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Advocating for agriculture, otherwise known as agvocating has become a trend in the past several years. 

With fewer and fewer agricultural workers every year and as Americans continue to move from rural to urban areas the American population’s understanding of agriculture and where their food comes from has steadily dropped. In many areas of this country, people are fundamentally disconnected from the way their food is produced.

Agriculture communicators are trying to successfully communicate the many messages of agriculture and food production using social media to combat the detrimental and costly messages being spread by anti-agriculture organizations.

Why Agvocacy is Important
For most families, food is one of their top expenditures each month – just behind housing and transportation costs. Still, a 2011 study by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance found 72 percent of consumers knew nothing or very little about farming or ranching.  While not everyone farms, everyone does eat and wear clothes, so it’s important that more people understand where their food comes from.  

There is a lot of misinformation and propaganda found on social media. It just takes one person who knows little to nothing about the agriculture industry to start a frenzy. One of the most recent posts I’ve seen was a picture of a farmer pulling calf with the headline “this farmer is strangling this calf inside its mother.”

In 2012, social media attacks about Pink Slime were able to bring ground beef sales down to a ten year low and put Beef Products, Inc. and AFA Foods, companies with limited social media literacy out of business.  Read - Pink Slimed: The Beef Industry Learns The Importance Of Social Media Literacy

As more and more pressure is put on farmers and ranchers to produce the food needed to support a growing global population as a humanitarian issue; agvocacy will not only be critical to sustaining agricultural practices around the world, it will also become a necessity of national security.

During a congressional hearing late last year, John Negroponte, who served as U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and then Director of National Intelligence, explained that the need for more food “could affect political stability” and could “fuel further instability in the Middle East.” 

“The world must increase food production by 50 to 60 percent to satisfy expected global population growth and changing consumption patterns by 2050,” he said.

Unfortunately many agvocacy discussions on social media are only reaching other farmers, ranchers and agvocates.  A study by Meghan Cline at Oklahoma State University found that “agvocates are mainly preaching to the choir by seeking out like-minded individuals and organizations,” and not reaching the target audience, consumers without a connection to agriculture.

The study further states, “to successfully agvocate, agriculturalists must first understand who is receiving the benefit of the information. The utilization of social media has altered the dynamics of how communicators, agricultural communicators included, connect with their audiences.  Therefore, an understanding of who and what organizations American consumers rely on for agricultural information is imperative to the agricultural communications industry.”

Reaching out and actively searching for users that do not share the same mindset about agricultural issues was only one of the recommendations Cline’s study made.  I also suggested: 
  1. Agvocates should try to reach people of different ethnic backgrounds.
  2. Agvocates should reach out to more people who are not located in the top agriculture producing states, engaging people who have   never worked/lived on a farm. The top 10 agricultural producing states are: California, Iowa, Texas, Nebraska, Illinois, Minnesota, Kansas, Indiana, North Carolina, and Wisconsin.
  3. Further research should be conducted to determine what actions are being taken by anti-agricultural organizations to harm the agricultural sector and what should be done to combat those actions.  At the time the study was conducted The Humane Society of the United States was determined to be the top agricultural threat.  Other threats included: the United States government, corporate farms/agribusinesses, mis/uninformed consumers, and Monsanto.

The studies list of other threats, interests me, because there seems to be some differences in perceptions even amongst our own industry -between small family farms and corporate farms; organic farmers and farmers who use Monsanto seeds and weed control products.

Nicole Kenney Rambo also found that true while attending the Women in Agriculture Conference hosted by University of Minnesota Extension.  She found that there were differences in perceptions between different animal industries.

She came to the conclusion that the differences were due to the level of the level of exposure the attendees had of the different industries.  Which tells me that agvocating to those in other industries is also important so we as a whole in the field of agriculture can be on the same page with our messages.  You can read Rambo’s story here - Agvocating: More than just sharing the story of agriculture.  

How to Find the Appropriate Agvocate Audience on Social Media
It’s well worth spending time thinking about who you need to connect and engage with on social media. Then think about who those people might be associated with.  For example, what people might be associated with The Humane Society of the United States. 

Then think about who these people are, which industries they work in, what they like, what they read, what motivates them, age ranges, personality traits, where they hang out, technical know-how, how likely they are to use social media.

Also identify who your target audience key influencers. These could be people that stand out within your communities, people that others listen to, people that create action (not necessarily those people with thousands of Twitter followers). They could be bloggers, journalists, or thought-leaders. People with game-changing opinion and ideas. People who challenge the norm.  This is often easy to find with a Google search.

Once you’ve profiled the people you want to connect with, you need to find them. This is an on-going process and takes a little time. This will give you a good idea of which social platforms you should have a presence on, so keep your mind open to niche sites instead of just Facebook and Twitter.

As for finding people, there are a bunch of tools you can use to help you find them on the main social networks:

Finding people on Twitter
  • Search.twitter.com is a favorite. It has a wide criteria range to search on, including location. Also use this tool to find the key influencers in your industry and browse their follower/following lists.
  • Twitterrel lets you find people talking about related topics.
  • Twellow is the Twitter equivalent of the Yellow Pages, a directory sorted by occupation.
  • Just Tweet It is a directory sorted by interest.
  • Tweepz help you find people nearby.
  • Also pay attention to hashtags being used for events, you could find some people there.


Finding people on Facebook 
  • Search for fan pages in your subject area and browse other fans there.
  • Once you’ve connected with some key influencers, browse their friends and connect with people that way.
  • When using the search function, filter your results to drill down to the people you’re looking for.
  • Keep an eye on the suggestions that pop up on your news stream.

Finding people on LinkedIn 
  • Search for the names of those people you’ve already identified by name using LinkedIn’s search box. Also make the most of the advanced search feature.
  • You can also use this search box to search for keywords that will be included in profiles. Make the most of using OR or AND in these searches to include a few keywords (OR allows you to look for any one of those terms in the profile, AND allows you to look for a number of words).
  • You can also search for people using their email addresses.
  • Join groups that fit your target audience’s interests or industry. Once you’ve been accepted as a member, browse the member lists.
  • Use the Questions and Answer function to start a conversation around your key subject area. 


Other Tips
  • Check out the activity on your competitor’s social media profile pages. If you notice that people are commenting, sharing, and engaging with content on a particular social media platform that your competitor is using, then that would be a good indicator that that’s where your target audience is.
  • Listen & Engage: Social media is a two-way street and timing is very important. Therefore, a successful social media strategy is more about listening than talking. Listening is not only a great communication skill for in-person conversations — it’s a golden skill in the social media sphere that you need to take time to do. When you effectively “listen” to the conversations that happen online and interject at the right time to the right person with the right type of message, the end result could be one of your postings going viral. Be sure to remember that when you are jumping into a conversation, you’ll want to add value to the conversation by offering advice, a resource, or providing a solution to a point. 



Do you have a tip that has worked for you to find your agvocate target audience? If so, please share your feedback in the comments. We value your feedback.


You may also like to read:  Overcoming Criticism - which all agvocates will eventually face.

 
 
There is nothing better than meeting with someone face to face to build a working relationship. As I said in my last blog post, I have been traveling a lot for work the last couple weeks.  I thought it might be of interest to some of you to hear about some of my experiences, upcoming projects and what I’ve learned about our human need to connect with others. 

The first week of March my husband and I travelled together.  We left our home in Lodgepole, South Dakota in route to our first stop in Aberdeen, South Dakota to visit Greg Tople, a colleague, friend and our agronomist.  I was interviewing Greg for an article in Feedlot magazine on insect and pest control.  Greg not only has a pesticide company, but is also the owner Precision Ag Solutions which provides precision agriculture technology to farmers in North and South Dakota.  My husband was meeting with Greg to go over field maps and creating prescriptions for our upcoming corn planting season. 

After spending the night with Greg and his family,  we headed out the next morning to have lunch in Sioux Falls, South Dakota with our mutual friend, Dave Lydon, a pilot for Net Jets. We continued on to Lincoln, Nebraska.  Unfortunately, I was driving when we hit Omaha at 5 p.m. rush hour traffic, heading east towards Lincoln with the sun setting in my eyes. 

In Lincoln we spent the weekend with the founder of RotoMix, and Bill’s Volume Sales, Bill Pullen, who I was interviewing for Calf News.  Bill was preparing to set out on a National Geographic trip around the world, which was the perfect lead into his many trips all over the world selling RotoMix feed trucks.
I had a few short days at home before I was off again.  This time for some much needed “girl time” to reconnect with two of my girlfriends that I haven't seen in years!  We recreated the sixth grade slumber party, with my best friend from grade school and our mutual friend Jennifer Reisser in one of the most beautiful places in South Dakota; Interior which is a small town bordering the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation that is nestled into the sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires of the Badlands National Park and surrounded by the largest undisturbed mixed grass prairie in the United States. Jennifer owns a beautiful store called Native West Trading that we will be building a website for.

The next day I met the most amazing Lakota couple on the Rosebud Indian Reservation.  Not only are they traditional Lakota's who deeply love their culture and live it every day they are also ranchers and amazing stewards of the land. The Fredricks, were interviewed for an article in Range Magazine.

I then headed to Valentine, Nebraska to work with web clients at Plus One Manufacturing, who build amazing cattle working facilities.  And then headed to Lincoln County Feeders in North Platte, Nebraska for an interview for Progressive Cattleman Magazine.  I have never seen a more impressive feedlot, and a more perfect fit for this magazine.  They have a state of the art feed mill and an amazing sorting system that revolutionizes how feedlots can market cattle.

With so much drive time, I couldn’t help but think about how social media has changed human connections and how throughout my trip almost everyone I encountered longed to connect in meaningful ways; which is the best part of my job. 

While social media is great for communicating with people around the world, exchanging information, connecting ideas and businesses, I also believe it is desensitizing human relationships.  

How did we get to the point where the artificial content on our phones is more interesting than the world around us?  Facebook has taken precedence over the real people and events scrolling through our daily lives.  We no longer reach out to reconnect with old friends because their entire life is posted to social media.  Yet, online friendships give a false sense of connection and often lack emotion.

I’m not saying we should completely disconnect from social media, but I believe we should be aware of when it interferes with our greatest asset, our human relationships; and there is no genuine relationship without giving of our time and attention.

Only through our relationships can we give and experience love and make a lasting impact on the life of another.  They are the source of our greatest joys and sorrows. They support us through thick and thin and in the end are maybe the only thing that matters in life. 
 
 
 
 
I am traveling this week to meet with new web design clients and to conduct interviews for magazine articles I've been assigned to write.  I’m really excited to soon be sharing with you some of the new projects and articles I will be working on.  

There is nothing better than meeting with someone face to face to build a working relationship.  Unfortunately especially with cattle and horses at home, traveling isn’t always an option for me which is why it’s important for me to also build relationships through my blog and social media.

After last week’s blog post on the importance of blogging a reader asked me if I thought blogging was still relevant because she felt like nobody was reading her blog anymore.  With many hours to drive and think I’ve given this question much thought.  While this blog on my website has not received many comments, it has received several comments in the social media sites I have posted it in.  Which leads me to believe blogging is changing.

With smartphones, iPads and other devices becoming the preferred platform for most web users shorter, punchier messages that are tailored to readers now seem to be the trend.  But as a blogger this doesn’t scare me because almost all people are seeking information on specific subjects.  And as long as I keep writing engaging blog posts, I will find an audience even if how they find my blog changes.

Just because your blog has fewer subscribers doesn’t mean that people aren’t reading it.  Today’s readers are more likely to follow your blog on social media, and will scroll through to read the information relevant to them on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram.  Which is why it’s important to have a presence on social media sites.  

One thing you can do to increase views of your blog link is, post it a couple times throughout the week to increase the chances of people seeing it.  You can also post older articles from your archives.  I have also rebranded my blog calling it the “Thoughts” page on my website instead of a blog.  

Readers are going to interact on social media and not on your blog.  They are more likely to share your post on Facebook and leave a comment there than they are on your blog itself.  I believe we should embrace this and allow readers to take the lead as to how and where they want to discuss your blog.  We as bloggers should focus on building and engaging with our audiences on our favorite social media sites by discussing topics, asking questions, posting interesting links and not just when you post a blog post.

Let’s face it, we aren’t really motivated to write another blog post when it’s not getting reader engagement.  Beside the fact that your reader may never return to your blog getting reader engagement is important for another very important reason.  Bounce rate, which is the percentage of visitors who leave your website after looking at only a single page.  If you have a high bounce rate, which you can find out by logging into Google Analytics, your site will be ranked lower in Google search results.

What does successful engagement look like? It is comments, likes and shares of your posts, taking quizzes, entering contests, redeeming offers and writing reviews.  

We as bloggers must first remember that our blog is not about us, but our reader, they are the reason it exists.  Whether they are your readers, your customers or both, you want to create content that caters to your target audience's interests. Post content that is relevant, timely, interesting and of value to your readers.  Infodocket states that the average time spent on Facebook is 20 minutes.  Which leaves you a short period of time to make an impression.  

Educate your audience on something they may value. Include something in your blog posts that others don’t.  You must know something about a specific topic that others have not already shared. It’s also okay to share or repost content, but users will have more trust and engagement with original content posts. People are also more likely to share content from sources they trust.  Putting some data behind your claims to help build trust, showing that your advice is sound. 

Posting photos and video also increases engagement.  You can also publish different types of content including videos, podcasts, infographics, interviews and group interviews.  This can expand the reach of your blog and access new audiences.

User experience is everything and if you want people to come back to your blog, improving that experience is extremely important. 

Here are a few tips:
  • Deliver a clear message on why your blog exists and how it can help people.  
  • Always use the appropriate writing style for your audience, which is generally either down to earth, warm and friendly or a more formal professional tone.
  • Your paragraphs should be short and spacing out your paragraphs into smaller chunks makes it much easier on readers’ eyes. Long chunks of text often overwhelm readers on mobile devices.
  • If you do use images, use GIFs. Although the image won’t be highest quality possible, it will load extremely fast and look reasonably good. 
  • Display related blog posts in your blog and always at the end of every post.  You may also like to read:

Once your getting engagement try to respond quickly to posts or reviews on your page. Facebook monitors this and highlights how responsive you are on your fan page.  A big part of engagement is networking so comment and leave helpful comments on other blogs in your niche.

Last but not least - don’t simply hope that people will know what to do after they have read a great blog post. Ask for the engagement you want, preferably at the end of each post. One great way to encourage engagement is to ask your readers about their thoughts and experiences with regard to the topic at hand. Ask them what their burning questions are. Ask them to engage.

Over to you - 
We’ve talked through a bunch of tips you can put into action. We would love to hear what has worked well for you and if you have any tips to add. I would also love to hear what other topics would you like to read about next week?




You might also like:
 
 
Click on the photo above to read our latest article in The Wrangler Horse and Rodeo News Magazine.
 
 
I love connecting with people. I want to make my customers experience with Agri-Marketing Solutions as personal as I can and this blog is the perfect platform for that. Creating an online brand is about sharing the love you have for your product, service or business, and sharing it authentically from your heart. Blogging is the best way I know to connect with and serve clients. Your product descriptions, website pages and e-mails can never go as in-depth as your blog can and will. There is so much media noise today that it's more important than ever to let others know what makes you and your business unique. A blog will set you apart and grow your following. Your blog is truly your platform. Unlike other forms of social media that you can't control, your blog is yours. You decide what is on it at all times, how beautiful it is and how inspirational your posts are. 

Think about your blog as another segment of your marketing plan. A well-written blog drives visitors to your website, improves your SEO, gives a boost to your Google rankings, and allows editors, producers, gallery owners, and other influential people in your field to learn about you and your brand. 

Blogging can be incredibly valuable to a variety of people and for a variety of reasons and is not just for businesses. My personal blog Montana Ranch Girl (which I've not kept up due to being busy on our ranch/farm/feedlot and developing this business) has benefited me personally, professionally and financially. I was not buying or selling anything but what it did for me was incredible. 

I was able to reach billions of people to promote myself and the farm/ranch lifestyle which created some unique opportunities. I was very fortunate to be featured in Marie Claire France Magazine and to appear on Oprah via Skype. 

Blogs also enhance your professional image, establishing you as an authority in your field. In many ways blogs are the new resumes validating and illustrating to readers, employers, and your network, that you are skilled and knowledgeable. I received job offers and was able to further my freelance writing career because of it. Only 1 percent of Internet users actively create new content, while the other 99 percent simply view it. Blogging helps you stand out and separates you from the herd. Who wouldn't want to hire someone like that? 

Blogging through my cancer treatment also helped me become a better person. In a foggy chemo brain it forced me to organize my thoughts and learn. I had to teach myself what I didn't know and articulate myself in meaningful ways. Writing for me has always been one of the best ways to delve within myself facilitating self-awareness and is a great way to internalize something I've learned or experienced. 

Most importantly, I've also been able to create meaningful personal relationships through the blog with people I would have never met anywhere else. I met the most incredible woman who I speak to on a regular basis. When we met through my blog, I would have never dreamt that my son who is in the Army would someday be stationed just a half an hour from where she lives. My son has recently gone through a rough patch in his personal life and with cows I wasn't able to fly out to be with him, but my dear friend was able to be there for him as a surrogate mom. 

The powerful aspect about blogging is that any type of personality can do it effectively – introverts and extroverts alike, organized or chaotic personalities, with pictures or words, or a little of both. Blogging inspires. It can transform a life with a simple word of encouragement or a breathtaking photograph. 

Whatever your reason for starting a blog, Agri-Marketing Solutions is here to help get you started, please feel free to stop in to discuss your blog idea over a cup of coffee or send us a message, we are here to help you create a blog that opens doors for you.

 
 
With the next generation of millennial farmers and ranchers stepping up to fill the roles of retiring parents and grandparents, it is imperative for farms, ranches and agricultural services to have a website.  This new generation will farm and ranch in new ways with different demands. They view farming and ranching as more of a business than a lifestyle and view technology as the means to make the operation more efficient.  They also get most of their information online. Therefore, it’s vital to position yourself online with a strong, professional website that gives customers the impression you mean business and have the motivation to want to engage more with your business. 

Like many farmers and ranchers, you may believe your business cannot benefit from having a website or that a website is not within your budget. Or maybe you think because you don’t use a computer, neither do your potential customers. These are huge misconceptions! Any business that does not have a website is missing out on one of the most powerful marketing tools available to them. A website can be used to accomplish many different marketing strategies to help your business grow.  Without one you’re missing out on opportunities for customers to identify who  you are and if they want to spend money with you. 

1. YOUR FARM, RANCH OR BUSINESS WILL GAIN CREDIBILITY 
Even if you don’t plan to sell your products over the internet or via mail order, having a website describing your farm, your location, hours, seasonal availability and other information makes good business sense. More and more people use the internet as an all-purpose research tool in place of phone directories, maps and guidebooks. These days most people go online and research products and services before they make a purchase, if you don't have a website you are missing out on this potential business and sending them to your competitors that do.  

Your business gains credibility by having a website. A website gives you the opportunity to tell consumers why they should trust you and the testimonials and facts to back up those opportunities. It can also help to give the impression that your company is bigger and more successful than it may actually be. One of the great things about the internet is that the size of your company does not really matter. There is no reason that you can't get your site to rank in Google ahead of a large multinational competitor and funnel off some of their traffic. This is a big part of the reason that a website is even more important for a small business than a big one, it tends to level the playing field.   

While no website equals missed opportunities, a bad website can actually be worse since it literally makes your business look bad.  First impressions count and you want your first impression to be the best it can be because potential clients are passing judgement and making decisions about your business. Studies show that 48% of visitors use the design of your website to determine whether or not your entire business is credible and 94% of visitors leave poorly designed sites without engaging. If the design of your site is not professional, eye-catching, engaging and personable you will have no time in which to convince visitors to stay, let alone do business with you. 

2. A WEBSITE SAVES YOU MONEY 
If you don’t think you can afford to invest in website design, the real question should be; can you afford not to. Although the cost of designing a website varies, once it's up and running, a website for a small business generally costs under $100 a month and, in some cases, as little as $20. Compared to the cost of a newspaper ad and considering the potential market you can reach with a website, it is a very cost effective way to promote your business. Even something as basic and simple as a one-page website that explains your business and what it offers, provides value.  
 
3. WEBSITES HELP YOU TELL YOUR STORY AND CUSTOMERS INFORMED 
A website is also a terrific place to tell your story, a tried-and-true marketing strategy. Include a short “about us” section describing your farm’s history, goals and values. Remember that reporters and researchers rely on the internet too! Having an accessible, easy to navigate website can multiply your promotional opportunities.  Think of your website as being your online brochure or catalogue. It is much easier and quicker to update information about your products and services on your website than in print material, making it an effective way of letting your customers know about the arrival of new products, upcoming events, special promotions, or any new services you now offer. Unlike print ads which quickly become outdated, your website can provide current information and news. It also demonstrates that a business that is trying to provide the best possible customer experience. 

4. IT IS ALWAYS ACCESSIBLE 
A website is available to both your regular and potential customers 24/7/365 providing them with the convenience of researching and reviewing your products and services at any time.  

5. A WEBSITE MAKES IT POSSIBLE TO TARGET A WIDER MARKET 
Whether you provide products or services, your website will provide an alternative location to sell them to a wider market; even services can be made available globally.  Don't forget, even cars and houses sell online, why not livestock and crops? Being visible worldwide means you are very likely to gain more customers. The more customers and visitors you have, the more sales you will generate.  

6. IT PROVIDES A PLACE TO SHOWCASE YOUR WORK AND PRACTICES 
No matter what type of business you’re in, a website is a great place to showcase your work. By including an image gallery, as well as testimonials about your work, you can demonstrate what makes your farm or ranch unique. 

7. A WEBSITE SAVES YOU TIME 
Providing information to your customers takes time, whether it’s on the phone, face-to-face, in a brochure, or in emails. With a website you can provide lots of information about your products and services. Once your website is up and running, it is available to your customers indefinitely, saving you time.  

8. IT IMPROVES CUSTOMER SERVICE 
By including a FAQ page, adding articles or uploading newsletters to answer all your customers' questions you can keep them informed. What better way to provide them with value added services than by sharing industry information on your website. 

No matter what your business is, it is imperative to have a website. The more professional your website is, the more advantages you can gain.  Let Agri-Marketing Solutions help you develop an effective website solution for your business, tailored to your budget and prospective clients.  


  

 

    Author Jennifer Archibald

    Reflections of life and lessons learned in the fields of marketing and agriculture.  A place to shout from the roof tops our clients success and keep you up to date on industry trends.

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