Tech Tuesday
Social Media is Off-Farm Connection Tool

Social Media is Off-Farm Connection Tool

Embracing a few key social media tools could help your farm in new ways, though the idea may not at first be appealing.

We have a new blogger at Farm Futures who is doing a solid job of explaining the value of telling your story. LaVell Winsor is reaching out herself and provides links to interesting facts you want to know. And the idea of telling your story and using Social Media to do it, is still pretty off-putting for farmers. So I want to broaden the conversation from a tech standpoint today and hopefully explain why you keep hearing about this.

CONNECT: The Web offers powerful tools for you to reach out from your farm to landowners and consumers.

Connecting to just about anyone these days is easier than ever with social media. I follow some local media types in my town (okay, I'm in the Twin Cities in Minnesota) on twitter, and have exchanged comments/questions with them in the past. It's much more direct that trying to call the television station or newspaper phone line and hoping they'll talk to you.

This rising use of interaction can be frustrating, because everyone's lack of knowledge, including our own sometimes, is there for all the world to see. However, if we don't keep broadening the dialogue we're going to be left out of the conversation.

Remember, the folks that are almost evangelically dedicated to organics, anti-biotech and other non-tech approaches to raising food have already shown they don't care about the larger goal of feeding the world. They're out there to push their own agenda over anyone else's. But I digress, we're talking about social media and your use.

Consider a couple of business-case uses for signing up for Twitter and Facebook (I'm keeping it simple here), or even creating your own blog.

Even USDA is using Twitter to communicate these days with different folks in the office spending an hour online answering questions. This week Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack answered questions for a time on the site, offering his insight into some key areas the agency touches. And if you had followed the discussion you would have seen other questions - not answered - that show some of the key issues facing ag. It's that kind of knowledge you need for strategic planning in your operation. What forces could change the rules for you.

Just ask any beef producer how "pink slime" and one blog post changed the business.

Facebook has a potential business use for your operation - especially if you rent from a lot of landowners and they're off-farm. Using this popular, and free, tool you can create a farm page (without giving away your privacy) and allow your landowners to follow you through the season. This allows you to explain what you do and why, show the change of the seasons and engage younger landowners in new ways.

I'm sure there are some eyebrows going up right now, but these free, Web-based tools can allow you to keep people informed about your business. As more landowners are off the farm, they will still need an understanding.

For example, one farmer told me that he is up against land renters who will not invest in fertilizer - P and K mostly - when they rent. Instead, they're "farming the soil bank" allowing them to pay more rent because they've lowered their costs - of course that cost "savings" is being taking at the expense of the landowner's property. How to explain that? Well the conversation needs to start early, not after the landowner has already moved on to a different renter. Facebook, Twitter and even a blog can help keep landowners informed of the value of what you're doing and why.

We take a lot for granted in ag because we just know we have to do what we do. That's not so obvious to an outsider. Let's bring them into the fold.

You can follow me on twitter at www.Twitter.com/willie1701a.

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