Social Media Deficient

Yesterday might have been one of the longest days I have had in awhile.  We run a 350+ head cattle operation and yesterday was the day to work all the fall calvers, which is about 200 cows, and about half have already calved.  Now if you aren’t familiar with what it means to “work” cattle, let me briefly explain.  Working the cows means getting them all up in a corral and running them all through a chute to give them medicine to prevent internal and external parasites, as well as other vaccines to keep them healthy.  Calves have to be sorted off from cows and the whole process is very long and tiring.  We started when the sun came up and finally finished about 5 in the evening covered in “you know what” and sore from head to toe.  So, what does this have to do with anything?

Well when I got up this morning I found my iPhone and laptop were both dead.  This virtually never happens because I am always using them.  Then I started to realize that I didn’t touch either of these yesterday.  Living out in the middle of nowhere, I rely on the Internet to keep me up-to-date on everything going on locally and around the world.  I can’t believe I spent an entire day with no Facebook, Twitter, Fox News app or blog reading.  I had no idea what my friends did yesterday or if the cattle markets changed any.  I have to admit I am addicted to social media.  I have TweetDeck downloaded on my computer and use the app version on my phone, so I am constantly getting updates.  I wonder if I could survive if I had to go longer than a day without social media.  Could you?

A couple of years ago I would be able to answer yes without any hesitation.  Facebook was just a fun way to stay connected, but today social media has turned into a form of marketing, advertising and promotion we can all use free and easily.  Yes, I still use Facebook to stay connected with friends, but I use all forms of social media to promote my business (beef cattle) and find out what is happening in the world of agriculture.  It’s obvious it didn’t kill me to be deficient in social media for a day, but it might take me a couple of days to catch up on lots of missed reading.



As a former FFA advisor, I got really excited when I found out that the 84th Annual National FFA Convention would be streamed live due to Alltech Ag Network’s sponsorship.  The convention is held in Indianapolis, IN. Oct. 19-22.  FFAers from across the country will be traveling by plane, train and big yellow bus for a week of leadership training, fellowship and renowned motivational speakers.

So, why does LIVE STREAMING excite me so much?

  •   The FFA is utilizing social media to share the National FFA Convention experience to more members.  They already have a Facebook page, Twitter account and a new blog.  I have subscribed to all of these and am very impressed with how they use social media to help spread news about agriculture and the largest youth organization in the country.  The convention has been aired by RFD-TV for quite some time, but most classrooms aren’t equipped with satellite TV or at least I know mine wasn’t.  I had to have a parent record the convention for me on DVD so I could share it with students who didn’t get to attend.  Now with live streaming members not able to attend the convention will have the opportunity to watch everything LIVE and experience the fun and excitement as if they were actually there.   I used to teach at a school where we had over 200 FFA members.  Could we take all 200 from Southwest Missouri to Indianapolis (a 10 hour bus ride)?…No!  It was a very competitive process to choose which members would be able to attend.  Many only had the chance once.  We could only take 30 each year.
  • Budget cuts have also been a huge issue in schools.  The school board at the school where I more recently taught voted to only allow our chapter to attend the National FFA Convention every other year.  It was very saddening when students found out that they wouldn’t be able to attend.  But now with the use of live streaming advisors from across the country will be able to lighten the moods a little when they tell their students they can simply log onto the internet and watch it all LIVE.  I also encourage members who get to attend to Tweet their experience with pictures and updates keeping those at home informed.

According to AgWired, expects this to be their largest telecast ever and went on to quote Billy Frey, general manager of the Alltech Ag Network in their recent blog. “Agriculture is taking the lead in communications, moving high tech to engage the world in its story… FFA is now harnessing this power, broadening its reach at a time when our growing population is moving increasingly far away from the stories of the farm and the origins of their food.”

How Pro’s are Doin’ it…Social Media Style

In class Monday night we had the opportunity to hear how Brad Belote, Director of Digital Content, and Lauren Matter, News Anchor for KSPR, use social media to keep viewers coming back for more.

One of the first things out of Brad Belote’s mouth was “stay in the feed.”  That phrase would have put a perplexed look on most faces a couple of years ago, but today we all know “the feed” he was referring to.  We read RSS feeds, Facebook feeds and Twitter feeds daily.  So, it didn’t surprise me when it was the first thing Brad mentioned in his efforts to keep KY3 Inc. social media savvy.

One thing I found very interesting was how, although Brad is the one in charge of all things social media, but he isn’t the only one keeping the news feeds running.  Knowing that anchors from both KY3 and KSPR are posting status updates while on the air and tweeting breaking news from the field is a great tool to keep viewers coming back for more.

The audience is engaged in the news; they feel like they are completely up-to-date.  Viewers don’t have to wait for the 5 or 10 o’clock news to find out what happened during the workday.  They can follow “the feed” throughout the day and get a glimpse of what is happening.  This intrigues them just enough to bring them back to the traditional news in the evening.

Beyond just posting breaking news topics and behind the scenes thoughts, some KY3 Inc. talent are branching out and seeking viewers in a unique manner.  Ethan Forhetz, a KY3 anchor, has created quite a following on Facebook.  Devoted fans check-in each day for his Great Debate, now this isn’t a debate on politics or environmental issues.  Ethan poses tricky questions like:  baked potatoes or French fries, Mary-Ann or Ginger, Daffy Duck or Donald Duck.  This lighthearted interaction lets viewers see the human and personal side of Ethan.  

It’s not just a give, give, give relationship for KY3 Inc. when it comes to social networking.  KSPR news anchor, Lauren Matter, expressed how she has received story ideas from fans on Facebook.  I know the public has always had the opportunity to share news ideas, but I for one would have had no clue how to go about doing it.  E-mail has made it easier, but now viewers can log into Facebook and write to Lauren or other news reporters and share what they see going on in the community. 

Both speakers also expressed how these social networking sites are an added source when it comes to putting a story idea together.  Lauren spoke on how she will search for a contact’s name to see if they would like to be interviewed for a story or to find out more about them.  This is not limited to just people.  The use of social networking sites is increasing for businesses because they are free and easy to use.  At the drop of a hat news reporters like Lauren can view a business profile for contact and other information.

One idea KY3 Inc. is experimenting with is Watch KY3 Live.  This link shows up on the left hand side of their Facebook profile and allows viewers to see what’s going on live in the newsroom.  They have opened their lives to share with viewers how they research story leads and give a glimpse of what happens behind the scenes.

Whether it is “staying in the feed,” gathering story ideas and collecting detailed information or opening up the news room to live streaming, KY3 Inc. seems to be staying on the cutting edge of the new technology social media keeps spitting out at us.  I know I “liked” their page and began following them on Twitter as soon as I got out of class.

Cows, Sows, Plows and Social Media?

A recent ZimmPoll at AgWired, which is a great social media site that brings readers news from the world of agribusiness, asked, “Can farmers effectively reach out to consumers with social media?” I quickly voted, “Yes!”  I have had this strong opinion for years now.  What better tool to teach consumers that agriculture isn’t just about cows, sows and plows.

The results speak from themselves.  74% agreed that farmers could effectively utilize social media to seek consumers.  Check out the results for yourself and read some great comments from voters. 

So, what about the other 25% who voted no?  Why do they feel social media isn’t for the farmer?  I don’t have a specific answer, but I will say some might think most farmers either don’t have the technology or experience to fully utilize social media or are just too old.  According to the 2002 Censes of Agriculture, 50% of farmers are 55 years old or older. recently did a study on the average age of people using social networks.  The chart below shows the breakdown.

Is the older generation using social media?  Yes!  But, the majority of users are 25-54 years old.  Social media can bridge the gap between generations.

This response really got me thinking.  As agriculturalist we are continually fighting an uphill battle when it comes to educating consumers on where their food comes from and how it was raised or grown.  It seems in years past we have not got that job done.  Maybe we were just waiting for someone else to answer their questions or just didn’t have the means to get the word out.  But guess what…no more excuses!!  It’s all easy now with social media tools.  Any producer can market their business and products via Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc. at the drop of the hat.  If my 80 year-old Facebook using grandpa can do it, then so can farmers from across the country.