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Online 'agvocacy,' 140 characters at a time

Published Jan. 21, 2010 | Discuss this article on Facebook
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FarmerHaley on Twitter

Buckeye Farm News

On Aug. 2, Wayne County grain and cattle farmer Mike Haley asked his followers on Twitter to spread his concerns about the financial crisis America’s dairy farmers were facing. To his surprise, it became the fourth most discussed topic on the online network that day, with more than 3,000 individuals broadcasting his message to their followers and friends.

Since then, Haley, under the moniker “FarmerHaley,” has become widely recognized as a leading agricultural advocate on Twitter, which allows users to share 140-character messages including Web links and images. Haley even coined the term “agvocacy” to define the passionate work of others like him. Recently, he was named a “Top 10 Agricultural Twitter User” by Fastline Publications.

Here, Haley answers some questions commonly asked by farmers about online social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook.

Q: Isn’t social media just games for kids?

A: Social media is about building relationships and sharing information with others more than playing games. About 65 percent of Twitter users are between the ages of 25 and 54.

Q: Aren’t phones and e-mail enough?

A: They are good to communicate with those you already know. Social media allows us to reach those who have never set foot on a farm.

Q: Why would I want people I don’t know following me on social media?

A: Think about who those people may be. Neighbors, consumers, voters, lawmakers, governors, movie stars and presidents! With just one sentence you can give them all a glimpse of what you believe and why.

Q: How do you ever find time for it?

A: It’s not about time; it’s about helping consumers understand your devotion to making sure their food is safe and affordable. If we don’t take a few minutes per week to answer their questions, somebody else will – quite possibly those that want you out of business.

Q: What’s in it for me and my farm?

A: You can learn from others’ experiences and of important news, weather and crop information before it’s well known. It allows farmers to be ahead of the curve and better forecast their decision making. We’re also facing more regulations spawned from misinformation about how our farms operate. It’s time to be proactive and give people the chance to learn what really happens on our farms.

Q: Can social media help me be more influential on important issues?

A: Yes. In about two minutes, I can notify all my friends and family on Facebook, and all my followers on Twitter with an issue I am passionate about – that’s over 3,000 people! If they then spread the message to their followers, it can become viral.

Q: Where can farmers get started?

A: Check out these social media farmer hotspots:

  • Farm2U: A place on Facebook and Twitter where farmers can answer consumers’ questions
  • FollowFarmer: More than 500 farmers and agricultural users to follow on Twitter
  • #AgChat: A weekly two-hour conversation on agricultural topics on Twitter

Connect with Ohio Farm Bureau at http://www.tinyurl.com/OFBFsocialmedia.

See FarmerHaley’s Twitter page at www.twitter.com/FarmerHaley.



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