Agendas And Social Media: War Path or Passion


Last week I attended the AgChat conference in Nashville. The opportunity to spend 3 days putting a face with the twitter handles and avatars I have been talking to for the last year, was a pretty awesome experience. All of the online friends I talk to everyday are now real life friends. It was a great experience to be in the room with 100 farmers, ranchers, and ag professionals that have the same interest in advocating for agriculture. In my eyes, personal communication has been and always will be agriculture’s strongest suit. That may be a bit naive in today’s world of rapidly advancing technology, but call me old-fashioned, it’s my story and I’m stickin to it.

Going into the AgChat conference, I was asked to co-present a workshop on blogging, share my skills and a few things I’ve learned along the way. I consider myself a novice blogger. I don’t understand SEO (search engine optimization), writing HTML code, or even using all of the tools available on WordPress. But apparently, people like what I have going and want to hear what I have to say.

Not gonna lie, going into a “social-media” conference, I felt a bit intimidated going in with only my so-called “dumbphone” and bulky laptop while everyone else sits there with the latest pads, tablets, smartphones, and downsized computer gadgets. And I felt a bit intimidated in the mobile technology workshop where it was all about smartphone apps. There wasn’t even a hint of what information can be gained via text message. I know I’m not the ONLY person still texting from the farm. To be honest, when it came to technology, I felt like I really didn’t belong. I was kinda made to feel like I must have the latest technology to stay relevant in social media. To this point I am kinda disappointed in the AgChat Foundation. Are we running the marathon and leaving behind our teammates? I know I am NOT the only one in agriculture, farming or ranching that is short of smart phone technology, or the money to spend on latest version of the iPad. And I believe AgChat will suffer by leaving behind these people in an effort to gain the edge on technology and social media. We do not need to leave behind daily, face-to-face communication with the person standing next to us. Maybe I went in with the wrong expectations from the conference.

Back to the personal communication topic, over the course of the entire conference, even though it was a “social media” subject, there wasn’t much discussion of face-to-face communication. I even spoke up at the Q&A session at the end of the conference and suggested that we remember that despite all of our technology, we can’t leave behind face-to-face communication or even our neighbors in our back yard. We get over-zealous with reaching people across the globe, and forget about the neighbors in our back yard who have the same questions. My strongest ties in advocacy for agriculture have developed from initial personal communication. People next to us in church, or at the next table in Arby’s want to know about food too! I have had some great conversations at the meat counter in Walmart, sparked by noticing a confused look at the meat options.

So with saying all of this I ask, What is your agenda when it comes to blogging, or advocating for agriculture? Are you setting out on a mission to convert, educate, and inform consumers about all their misconceptions of production agriculture and food? Or are you sharing a message simply for the love of it, in hopes that the message will reach responsive ears and eyes? When I started blogging, it was with a purpose of sharing the events in my life on the ranch, sharing my passion for cattle production, and dropping a few facts along the way. I have veered from that course by trying to “keep up with the Jones” of the social media world. I’ve been told by SM professionals that I need to cater my message to gain the non-farm audience, appeal and connect to consumers, and change-up my posts to include non-farm material in the process. To that I say, thank you but no thank you. I started blogging to share with the world my passion of ranching, and that’s what I need to focus more on. If readers see that I have a passion for what I do, show enthusiasm about it, and am sharing my message in an authentic manner, they’ll follow if they want. The Pioneer Woman didn’t get her spot on Food Network by telling people what the should or shouldn’t eat. She was simply being herself.

Social media and blogging should be an extension of our real life conversation. It shouldn’t take its place. I may never be a network celebrity, I just hope my readers will enjoy reading about my passion as much as I love living it. To this I say, My day job is more fun than your vacation.

Kinda took a round about way of getting here, but ask yourself, What is the agenda behind your efforts?

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14 Comments

  1. Ryan, you do a great job! Nothing reaches readers as much as honestly caring and showing your true passion for what you do. Anything less is just a commercial and you know how we all react to commercials. I have been blogging long enough to have a pretty long blog roll of people that I read every time they post. I don’t add to it very often, because I don’t have time to read many more blogs. However, after reading two or three of your posts I was hooked and you got a link. Keep up the good work!

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  2. Great points! Social media can’t fully replace the impact of face-to-face interaction- especially in agriculture. I often share your blog with new “agvocates” because you do a fantastic job of telling your personal story. Your passion and integrity really shine through. Please keep doing what you are doing! So glad we got to meet at the conference.

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  3. I advocate for horses and horse businesses primarily, but in a prior life, aside from raising Quarter horses, my ex-husband raised cattle so with all the special grass we grew for hay, the different crops that leased land (watermelons, strawberries) and the exotic chickens I ordered, etc., etc., agriculture is near and dear to my heart so I am behind you all the way and wish I was out on a farm again.

    Your passion speaks loud and clear and makes a great impression, so just keep doing what you are doing. I do what I do because I love sharing information… I am not warming people up so they will buy something from me. Lately I tend to microblog more than blogging purely because of time issues… takes lots of time to curate news to share! Your content is not a rehash of things that are already out there just to get a blog post in… keep it up! We need more bloggers like you.

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  4. I think you do a FANTASTIC job of spreading the word about agriculture. I also think you bring up a very good point that we don’t need to cater to just non-agriculture folks. Those of us who consider ourselves agriculturists learn new things all the time or have to get the facts straight about issues pertaining to agriculture. I learn something new everyday and because of this I’m making it a personal goal of mine to post something agriculturally related on Facebook and Twitter on a daily basis unless I have no access. Keep up the good work, Ryan!

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  5. Very true and correct thoughts here Ryan. I am glad to see I am not the only one with a dumb tough phone, that will survive a run over by the tractor, and a bulky laptop. It is not all about money and the newest gadget. I agree that face to face is the best way to communicate and it brings the feeling of being laid back down home true to the community. This makes me think of all the days I spent with my grandfather at the sale barn. The stories, and things learned there could never be experienced or duplicated “online.” Although, I do greatly appreciate your blogs and information that you provide to us and the friendship developed through social media, very much. From the quizzes of “what weed is this,” to sharing and discussing local news “the house burning in the middle of the road,” these conversations have been entertaining, informative and a enjoyment. The combination of both social media and face to face communication is a benefit that we are fortunate to have in this day and time.

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  6. Ryan, you are so correct about the face-to-face meeting when promoting our industry. I have been so impressed with Texas Beef Council and local beef associations beef bus tours. Nothing like getting face-to-face interaction with consumers and nutritionists about the benefit beef in your diet. They truly are making a connection with people outside of agriculture and clearing up the misinformation about feedlots and ranches

    Some of the local Texas producers have been running these tours twice a week volunteering hours to open the doors to the public. I don’t understand how they find the time. Texas is facing an epic drought. Producers are running out of water, finding it nearly impossible to find hay, and selling out cattle above record numbers. To say this state is liquidating it herds is an understatement. But still these producers make the time to promote beef while facing the greatest operating challenge of their lives. There is something special about Texas cattle ranchers. Maybe I’m bias from raising cattle in this state but their efforts make me feel a little more than ag proud.

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  7. Ryan,

    You raise several great points. And I have to say it was awesome finally meeting you!

    I think you would have enjoyed our blogging session if you hadn’t taught one at the same time! I talked about how my friends, relatives, college friends, church ffriends, etc are some of the network I want to reach. To do that, the thing I have to keep in mind is being mysewlf, staying accessible nevver preachy, etc. Another thing I note is the our objectives differ as much as the farms & ag operations we represent… Social media is definitely not a one size fits all effort and different styles, etc work for people. I love that you have such a clear vision of your path.

    As a last minute addition to the mobile tech panel. I’d like to apologize for not having texting included. My guess is the crowd at the conference is far more tech nerdy than most of our farm peers. You know I think a lot of farmers & ranchers can learn from you. SO SORRY we didn’t have a chance to do the short video on the topic we discussed. Perhaps you could do a show “how to be smart on social media with a dumbphone” video walking through how you do it all. I’m sure the agchat.org blog would welcome it as a post along with some of your other tips.

    Finally, the AgChat Conference is all planned by those of us in the community who volunteer our time. I hope you agree that overall it was a really good experience but that we have room to grow. You would be a welcome addition to getting more on-farm & ranch voices good actionable messagaes. You do it on your own already through the agproud efforts.

    I look forward to catching you in the future in the digital world and in real life.

    Jp

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  8. You are so right Ryan. It’s amazing how passion, humility, gratitude, and honesty can affect a message. As an industry seeking the acceptance and approval of our consumers, we need to guard against creating the perception of “proud arrogance” and maintain a genuine, upright–but down-to-earth persona. –And sorry, I just now realized the name of the blog I’m commenting on. Oops. 😀

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