The internet has revolutionized the way consumers do business, communicate with one another and find information. Online social networking sites have become a mainstream way for communicating with others, and modern ranchers are taking advantage of these tools to share the agriculture story with their customers.
Shaun Haney, based out of Alberta, Canada, is the founder of RealAgriculture.com, an agriculture blog featuring agriculture news. Haney uses social media networking tools to facilitate information to the public. He is also a founding member of the Ag Chat Foundation, which is a forum for people on Twitter that occurs weekly, on Tuesday nights from 8-10 p.m. CST. Ag Chat discusses different agriculture-related topics each week, and the foundation’s objective is to get social media tools in the hands of more farmers.
“Internet marketing isn’t a fad; it’s real. Today, Facebook has more traffic than Google. In 2009, one in eight American married couples met via social media sites. People who are getting their news via Twitter and Facebook are growing at a staggering rate. It’s changing the way we communicate. Smart phones will make social media use more easily accessible for farmers and ranchers on the go. Why is agriculture a good fit in this regard? Looking at Facebook and Twitter allows agriculture to drop barriers. We have always whined and complained that we need to connect with our consumers, and we need to tell our story. These applications allow us to do that," says Haney.
He offers some of his best advice for using social media tools to promote agriculture, share stories and connect with producers and consumers alike.
“I’m seeing farmers use social media to bring to life the concept of a virtual coffee shop, where they can connect to ask questions and share stories. To me, this is the opportunity that Twitter really provides the user. Agri-business needs to stop broadcasting messages and focus on engaging with their readers. Social media allows us to do something different than the traditional marketing plan.”
Haney’s best tips can be summed up in a few words: "engage or don't bother; have a sense of purpose online; don't be scared to ask questions; and have fun!"
There’s no denying the growing popularity of online social networking tools. The big question is, will ranchers join the conversation, or miss the opportunity to connect with others, engage in conversations and share their stories with customers? How do you use online social networking tools to touch base with fellow producers, connect with consumers or respond to negative articles? What advice do you have for others?
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