“I tweet, on Twitter,” a phrase I heard twice in one week at two different meetings. I first heard it at the American Farm Bureau Federation Council of Presidents meeting, and then at the Minnesota Agriculture Ambassador Institute (MAAI). So, why are a group of 18-23 year old agricultural leaders and a group of somewhat older state Farm Bureau leaders both talking about a social media tool like Twitter? Because we all need to embrace this and other cyberspace communication that is here to stay and is changing the way that consumers are getting their information about agriculture.
I will be honest, I grew up watching the news on television at Noon, six or ten o’clock and walking out to the mailbox to get the daily newspaper. Just as agriculture has changed, so has the communications between farmers, consumers and the media and anyone else who is connected to the Internet. Facebook, My Space, Twitter, LinkedIn, Ning, Bebo and Hi 5 are just some of the hot new Internet communications tools being used by more and more consumers every day. These are tools that we in agriculture need to embrace as well. In fact, the top three social media tools will have over 2.5 billion hits (a request to a web server for a file) in just one month!
I will be the first to admit that I am a little uneasy about this whole social media world. Now anyone with a keyboard or cell phone has the opportunity to “report” the news or “report” their opinions. These are great tools, but we need to understand there is a difference between facts and opinions. Social media many times lacks the same credibility filters that we are accustomed to. Remember the validity of what we read depends on who it was written by and where they obtained their information from.
Many of you who are “friends” of Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation on Facebook know that our organization has been participating in social media since July 2008. Creating the account provided another effective tool to communicate agriculture’s and Farm Bureau’s messages with our members and consumers. And, for those of you who have some uneasiness about social media, you can be sure, the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation will present ourselves in the social media world the very same way we present ourselves in person or in print. We will be honest, listen to the facts and respect the views and opinions of others.
As I mentioned above, attendees to MAAI discussed the topic of social media. Allen Sommerfeld, Minnesota Department of Agriculture communications coordinator, led the discussion and reminded the group of this quote by Brian Solis, author of The Essential Guide to Social Media, “If you’re not part of the conversation, then you’re leaving it to others to answer questions and provide information, whether it is accurate or incorrect.” I encourage all of you to consider engaging in social media. When you are ready to engage be sure to check out the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation Facebook page.