Social media can be effective in telling agriculture’s story

Social media has allowed every consumer to become a reporter, and every reporter to become a consumer. That was the rationale of California dairy producer Ray Prock, who began using tools such as Facebook, YouTube and other online programs to put out a positive message for animal agriculture. Mr. Prock was part of a discussion panel during the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin’s annual meeting.

“Social media is nothing more than people having conversations online,” Prock said. “If they trust us, we can build relationships with our customers. There aren’t many better ways to do that than communicating and finding our common ground via the Internet.”

Prock has also found that science-based information alone isn’t always the best way to combat misguided messages. He says many people communicate with emotion, and producers should do the same when they engage the public.

Shannon Seifert, a producer from Minnesota, is also active in social media. She says the power of blogging has been an effective way for her to send a positive message about the dairy industry.

“One thing I learned is it’s harder for people to attack us if there’s a ‘real’ face to the industry,” Seifert noted. “When I blog, I share every mundane detail about what we do on our farm and how we do it. You never know when a consumer will learn something positive through our efforts.”

She also uses a simple rule when spreading her message to the public: give them a glass full, not a whole tanker!

Meanwhile, Laurie Kyle stressed that producers shouldn’t forget to use traditional tools, such as letters to the local newspaper editor or open farm tours. As a nutrition expert, she also tries to think about the consumers’ perspective when sharing the dairy message. She says milk and dairy products are among some of the most natural and wholesome products a consumer can get on the market, and if producers aren’t communicating that message, it can get lost in our information-intensive culture.