With social media, it is so quick and easy to communicate with each other.
Sometimes, though, it’s too comfortable, especially when we stay within our comfort zones and only talk with like-minded people. That’s human nature, though, to “hang” with your own group for ideas, affirmation and discussion.
Yet, for farmers interested in having a dialogue with consumers about what it takes to produce food, fiber and fuel, Don Schindler, senior vice president of Digital Innovations with Dairy Management, Inc., has a blunt message for you: Stop talking to your farmer friends, share with consumers why you farm, and get on Facebook and create a farm website if you haven’t done either yet.
“Ag starts talking with consumers about two things — ‘how’ and ‘what’ —and consumers don’t care,” Schindler said during his presentation on social media engagement at the Minnesota Farm Bureau LEAP conference on Jan. 26 in Bloomington, Minn. “They want to know ‘why’ you farm. Switch from talking about ‘how’ and ‘what’ to ‘why.’ People buy ‘why’ you do it. You trigger emotion and hit at the heart. And that feels right.”
Consumers view farmers as a trusted source, too, ranking them in the top three for trust in a national survey, he added.
The challenge, however, is getting shrinking numbers of farmers involved in advocating for their businesses and making the time for social media. Citing dairy farm numbers as an example, Schindler acknowledged that in the 1980s, there were more farmers and a small national population — roughly 334,000 dairy farms and 227 million people in the U.S. Now there are roughly 40,000 dairy farms and a population of 327 million in the U.S. That leaves one farm per 817,500 people.
“It takes everybody to get involved,” Schindler said. “Organizations can’t do it alone. Besides, consumers want to know farmers.”
Rather than doing more, Schindler suggested that farmers develop and post to specific social media. Yes, it can get overwhelming with Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and Pinterest — the potential screen time never ends. Yet, each has its specific audience. Facebook is still the No. 1 global platform with 2.2 billion users, with 214 million users in the U.S. alone.
Given that, Schindler said every farmer should set up a Facebook page and spend some time on non-ag platforms.
Plus, every farm should have a website, too. Buy a domain name, known as a URL, and set up a site if you don’t already have one. Freshen it up at least two or three times a year.
“This way, you’re ‘on’ 24/7 with consumers,” he said. “If someone does a Google search for information [on farming], you want your site to come up.”
Schindler said farmers do not need to spread themselves thin on all media platforms. He suggested specific ones, depending on your interests and those of specific consumer groups. For example, Instagram and Snapchat attract foodies. Pinterest is huge for moms.
“You definitely need to be here [on Pinterest],” he said. “Moms spend a crap of time there. It’s where they get their recipes, wedding albums, etc.”
He recommended a farm business LinkedIn page, too. LinkedIn contains business profiles and serves as a source for professionals, youth and young adults looking for jobs and career information.
And with everyone having access to shooting photos and videos with their cell phones, Schindler noted the popularity of the latter.
“By 2020, 80% of the internet traffic will be video,” he said. “A video is 12 times more likely to be shared than a text or image.”
He encouraged farmers to think about using video to entertain rather than educate.
“If you can make them feel, laugh, cry or think, it will go viral,” he added. He offered examples of farm videos that attract thousands of views, such as the YouTube video of Kansas farmer Derek Klingenberg serenading his beef cattle with a trombone solo or spending a night in a hammock attached to his corn field irrigator.
Underlining it all is making connections with consumers and others you wish to influence. Use your passion to start new relationships and make connections. Share areas of common ground, such as children and pets. Introduce technology by explaining why you use it and then how you use it. Care about the people you are talking with, offer to help and have fun engaging with them.
“Respond with empathy [in social media] rather than education,” Schindler said. “If you try to educate, they will back away.”
For more information on connecting with consumers via social media, contact Schindler at firstname.lastname@example.org.