I’ve been sick for the past many weeks which is why this blog comes so late after the AAW conference. This post will also appear in whole or in part in the Jan. 2011 edition of the Oregon Women for Ag newsletter the “Cultivator”.
Thanks in part to a $500 scholarship from Oregon Women for Ag I was able to attend the American Agri-Women annual conference in St. Louis this November. The theme of the conference was “Gateway to Agriculture in the 21st Century.” To go along with this theme many sessions and speakers covered the use of social media to tell our stories of agriculture. There were sessions for both beginners and advanced users of Facebook and Twitter. All the speakers emphasized engaging the public. Michelle Payn-Knoper of Cause Matter Corps puts it this way, “Listen, Engage, Educate.”
Michelle spoke to participants about using social media to be an agvocate, or voice for agriculture. She helped many people start Facebook and Twitter accounts during the conference and get their feet wet in social media. Food is a hot button issue right now, and Michelle says “It’s time for agriculture to leverage… through social media leadership to influence public option, rather than react to rhetoric.” Her handout shows how many followers anti-ag groups like HSUS (32,000 followers on Twitter) and PETA (754,000 Facebook fans) have and emphasizes that we have to be connected through social media or those groups will form the face of agriculture for us. She suggests that you start by dedicating 15 mins. a day to using Twitter and Facebook to update your status with what you’re doing on the farm, post links, and join the discussion on Ag pages that you support.
Dr. J Scott Vernon spoke to the group about his site ILoveFarmers.org, which is the fastest growing ag related page on Facebook. His target audience is 14-24 yr olds, both urban and rural, using other students their age to help “Celebrate choice in the market place thanks to American family farmers and ranchers. ” To help meet their goals the ILoveFarmers group has created an edgy tattoo like logo that reads “I Love Farmers They Feed My Soul” which is printed on hats and tee-shirts and other merchandise. They have also created a tee-shirt that says “WTF” in large letters on the front, and on the back reads “Where’s the food without the farmer?”
I spoke on a panel about working with the media. Giving suggestions on how to use social media to grow your message and answering questions about online reputation management. Also on the marketing panel was Sara Wyant of Agri-Pulse Communications who spoke about building relationships with the traditional media. Larry Stoller of Fastline Publications spoke about using the new technologies of internet TV, and JoAnn Alumbaugh of McCormick Company spoke about being ready to give an interview. Again and again this panel of media professionals said you must develop relationships with journalists, reporters, and editors. Don’t treat the media like an enemy. If you have a good relationship and have been reliable, trustworthy, and truthful you may become a source they go to when they need coverage on a story or an insider’s option on an issue.
Also speaking were Pamela Bartholomew of the Tenn Dept of Ag who spoke about how agriculture can use business pages on Facebook to leverage interest and promote agri-tourism as part of their business strategy. And Laura Nielson of findourcommondground.com who had started sharing her farm story with videos on Youtube and turned into an internet phenomenon. Now part of Commond Ground she spoke about how this new marketing campaign in collaboration with corn and soybean growers associations will help women in agriculture connect with women in the marketplace.
During the President’s Reception on the last night of the conference I was both pleased and surprised to receive the President’s award from Chris Wilson. Chris gave me the award recognizing my contribution to growing the presence and influence of American-Agri Women through social media. During my year as AAW’s social media chair the Facebook page grew from 400 fans to 1,100 and had more than 700 interactions including comments, mentions, and likes. During that time the page received more than 12,000 views with 2,200 being unique views. Arlene Kovash from OWA also received a President’s Award for her work as the legislative chair for AAW.
Once again thank you OWA for the scholarship that allowed me to be part of this great event, and represent Oregon as one of the most active chapters in American-Agri Women.