Social Media & Taking the Bull by the Horns

December 17, 2009

Very few of my friends or family are on Twitter.  And of the few who are Twitter users, I hate to admit they’ve let their accounts go unused.  I think my family and friends get a bit of a laugh out of the very concept of 140 character tweets.

When most Americans think of Twitter, they probably think of following a big name celebrity or maybe a local news source.  The value of creating community and providing your own perspective is why farmers like Mike Haley are on the social media site.  It’s also how I came to know him.

Both of us ended up in meetings in February – mine at Monsanto and his with the Ohio Farm Bureau.  It was suggested people in these rooms several states away with no connection, should be on Twitter or telling ag’s stories through other social media.  Out of all of the folks who were in those meetings, I wonder how many signed up…  guess there were a few of us willing to give it a shot and seize the bull by the horns.

So how does a public relations person in Memphis meet an Ohio farmer through Twitter?

One of the ways to easily find information others post that may interest you is to follow “hashtags” through simple searches.   Both of us were working with #ag and #farm and in April we joined #agchat which gives the farm crowd a two-hour time slot each week to talk about agriculture topics of interest.  (More info on agchat.)

Over the summer, the crisis on dairy farms worsened and some of the people who were regulars in #agchat shared information about the way their farm was impacted.  Mike’s response was one of action… find a way to bring this to the attention of lots of other people on Twitter.   I had to join in!  You can read more about it on a dairyman’s blog.

The real power of Twitter in the hands of farmers like Mike is the information and stories they can communicate to others everyday.  Mike’s account has grown to include more than 2200 people who want to hear about his farm and his views on agriculture.  When he snaps a photo of a grain bin, dozens of people usually look at it and some ask questions.  When a major issue facing Ohio agriculture came around, Mike’s perspective on Issue 2 was sought out.  He carried on a campaign telling people one-by-one why farms like his wanted to define the future of livestock in the state.

And in the midst of all of this, he took time on Twitter, on the phone, online and in person to help me learn a bit about cattle.  Now that is really taking the bull by the horns!

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