Earlier this week, my youngest sister, Kaley, competed at her district FFA contest in both public speaking and extemporaneous speaking, two contests in which I also had the great honor of competing in as a youngster at the National FFA Convention. In extemporaneous speaking, a contestant draws three topics, selects one to speak on, and has 30 minutes to develop a 3- to 5-minute speech, followed by 5 minutes of questions. Kaley drew the topic of using social media to promote agriculture, and I can’t think of a more important topic for all of us in this industry to consider.
Many people still scoff about the power of social media, particularly those who are slow to adapt to these communication tools, but consider this:
- There are more than 650 million active Facebook users.
- More than 71% of all Internet users in the U.S. are on Facebook.
- On Twitter, there are 100 million active users, with an average of 1 billion new tweets every five days.
- Instagram has more than 5 million users, with 860,000 new photo uploads/day.
- The average Pinterest user spends an average of 58.8 minutes/visit, while the average time spent on Facebook is 12.1 minutes.
- There are 2 billion unique visitors/day to YouTube.
- There are 31 million bloggers in the U.S.
These statistics cleary indicate there is a huge audience waiting for us online. We only have to click a few buttons and the opportunity to reach out and educate folks about agriculture is huge. Using tools like blogs, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest are simple and cost-effective ways to bring the farm or ranch to the general public and help folks regain trust in American agriculture and fall in love with the cowboy all over again.
Temple Grandin says agriculture needs to do a better job about communicating with the general public. We can’t afford to become complacent.
Grandin says, “Agriculture across the board is horrible at communicating. Look at the ‘pink slime’ issue; the beef industry should have had a much more immediate response, educating the public about what lean finely textured beef is, and that it's a safe, efficient product. There was a response eventually, but it came too late. The damage was done.
“It shouldn't take an event like that to initiate the communication. Although most people are very detached from agriculture, they're still fascinated by it. I remember looking one time at the most popular videos on YouTube, and one of them was just of a front loader scooping up grain. Now, to a farmer, that has to be one of the most boring things to watch in the world, but to someone who's never seen it before that's fascinating.
“Unfortunately, much of what's out there are the videos of what's not being done right in agriculture. The ones who are doing things right need to show the public what's going on.”
Read Grandin’s entire story here. 
Without a doubt, we all need to become better advocates for agriculture, and like my sister stressed in her FFA speech, social media is the way to do it. I challenge each and every one of you to post something positive or educational about agriculture online today.
What’s your social media of choice? How do you use it as a tool to promote agriculture?