Social Media and the Dairy Industry

Published on Tue, 04/17/2018 - 12:38pm

 Social Media and the Dairy Industry

 By Bruce Derksen for American Dairymen

 There is no getting around it, social media is a fact of life.  It is becoming a language unto itself throughout all of society, filled with texts, pictures, videos, blogs and chatting with two hundred and eighty word responses.  It is an optional tool that dairy producers can use positively, negatively, or not at all.  They can try their best to ignore it, but it has a life of its own and will grow even larger in the future.  The thought of becoming fluent in this language can be a scary proposition, but there is something to be said for eventually leaving the safety of the kiddy pool and wading into the deeper end.

Our society is enthralled with being entertained.  If you can catch and hold someone’s attention for even a minute, you can spread a positive message with those on the receiving end beginning to learn, if they so desire.
There is a huge amount of fake news and alternative facts about agriculture in general and specifically the dairy industry.  With the public having legitimate questions this can be a dangerous concoction.  We need to be a part of giving them the truthful answers to their concerns before those that take pleasure, or honestly believe in falsehoods, spread them to the curious and uninformed.
So, if you are already fluent in this new and expanding language or have gathered up the courage to cautiously wade into the social media world, remember that the average person has very little idea of the realities of the dairy industry.  In the recent past, small farms and communities dotted the countryside and larger numbers of the public had a connection to agriculture.  More people either grew up on these farms, lived in these communities, or at minimum had an uncle and aunt, grandparents or friends that they visited on the farm.  

The world is becoming more environmentally conscious and although some may believe that milk originates in a store, they can quickly research the subject.  Remember the fake news and alternative facts?  Use the tools available to us.
Some blog, communicate on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter sharing snippets of their farming lives.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words so pick up your cellphone and share a picture of some baby calves instead of that cute kitten.  Make a video of your cow herd frolicking in the pasture on the first day of spring after the boredom of a long cold winter.  Communicate with the public and answer their questions, but be prepared.  We may not immediately know all the answers.  Research and seek advice rather than spread even more falsehoods and alternative facts.  Present your information in a respectful and down to earth way.  Even though it seems trite, mind your grammar and spelling in your communications.  There is not much that can turn people away quicker from your truthful and well -meaning responses than posts that are riddled with spelling and grammatical errors.
And lastly, remember who you are attempting to reach with your videos, pictures and tweets.  While your frustration may be with those that attack the dairy industry, they are not really your target audience.  No matter the quality of your “feel good” videos and pictures, there is little chance of changing this group’s rigid views, but you can potentially reach what is popularly referred to as the “moveable middle” of the public.  They are the fence sitters who become genuinely curious or interested in agriculture and can be influenced with the positive realities of our industry.  Don’t show them only the highlights though, but give them some of your sorrows and disappointments as well.  Present the ups and downs of your day to day farming life.  Assure them that dairy farmers are real people too.
So don’t be afraid of the language of social media.  When you read or hear something about the dairy industry that you know is false, don’t just grit your teeth and swear under your breath, but be a part of the positive answer to the fake news and alternative facts by exploring what you can do via social media to get the true message to the uninformed and curious world.