By CYNDIE SIREKIS
For the Capital Press
Several agricultural social media "rock stars" offered tips and encouragement to farmers and ranchers at a strategic engagement conference during the American Farm Bureau Federation's recent annual meeting in Nashville.
"Social media allows us to be part of the conversation," is how Ryan Goodman, a cattle rancher from Arkansas who created the AgricultureProud.com blog put it. Goodman is also a guest contributor to CNN's Eatocracy blog. He noted that consumers are "already talking about what we're doing on the farm and ranch." He has discovered that social media is an effective means of allowing farmers and ranchers to have direct access to people with questions.
Zach Hunnicutt, a Nebraska farmer who was recently elected chairman of AFBF's Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee, has found that he can be an advocate for agriculture by giving a tour of his farm every day using Facebook and Instagram.
"Be positive all the time, and be passionate when advocating for agriculture on social media," Hunnicutt advised farmers thinking about engaging in social media. Passion about what you do on the farm or ranch will draw people in, he said.
"Be consistent with social media and you will build community," said Katie Pinke, author of the Pinke Post blog. Especially if you're just starting out, concentrating on doing just one or two things well is the way to go, she advised.
Pinke, who started her blog several years ago as a "lonely pregnant woman on the prairie trying to find friends," offered encouragement to those in agriculture who may be hesitant to get started in social media. What you do does not necessarily have to be fancy or flashy, she said.
All of the panelists have found that engaging in conversations on social media about nonfarming subjects at least part of the time helps increase outreach. Cooking, recipes, kids, sports, music, travel and photography are among the topics they have successfully used for this.
Setting up a business page on Facebook for your farm is another strategy the panelists encourage. Having a business page means your farm can be found through search engines.
Visit the meeting blog at farmbureau.wordpress.com for perspectives about social media and events in Nashville.
Cyndie Sirekis is director of news services at the American Farm Bureau Federation.