March 22 2017 08:30 AM

Real-time videos are one of the newest ways we can open our farms up to consumers.

I recently had the opportunity to interview several outstanding college students for the Animal Agriculture Alliance’s summer communications internships. When I asked our top four candidates what they saw as the “next big thing” in communicating about agriculture, all but one had the same answer: live video. I think they are on to something.

The opportunities to “go live” and communicate in real time are expanding and becoming much easier. While front-running livestream platforms like Periscope and Meerkat required the use of a separate application, video capabilities are now available on popular platforms like Facebook and Instagram. And then there is Snapchat, which is in a category of its own. Many dismiss Snapchat as a fad; however, there are more users on Snapchat than Twitter, Pinterest or LinkedIn, and it grew as much in one year as Twitter has in four years combined.

Live (or instantly shared, as on Snapchat) video is a big opportunity for the agriculture community to demonstrate its commitment to transparency. What could be more transparent than sharing real, unedited moments as they happen?

Just the word “video” can cause many of us to cringe, as we picture the highly edited productions released by activist groups with a dramatic voiceover, somber music, and dark lighting. But as of yet, we haven’t seen these groups try to use live video to promote a negative image of farms. Probably because it is much harder to tell a false narrative without having hours of footage and an editing suite.

Activist groups have started using platforms like Snapchat to share their version of “facts” and cute pictures of livestock along with calls to “go vegan.” But we still have the opportunity to be early adopters and grow our audience on these channels.

Live video can allow us to get out ahead of our detractors to share what really happens on farms. Pork industry social media gurus have hopped on to the trend, and I enjoy following Thomas Titus (titus_thomas), Cristen Clark (cristencclark), and Erin Brenneman (spookgal). However, I’d love to see more dairy farmers on Snapchat! Just think of the power of showing the birth of a calf, an early morning milking, or piling on the layers to do chores in the winter – all in real time.

Are you sharing photos and videos from your farm on Snapchat? Share your username with others and be sure to add the Animal Agriculture Alliance (animalag).

Hannah Thompson-Weeman is communications director for Animal Agriculture Alliance.