Does your future depend on social media? – Brenda Murphy, Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin
By Brittany Olson, contributing writer
Even though 40 percent of the world’s population is using social media, farmers make up a rather miniscule slice of the social media pie. Throw in the fact that people spend an average five years of their life using apps like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, it becomes clear that social media has upended the game for agricultural advocacy.
“Farmers are a very small population on social media, and even fewer dairy farmers are using it,” said Brenda Murphy, director of farmer communications with Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, to Vita Plus Calf Summit attendees.
Even though the conversation online often seems stacked against farmers, research shows that consumers still trust farmers when it comes to food. According to Murphy, 46 percent of consumers trust farmers as a source of information about food and food issues. She used the example that the hashtag #PassionateVegan was used just 8,000 times on social media last year, while the hashtag #Agriculture was used hundreds of thousands of times.
“The conversation is not bad, but our perception of it is,” Murphy said.
For farmers to connect with consumers, and ultimately market more products, they must create their brand on social media by not only sharing what they do, but why they do it.
“People don’t believe what you do until you tell them why you do it,” Murphy said. “Do right, do your best, and show that you care.”
She encouraged attendees to pick just one platform, like Facebook or Instagram, and make it their farm’s center stage on social media.
Although it is tough to stay chipper and upbeat with four consecutive years of low milk prices, Murphy reiterated the importance of staying positive when portraying your farm on social media. She said to keep posts positive and focused on your values, such as cow care and comfort, care of the land, and giving back to the community.
Murphy mentioned that pictures and videos perform best on social media. She said pictures tell a great story and pictures of animals with their farmers get far more likes and shares than lengthy rants about the price of milk. Video is also a major player and generates 1,200 percent more social media shares than images and text combined.
With that in mind, a picture is worth a thousand words, but are they good or bad words? Murphy asked attendees, many of which are on social media, if they were framing pictures on social media for themselves or for consumers by using an idyllic picture of heifers standing near the edge of a pond, for example.
“We may see a picture that is worthy of hanging over the mantle, but consumers may see heifers standing in a pond and polluting the water,” Murphy said.
Inevitably, some farmers have been and will be attacked for their values by others on social media. While it may be tempting to let our emotions get the best of us, Murphy said that farmers do not have to engage in every argument if they don’t want to.
Most importantly, the end users of agriculture products want to know farmers are doing right by their animals, their crops and their land. Focusing on the good in farming and presenting that to customers, while being respectful of how they view things, will enhance your social license and virtual bank accounts in the long run.
“Be mindful of your images and your tone. Keep the consumer’s perspective in mind, and stay positive,” Murphy said. “Your career does depend on how you communicate, and how it makes others feel.”
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