Yesterday, I attended the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association’s 64th Annual Trade Show and Convention in Huron, SD. The day kicked off with an estate planning session and ended with a prime rib dinner and the entertaining theatrics of beloved cowboy poet, Baxter Black. One of the hottest topics of discussion at convention was using social media as a part of your ranch routine.
“Social media has changed the way we do business,” says Season Solorio, director of issues management for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). “Breaking news is now found on Twitter, not on the 5 o’clock news. From the beef industry perspective, we look for what people are saying about cattle ranchers online. There are only 2% of us who are raising food, but 100% of us have to eat, so we have to do a better job of getting the word out.”
She shared 10 tips from the Ag Chat Foundation on using social media:
• Know your purpose.
• Listen and engage in conversation.
• Participate in the community.
• Always take the high road.
• Follow the leaders.
• Converse from an agricultural perspective.
• Monitor trends and thought patterns.
• Share best practices.
• Get answers to problems.
• Have fun.
A good example of a Facebook status update that sheds a positive light on agriculture comes from a recent post by Debbie Lyons Blythe, a Kansas-based cattle rancher and feeder. She writes, “I really need a quick nap right now, but there is a calf that looks sick and needs attention. When I think of how miserable he must feel today in the cold wind, I'm not tired anymore and will head out to take care of him. He should be up and at 'em soon!”
While using social media may seem too complicated for the typical rancher, the next generation is incorporating these tools into their everyday operations. Whether it’s using Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Pinterest, YouTube, Google+, or Instagram, Solorio says your social media posts should be original, genuine and passionate. Build relationships online and join in conversations. Be respectful and offer your unique insights from a rancher’s perspective.
“There are two ways to engage with others online -- proactively and defensively,” explains Solorio. “Beefitswhatsfordinner.com is a proactive approach that helps people have a great beef-eating experience. Very differently, there’s a smaller segment of our consumers who have tough questions about how their beef is raised, and so for those people, we have created a new website called FactsAboutBeef.com, which helps debunk common myths about beef by addressing them head on. Both of these sites also have a presence on Twitter and YouTube, as well.”
If you’re using social media to advocate for agriculture, let me know. Post your Twitter handle, Facebook page link or blog site in the comments section below. And tell us what drove you to become a digital advocate for agriculture.