Farmers urged to use social media

January 31, 2011 at 9:26 am Leave a comment

From The Herald, Montgomery County:

Using social media — even from the tractor — is essential for farmers today, panelists said Thursday during the 31st EcoFarm Conference at Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove.

Panelist Haven Borque, an Oakland media consultant, said she was at first skeptical of social media and some of the more trivial information exchanged there — “I don’t care what you ate for breakfast” — but then became convinced of its value.

She “realized there was a conversation out there, and I wasn’t in it,” Borque said.

Twitter, the 140-character method of instant communication, “is real-time news for everybody and everybody,” Borque said.

There are 200 million Twitter users, Borque said, which “allows us to put our news out to large populations for free.” Farmers can “tweet” about agriculture issues as well as promote their businesses, Borque said.

“It’s not just one-way” communication, Borque said. People respond to tweets, and can share them with others.

“What you say matters less than what your community says about you,” Borque said.

Borque called social media “a volatile universe” where sites come and go. She said e-mail is declining in popularity.

“Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are the winners,” Borque said.

Panelist Greg Massa, who farms organic wheat and rice in the Central Valley, said, “I like Twitter because it’s fast and easy.” It also doesn’t last long. “You say it and it’s gone,” Massa said.

Massa said he has tweeted from his tractor. He said there’s not much danger of hitting something in the middle of a rice field.

“I use Facebook a lot,” said Massa, noting that you can also send a private message from it.

Massa said he has been experimenting with ads on Facebook, where he pays about 50 cents for each person who clicks on the ad. “It’s pretty powerful direct marketing.”

Panelist Dave Murphy of Food Democracy Now in Clear Lake, Iowa, said social media, like other forms of communication, can be “trivial, entertaining or incredibly powerful.”

As a tool for urging political change on farm issues, Murphy said, social media can be a way of offsetting the efforts of lobbyists for big business.

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