The idea of sharing pictures or stories from your farm, especially online, can be intimidating, and questions may pile up. You may think, “What if no one cares what I’m saying?” Worse, what if they don’t like what I’m saying? How do I stay relevant with so many social media platforms available? What if I’m not good at it?
These types of questions are real and valid. But being a voice for agriculture doesn’t have to mean you share everything with thousands of people — and take that from someone who does reach thousands. “Sharing in your community cannot be undervalued,” said Marissa Hake (@calfvet_) when social media advocates talked about their journeys during this year’s Connect Summit.
Anneliese Wegner (@modfarmchick) added, “It doesn’t have to be social media 24 hours a day. Just respond to the needs in your community.” That could mean hosting a school field trip or local representative and posting pictures from it, or maybe responding to questions in a community group you’re involved with.
Tara Vander Dussen (@taravanderdussen) agreed and reminded the audience to find what you already enjoy doing and talking about to decide what gets shared on your pages. That element of reality creates a connection and trust while making it more enjoyable for you to do. “You can’t share like anyone else. You have to be authentic,” she said.
Many consumers are searching out farmers to hear and learn from; just consider how popular farmer’s markets and on-farm stores have become. Advocating online is a similar tool, said Michelle Miller (@thefarmbabe). “Every single person can have an impact,” she added.
So, how do you effectively advocate online at any scale? Dan Venteicher (@iowadairyfarmer) cautioned, “You’re not going to be good at first.”
Venteicher explained that though blogs work for some advocates, he knew that wasn’t the platform for him and instead focused on videos. They’ve been very effective for him, even when he decided to move his content from TikTok to Facebook and had to learn a new platform.
That learning curve is going to help you recognize what type of content you want to share, he said. Is it videos, photos, or more written information? There’s no requirement to be on every channel; use what you like. “Challenge yourself to find what you’re good at,” Venteicher added.
Hake reminded that, although farmers love to follow other farmers online, you aren’t sharing the information to sell dairy products to other farmers. Remember that a consumer could see every post, so consider if it would drive them to dairy or not. Giving context on all of your posts is critical, noted Vander Dussen.
Just as you’re not posting for other farmers, you’re also not going to change the minds of the small (but vocal) number of people opposed to all animal agriculture. Focus on the folks in between who are open to your information and experience, emphasized Evelyn Leubner (@nyfarmgirls).
The panelists recognized that for multiple reasons, it can be scary for farmers to decide to share about their businesses online, just as sharing any opinions there can open up broad discussions. As Leubner said, though, “The one thing that’s scarier than starting is other people telling your story.”
Social media offers dairy farmers the unique opportunity to connect with their consumers and showcase that story firsthand, starting in their own backyards. The good outweighs the bad, said Wegner.