How to be an agvocate – and do it well. Jen recommends you join the positive conversation about agriculture.
Jennifer Christie (@SavvyFarmGirl) is the Global 4-H Network Summit Event Chair for 4-H Canada and former dealer development manager with John Deere Canada. As comfortable on the seat of a tractor as she is in a boardroom, Jen spends time on her family’s sixth-generation dairy and grain farm in Bruce County. She is a passionate agvocate on social media and beyond.
Can an individual farmer actually make a difference in how the general public perceives agriculture?
It can seem an overwhelming task to counter all the misinformation about agriculture, particularly on social media. Those spreading misinformation have had a lot of practice and they have a head start, but this is a marathon, not a sprint. When producers start sharing their stories, it may not have an immediate impact, but over time it will make a difference.
You may feel you’re “preaching to the choir” because your followers are all likeminded, but you can go beyond this and influence people who aren’t directly involved in agriculture. You can also do this by talking to friends and family about farming. It doesn’t have to be on social media.
What advice do you have for using social media?
Be conscious of the audience you want to reach and remember these are public forums. Use another method for chatting about sensitive issues. There are comments that don’t belong in public. As farmers, we enjoy a great deal of public trust and we need to build on that. This takes time and persistence. Plus, we need to listen. There’s a reason we have two ears and one mouth. Communication isn’t a one-way street.
Too often, it seems we’re telling people what they should think. People want to know more about where their food comes from, and then they want to decide for themselves. Help them make that decision.
Truth will eventually trump fear, but facts aren’t as convincing as relationships. Studies show sharing content that shows our values is far more important than sharing facts or demonstrating technical skills and expertise. We should share both the positive and negatives of agriculture. This creates interest. It’s also more human. Stories help people understand.
How powerful is social media?
The backlash to Earls Restaurant when they decided to serve non-Canadian beef is an example of the power. Earls came out and admitted they didn’t talk to farmers. Farmers who spoke up made a difference. Earls said it was a mistake to move away from Canadian beef and they committed to sourcing as much as possible from Canada.
As a former manager with John Deere, you must have some views on the strength and importance of a brand.
The power of the John Deere brand is illustrated by how many people want John Deere hats even though they aren’t farmers. However, it has taken over a hundred years to build this brand and it comes down to employees and how they act. It’s also important to note that a great deal of time and effort goes into protecting a brand once established.
Remember, everyone has a personal brand and that’s why it’s important to carefully consider each of your social media postings.
Jen’s top 10 social media best practices
- Think thrice, post once
- Be aware of current events
- There is no sarcasm font
- Read links before sharing them
- Use a picture of you for your profile picture
- Fit your message to the channel – 140 characters on Twitter is not enough to get into issues
- Speak from experience and don’t generalize
- Search a new hashtag before using it
- Engage with people – have a conversation!
- If you can’t say anything nice, say nothing