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Tips and Tricks For Sharing the Agriculture Story Online

23835_349810790799_124793905799_4210571_7434727_n.jpg This past weekend, I spoke at the 2010 Leading the BEST Conference in Columbus, OH, where I had the opportunity to work with beef industry youth. The first part of the conference, I took part in a career panel with agricultural professionals Chris Henney, Heather Hetterick, Lindsey Regula, Dan Wells and David White. Following the panel, I worked with the students on the topics of agriculture advocacy through social media as well as tips for successful job interviews and scholarship applications. Last week, a reader suggested I share some of the guidelines I provide in my speeches for successfully sharing the agriculture story using online social networks. Today, I thought I would do just that with a top 10 list of lessons I have learned from my work on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and blogs. Hopefully, one or all of the tips will be useful to you as you converse with consumers online. Let's get started!

1. When blogging, be transparent. In 2009, BEEF Daily reached more than 328,000 readers, which is a daunting number when thinking about how much of my life I share through this forum. You've read about my graduation from college, my job hunt, my transition home to the family's cattle operation and my discoveries as I learn more about beef production and our consumers. Whether you love me or hate me, it's not important; what I've learned is that by being transparent and open to new ideas, I have been able to develop a friendship-based forum through the BEEF Daily Blog.

2. I have also learned to follow up on my blog. Although I receive a huge number of emails and comments throughout the week, I do attempt to reply to as many reader messages as time allows. I try to be accountable in getting the blog out early each day, and I also aim to be accessible to readers, so they can easily reach me with feedback. The same goes to anyone starting a blog. Have consistent materials that readers can count on, and be willing to interact with the folks who stop by your blog spot.

3. On Twitter, learn to write like a telegrapher. 140 characters doesn't give a blogger like me a lot of space to express myself, but Twitter is great for sharing quick tid bits with followers, such the BEEF Daily Quick Facts found regularly at the bottom of my blog.

4. To make tweets more concise, use to shorten your hyperlinks (web addresses). This helps clear up some space to explain the link you are sharing.

5. On my BlackBerry, I like to use the free, downloadable program, OpenBeak, so I can easily tweet messages when I'm outside doing chores or when I'm on the road traveling. I also like to use TweetDeck on my computer, so I can easily reference direct messages, replies and special interest columns like #iheartbeef. Don't let all of Twitter's words (tweet, tweetup, twibbon, etc.) overwhelm you. Stick to the basics until you get comfortable with the program.

6. So what is # and what does it mean? It's called a "hashtag," and they are used to create groups for people to specifically follow. Use hashtags sparingly and respectfully; focus more on your message than what group your message might fit in. I run with Team ZIP, a group that wears beef jerseys to races across the country, so I like to combine my beef messages with my running messages. A good example of that would be: "Just finished #running 6 miles. I feel strong because I fuel my run with #beef." Then, maybe I would add a link to a website with healthy beef recipes. Make sense?

7. Every day on Facebook, I post my blog on the BEEF Magazine Fan Page and my personal profile. By sharing through these outlets, I'm able reach folks outside of agriculture who should be reading my educational blog spots.

8. To help spread the word, when you see an article you like on Facebook, be sure to share it on your profile, as well. Click "like" or leave a comment; these tactics will help to build the popularity of the article and will help spread the positive word about agriculture.

9. On YouTube, create short clips that illustrate your message. I always tell people that they need to choose the outlet that they are most comfortable with, and for me, it isn't YouTube. My experience with this network consists of one video from my Carrie "HSUS" Underwood walkout, which has received more than 14,000 views. I much prefer the written word to seeing and hearing myself on a video. However, I also tell producers they need to push themselves to reach new heights, and perhaps my next goal should be to post a new video once a month.

10. Finally, always stay positive. Never let the naysayers catch you in a negative light. Stick to what you know best, your personal story. Agriculture has a rich and powerful history of great people working hard each and every day to put food on the dinner table. We are great at what we do, and we need to share that message with consumers. Show them that we care for the animals and are stewards of the land. Show them we care. Try a social media network today and do just that. Are you on board?

BEEF Daily Quick Fact: Don't believe in the power of social media? Check out this video that describes just how many people are interacting online. It's pretty incredible!