Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Agriculture and Social Media Web Conference Summary

As a special topic for Cooperative Extension, eXtension hosted a special topic professional development web conference on January 21, 2010 on the use of social media in the agriculture industry. The purpose of this conference is to provide examples of how social media is being used in agriculture. The recorded session, the presenters’ presentations, the conference chat, and tweets associated with the conference are available.

Here is a summary of points made by the presenters:

  • Go where the people are.
  • Simplify the message…improve your writing and don’t use agriculture production jargon.
  • Write for the search engines.
  • Engage the public and target audience by using various methods, responding to questions and comments on Twitter, creating contests, and interesting and humorous videos.
  • Target your audience.
  • Meet the needs of target audience.
  • Use and integrate various online approaches.
  • Use the tools, particular mobile devices, for efficiency and increase opportunities.
  • Create a strategy: defining objectives, audiences, tools, and content. Market the tool, stay true to the objectives, and evaluate the results.
  • Empower others to use social media.
  • Use common sense blending professional and personal life online.
  • “Jump in -- the water is warm”. Carrie Oliver

The presenters described things they have learned through social media and ways that and moments or indicators that their use of success are meeting their own goals and objectives.

  • People appreciate information and knowledge transferred about production and process, educational efforts, and hearing what is going on the farm.
  • Feedback comes through comments, responses, and direct communication.
  • Web traffic increased after employing social media.
  • The connections made through social media are sometimes surprising and reach world-wide.
  • Learning and education is two-way opportunity.
  • Twitter is fun.
  • Social media (in particular, Twitter) is fun.


Ag and Social Media January 21 Recording

Slideshare site for presentations:

Tweets captured from the January 21 conference

All presentations, chat, and tweets

My notes from each of the presenters.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Notes from Agriculture and Social Media Web Conference

As a special topic for Cooperative Extension, eXtension hosted a professional development web conference on January 21, 2010 on the use of social media in agriculture. The recorded session, the presenters’ presentations, the conference chat, and tweets associated with the conference are available.

Here are my notes of each of the presenters discussions.

Will Gilmer @gilmerdairy,Gilmer Dairy

Will Gilmer, Alabama dairy farmer, discussed how he used different applications to educate the public on agriculture, in particular dairy. Will learned from his online activities that people who are removed from the farm appreciate learning and hearing what is going on the farm. He also noted that online communications are a great way to tell why farmers do what they do from environmental, sustainability, and food safety perspectives. While agriculture representatives should still speak at to civic clubs and schools, agriculture should to also go where the people are, and that is being online and in social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Will uses different interaction techniques to engage the public. For instance, he uses contests on his blog, creates educational and sometimes humorous videos on YouTube (shooting the video and uploading them from his smart phone), and uses Facebook for Gilmer Dairy fans a chance to vote on contests. For instance, Gilmer Dairy Facebook Fan Page became the home page for the milk mustache contest.

Will suggested when talking about agriculture to not use jargon and to reach the people where they are. Each application (Twitter, Gilmer Farm YouTube Channel, Gilmer Dairy Farm Website) is a little different and one leads to another. They should be integrated.

He estimates that he spends 10 to 15 hours per week.

Arlan Suderman @arlanff101 Farm Futures

Arlan Suderman, a market analyst for Farm Futures, discussed using Twitter and mobile applications to sharing real-time commodity market information. Arlan writes commentary for Afternoon Market Updates on the Farm Futures website, in their electronic newsletters, and for the Farm Futures magazine. He also said that Farm Progress uses Facebook fan pages to promote farm shows such as Farm Progress Show.

He described his process of using social media by going through the Six Steps to Adoption of Social Media as described by Michele Payn-Knoper @mpaynknoper

  • Stupid trend – Someone talks you into it.
  • You find information that perks your interest.
  • You start building connections – community builds.
  • You reach a point of feeling obligated to share.
  • You realize the power of the message and harness it.
  • Addiction.

Arlan also noted social media is revolutionizing our cultures, much like how the air conditioner changed the way we congregated and socialized.

He described several strengths of social media:

  • is a cost-effective communication too.
  • is rapidly being driven by the over-35 crowd.
  • allows you to mix media – pictures, video, and web links.
  • provides real time information.
  • provides an avenue for dialogue and feed back from clients.
  • has no geographical boundaries.
  • serves as a great advocacy tool.

Hazards of social media are:

  • Social media can own you if you don’t master it.
  • Social media knows no geographic or demographic boundaries.
  • You can lose your focus, diluting your messages.
  • Social media functions 24 hours a day, creating the “ping addiction”.
  • Social media is a two-way dialogue-where followers can consume your time.
  • There is expectations of responding in a “ping” culture,
  • By opening the doors, those who oppose your views will find you.

Arlan described steps to a social media strategy as:

  • Define your objective.
  • Define your audience.
  • Define your tool – Twitter, Facebook, Blog, You-Tube, etc.
  • Develop your strategy / content.
  • Market your tool.
  • Remain true to your objective.
  • Evaluate your results.

Arlan’s objectives were to provide real-time commodity market commentary to farmers wherever they are (on the tractor), build Farm Futures’ brand name and increase hit-count at Farm Futures. Using Twitter, he targeted his audience--largest 205,000 farmers and what they needed which is having real-time explanations why markets are fluctuating.

His tactics and content were tweeting real-time market commentary, relevant content (such as weather), and links to relevant news stories. Farm Futures marketed his Twitter updates online, in the magazine, through their e-newsletter and at speaking engagements.

He evaluated feedback, by measuring web page visits, increased number of followers, increase direct communications, and increase personal comments.

Arlan tweets 15 to 25 comments a day from 6 am to 9 pm.

Carrie Oliver @carrieoliver & @meatcamp Oliver Ranch Company

Carrie Oliver, founder of Oliver Ranch Company, Artisan Beef institute, and @meatcamp (TM) discussed her use of blogging and use of Twitter (@meatcamp) in support of her business and in educating others about the specialty meat industry, Artisan Meat. She described her work with beef much like a wine connoisseur, “Like fine wines, beef flavor & texture are influenced by breed, growing region, diet & the unique skills of those who raise it.

Carrie described the challenges that social media can be used to overcome. The public is not well educated on the specialty markets, the process of meat production, and differences in meat products. Also agriculture and specialty markets and processes are complex. She suggested, like Will, to simplify the message and improve writing to reach your target audience, and use a combination of social and traditional media.

Social media allows entrepreneurs without marketing budgets to reach customers. Carrie uses her blog, Discover the World of Artisan Beef, as a way of making notes for herself, blowing off steam (sometimes not publishing them), and educating and building a community.

Carrie said that blogging and tweeting have helped her play a role between producers and consumers. Comments and questions on her blog and on Twitter, during a meat recall last were interactive, serious, and educational.

Carrie has found that Twitter is great place for interaction, make connections, create education—both for others and herself, solve problems, and connect to old-line media outlets (i.e. news articles and television). Twitter has proven to be a way to spread and create understanding around complex processes.

As people had questions about myths and were confused about processes, Carrie and Chris Raines @iTweetmeat, Meat Scientist with Penn State Extension, created a Twitter chat--an open forum--#meatcamp, focus on issues pertaining to producing and the process of producing meat #meatcamp is a place for she, Chris, and others to share their expertise and knowledge, to de-mystify meat, and to allow people to easily ask questions. She shared an example of a meatcamp transcript.

Carrie ended her discussion by noting that Twitter is fun. She encourages others to “Jump in…The water is warm”.

Dan Toland @Ohio Farm Bureau & @d_toland Ohio Farm Bureau

Dan Toland discussed how Ohio Farm Bureau moved from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0, taking a year to get the Ohio Farm Bureau web site to include a social component. The process to moving to a social web presence allowed Ohio Farm Bureau to “humanized themselves”. He said the old way meant that the web site was a destination. The new way means that the web site is a hub and the stokes of the hub are links and social networks that are two way communications. He says that having a web site is no longer enough; it is now imperative to have a web presence. Social media is an integrated approach, not just a channel-by-channel communication. Dan, like Will Gilmer, said, to go where the people are--Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Dan described about how fast connections, easy publishing, collaborative communication, mobile technology, and real time information has changed the landscape. The goals for Ohio Farm Bureau’s social media efforts were to increase awareness, engagement, traffic, and word of mouth.

As part of their social media efforts, Ohio Farm Bureau develop Ohio Farm Bureau Social Media Guide for farmers.

Dan described one of Ohio Farm Bureau’s “ah-ha Twitter moments” was when they were having trouble finding a life-size plastic cow for a promotion. On Twitter, they ask if anyone knew where they could find a life-size plastic cow. Within 10 minutes, they had 5-6 responses with suggestions and web links.

Twitter and Facebook were instrumental in the Issue 2 campaign doubling the number visits to the Ohio Farm Bureau web site in the few days before the vote. They also were able to monitor and answer questions and engage voters throughout Ohio during Issue 2 through Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Dan suggested that a social media policy for an organization should:

  • Encourage and empower employees. Don’t discourage people from using social media, There is no way one person can know everything. It is better for individuals to tweet what is going on in their own area.
  • Note there is a blend of personal/professional life when using social media.
  • Use common sense. Remember, posts are searchable and public.
  • Specify those who are using social media on behalf of an organization.
  • Tie social media policy to other communications policy.
  • Provide proper training.
  • Encourage use of security settings.
  • Make participation optional.

Dan indicated that success in Ohio Farm Bureau in the use social media were increases in visits, page views, average time on the site, number of referring sites,direct traffic, and returning visitors.

Andy Kleinschmidt, @akleinschmidt Ohio State Extension

Andy Kleinschmidt described his success in blogging and Twitter as an Extension educator and said that it is paramount that Extension have a robust web presence that is well indexed by search engines. He said Extension should learn to write and optimize blogs and web sites for search engines.

He noted that his work load is increasing because of factors outside of social media. Though, social media allows him to communicate incredibly efficiently.

As Extension educators, interaction is and will always be important. Face-to-face, phone, email, blogs, comments on blog, Facebook, Twitter, and whatever replaces these technologies are all ways to interact and engage.

Andy described the smart phone as his favorite technology allowing him to be instant and without constraints. He blogs, tweets, and uses Facebook from smart phone.

He has found that the Agriculture and Van Wert County blog is the best way to disseminate information. He did admit that as individuals create blogs, managing numerous blogs may be a problem.


Ag and Social Media January 21 Recording

Slideshare site for presentations:

Tweets captured from the January 21 conference

All presentations, chat, and tweets

Summary of Ag and Social Media: a blog post

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Understanding the social in social media—Twitter, Facebook, etc.

In some ways I really hate saying this, but to understand social media is to use it--be the ball.

Here are few tips to learn to use networks, like Facebook and Twitter, in meaningful ways:

1. Create an account. It is easy.

2. Follow friends and businesses you want to keep up with. Expand your knowledge and perspectives by seeing what others are reading and what they are thinking. There is value--and it is fun--to get a glimpse of what other people discuss and find important.

3. Don’t follow too few people. It is social. Develop a large enough network that sharing and engagement is meaningful.

4. In the beginning, don’t follow or “friend” too many people. You don’t want to overwhelmed yourself. Keep your “friend” list to people you really want to know and hear.

5. Discuss, participate, and respond—relax and let go a little. For some, because sharing online is a new mindset, learning to engage in an online environment seems to be a roadblock.

Social media conversations (Twitter) are like running into friends or colleagues at the grocery store or meeting new and old friends during a cocktail hour. The conversations at the micro-level may not seem meaningful, but the accumulation of discussions helps put events, issues, and thoughts in new perspectives or confirm old ones, and possibly, build credibility and trust.

If you are not responding and becoming part of the conversation, you are not being social in a social network.

With this in mind, your online behavior should take on the same values and actions that you live by. After all, there is only one you.

6. Don’t be afraid to be personal and tell a few stories on yourself and what is important to you. Sometimes, post updates that are funny, ironic, or personal to help people learn that you are real.  Again, social is a key word.

7. Don’t only broadcast. If your only activity is publishing, your information must be very valuable for others to follow you. As you progress in your use, you may consider how others decide to follow or not follow people on Twitter.

8. Don’t only listen. There is value in lurking, However, participating at some level is helpful and useful, not only to you, but to others. 

9. Use desktop and phone applications for accessing social networks and getting timely updates. The web versions of social networks tend to be clunky and inefficient. These technologies are timely, allow for responsiveness, and can be disruptive. However, you have the ability to control when you ignore, lurk, and respond. The brevity of updates allow you to take a quick glance while you are waiting in the grocery line, on the kids, or on a long elevator ride.

Additionally, learning to use these technologies in spurts of time will prepare you for when real-time is a necessity.

10. Integrate applications so you have only one or two places to get all or most of your streams. For instance, Tweetdeck is great for bringing Twitter search and updates and Facebook updates to one place. Before I started using Tweetdeck, I brought status feeds to my feed reader (Google Reader).

11. Choose social media that matches your interest and go where the people are. If you have lots of colleagues and friends in Facebook, you might start there. If you love taking pictures, you might start sharing on photo sharing site, like Flickr.

12. If you are confused with application options, terminology, and how to use the technology, find a friend or a colleague who can support you in the early learning process.

Some people who try these networks choose to quit using them.  Though I don’t know of any research that reports why people quit using social networks, these are possible reasons for social network abandonment:

  • The flow of information becomes overwhelming.
  • The information obtained through the network is not useful.
  • They don’t use applications and SMS technology (text messages). They depend only on the web pages of the networks, instead of using applications to mange the flow.
  • They don’t follow enough interesting people.
  • They don’t engage. They either only listen or only broadcast.
  • Other networks becomes more useful
  • Frankly, the social network may not be for them. Communicating online (not new way of communicating—we have always been social) is not for everyone--like some people don’t watch TV, read the newspaper, or talk on the phone.

To understand social media is to use it--be the ball. Social networks--Twitter and Facebook--are too easy not to try them.