KARL Class X. She’s traveled to Argentina as one of 10 IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Agricultural Journalism. And she was part of a delegation of AAEA: The Ag Communicators Network members invited to Cuba.

Jennifer’s an award-winning writer, columnist, and podcaster, recognized by the Kansas Professional Communicators, Kansas Press Association, the National Federation of Presswomen, Livestock Publications Council, and AAEA. In 2019, Jennifer reached the pinnacle of achievements, earning the title of “Writer of Merit” from AAEA.

Trips and accolades are lovely, but Jennifer says she is happiest on the road talking to farmers and ranchers and gathering stories and photos to share with readers.

“It’s an honor and a great responsibility to be able to tell someone’s story and bring them recognition for their work on the land,” Jennifer says. “But my role is also evolving to help our more urban neighbors understand the issues our Kansas farmers face in bringing the food and fiber to their store shelves.”

She spends her time gardening, crafting, watching K-State football, and cheering on her nephews and niece in their 4-H projects. She can be found on Twitter at @Latzke.

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