#Agriculture: The Importance of Social Media

Advances in technology have drastically changed agriculture production methods over the decades. Now, new methods of communication are also changing the way the public learns about agriculture and forms opinions about food production.

“Agriculture is becoming more diverse as a population and we are becoming further removed from the farm,” said Garrett Hawkins, of Farm Bureau. “It is important that agriculturists explore different communication options.”

Most Americans are at least three generations removed from the farm, meaning it has been three generations or more since they have lived on a farm, and the average age of the American farmer is 55.

American agriculturists can’t rely on face-to-face communication anymore to tell their story. More and more farmers are becoming technology savvy and getting involved with social media to connect with consumers on a personal level.

“In my opinion, agriculturists have to take advantage of as many tools as possible to convey the message of agriculture,” Hawkins said.

Agricultural industries are enhancing their development within social media and expanding their businesses to reach the general public. Industries are starting to hire social media specialist who monitor the social media buzz.

“The most beneficial thing about social media is that you get to have a conversation with people about agriculture,” Kaity Holtman, formerly with Missouri Beef Council Industry as a social media specialist said. “Social media is instant, quick and allows you to have a relationship with consumers.”

Use of social media generates a new audience. Twitter, Facebook and YouTube allow farmers to tell their stories in their own words . The masses of people who use Facebook and Twitter create new ways to share with otherwise uniformed people. According to Statisticsbrain.com, there are more than 1.2 billion people who use Facebook worldwide. Farmers can share what is important to them and what changes they wish to see in the agriculture industry.

“Social media will help amplify agriculture’s message,” Hawkins said.

Social media captures widespread users. Interesting stories trending on Twitter or Facebook are more likely to be read than buried deep in a newspaper.

“Social media helps keep a better pulse within outlets,” Hawkins said. “It allows the agricultural industries to know what people are talking about.”

According to Pew Internet, 69 percent of Americans use social networking sites. Facebook is the world’s most popular social networking website as it makes it easy to connect with family and friends and share pictures, websites and videos. It allows users to create a profile, add friends, send messages and join common interest groups.

Another popular and precipitously increasing source of social media is Twitter. Twitter is quick and easy, allowing users to share 140 character messages. These messages are called “Tweets,” that are available to anyone who is interested in reading them.

“Each of us have our own circle of influence,” Holtman said. “We need to convey the message of agriculture within our circles, so our stories can be influential.”

All outlets of social media are available at the tip of your fingers; all you need is Internet access. These outlets allow people to participate in conversations and gather intelligent thoughts and insights.  Technology has greatly impacted agriculture. Farmers and ranchers are taking advantage of genetic advancements in livestock, biotechnology in seeds, alternative fuel sources and GPS technology. Farmers can use social media outlets to educate the public on their increased use of technology.

“It has become much more transparent,” said Holtman, when asked how agriculture has changed since social media. “People are more willing to participate in conversation and consumers ask more questions.”

These social media outlets also provide a platform for those who do not approve of modern agriculture practices. Sometimes referred to as anti agriculture activists, their online presence increases the need for farmers to take advantage of social media tools to combat the statements of anti agriculture activists.

“Social media is only going to grow more conversation,” said Holtman. “It’s up to us to figure out more ways to connect and share our story.”