The way we communicate is faster than ever before, with the growing popularity of real-time communication through multiple new social platforms and smart phones new travels faster than ever before. If a prominent celebrity or brand makes a misstep in this faster paced communication model everyone knows nearly instantly what or who blundered. Bad customer service; well the world now knows your employees are human and can have bad days too.
One of the rapid communication forms is Social Media, and Agriculture just like everyone else has a huge learning curve to stay relevant in today’s ever-changing society. The Agricultural industry is quickly seeing its communication efforts morph into something never experienced. Suddenly the customer’s voice is being amplified through the use of new platforms and we are rushing to keep up. However in that haste I think we are losing sight of something very important; strategy.
Strategy is what helps us know how to best apply the various tools we use to communicate. To build strategies in social media that help us move forward, we have to actively listen — I mean looking for opportunities to join the conversations and build mutually beneficial relationships. Think of a how radar and sonar works signals are broadcast to see what comes back giving those using the tools more knowledge about what they can’t see. Social Listening is very similar by using listening tools to learn what conversations are happening, who is having the conversations and how to join those conversations. The tools to act on what we find are critical, but if we are not setting strategic direction, we’re just setting ourselves up to get nowhere fast because nobody knows what conversations each other is having online and possibly even in real person. It is one thing to know how to use the platforms and another completely different thing knowing how to effectively use the platforms to engage in conversations.
Anyone can use social media however not everyone can be a Social Media Manger. This was pointed out in the recent article “Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25“, the subsequent reaction was an avalanche of comments with dissenting opinions yet the author was nowhere to be seen with another response post or comments to explain herself. One of the best responses to the post was from Agriculture’s own Kelly Rivard, here is an excerpt from her blog:
“Foreword: I am a social media professional, although my title is technically “coordinator.” In many ways, I am a manager of social media, and I am an administrator on many outlets. I’m writing this as an expanded version of a comment I left on this NexGen post, “Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25.” As a social media coordinator that IS under 25, I disagree with this. I wish no ill will to the writer, and I hope that the backlash is a good learning experience for her to grow from. Some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned have been learned the hard way, and while it’s never fun, I also understand that some things need to get shaky and fall apart, for me to become more solid and resolved on the other side.
My name is Kelly. I graduated in June ’12 with an Interactive Media degree from a liberal arts college that most of you have never heard of. I’m living the dream, working as a Social Media coordinator for the ad agency of my dreams.
However, when presented with the idea that social media managers should only be under 25, I disagree. Whole-heartedly.
Familiarity with tools is NOT everything. Growing up in the age of the social media evolution is NOT everything. When you manage social media outlets, you are “the face” of that organization, that company, that brand, or community. You are the first line of PR that the general public has and you are responsible for managing those outlets accordingly. You have to know how to integrate yourself into that brand’s culture, you have to understand the values, goals, and challenges that have built that culture. You have to be able to react on a moment’s notice, make judgement calls on community policy, and have an instinct for what may not be acceptable interactions on your social venues.
It isn’t a matter of sitting down on Facebook and sharing a status. It isn’t just sending out a tweet to placate the masses now and then.”
Using social platforms to “tell the story of agriculture” is very important and showing others how to use those platforms is vital. As we move forward we need to not just tell Agriculture to use social media and “tell your stories”, we also need to help them strategically use Social Media to find the customers who truly want to engage in conversations. Let’s take the time to build relationships with those who truly have an interest in learning more about how and why each farmer chooses to farm the way they do. As Kelly says communications is more than just sending out a tweet, posting a status update, or pinning a picture.
Over the last few years farmers and ranchers using new ways to engage is one of the biggest advancements we have made in moving communication of how food is grown forward. I am left to wonder though are we actually finding the customers who truly want to build mutually beneficial relationships? Or are we just engaging in battle with our loudest naysayers?