Top 5 Needs to Become a Social Media Agvocate

Top_5Looking back on my recent push at social media, I have found some things I cannot live with out and some things I with I had before I started. Here are my top five needs to become a social media agvocate.

1. Social Media Strategy

The most important thing you need to become an amazing social media agvocate, is a strategy. Laying out your goals and who your audience is can help keep you on the right track and guide your message. For instance, the objective of my blog is to help farmers and agriculturalists become agvocates on social media and my audience is farmers and agriculturalists  that want to reach consumers using social media. I actually sat down before I started this blog and laid out my goals and how to measure success. Even after you make a social media strategy, it is important to remember that you can always change your goals and audience. You should be doing something that you enjoy and love to take part in 365 days a year. For a blog strategy (that can help drive all of your social media plans as well) check out Stanford Smith’s FREE 7-Minute Blog Strategy.

2. A Blog

The foundation of your social media initiatives should be your blog. This is where you can shed light on your experiences and create a genuine conversation about agriculture. Providing your viewpoint to the conversation is important and the best way to do that is through a blog. I personally prefer to use WordPress, but there is also Tumblr, Blogger and many other blogging platforms.

3. A Smartphone

A smartphone is one thing every beginning social media agvocate should have because it  makes becoming a social media rock star easier. I use my smartphone almost every day to check my Twitter feed, read blog posts and so much more. It is always with me and I can use it to check social media whenever I have some down time, which is typically on the bus ride to work in the morning. Maybe you will find time when you are out in the field, eating (a quick) breakfast or maybe when you actually get a break in a day.

You will come to realize that you will begin to love social media and want to be in on the conversation all the time. This happened to me when I first started and I almost used too much data on my phone. It is really important to understand your data plan for your phone so you don’t have a massive bill waiting for you at the end of the month. I learned to use WI-fi whenever possible.

4. Twitter

Twitter is where most social media agvocates across the nation share their blog posts and have conversations with consumers and other agvocates. This powerful tool allows you to interact with people in a totally different way than other social media platforms. Through hashtags (#) and Twitter handles (@), you are able to seek out people you want to listen and talk to in 140 characters or less. This is cliche, but you can actually have a conversation with someone without blasting out the information.  The Tao of Twitter is a great book that really helped explain Twitter for me.

5. A Posse

Undoubtedly after a few weeks, you will hit a lull. You will find that being a social media agvocate is not very fun anymore. People are not looking at your blog posts and you have been sitting at 100 Twitter followers for two weeks. This happens to all beginning agvocates. Having a posse (group of aspiring social media agvocates) will help you get through the initial hard times. You can get a posse by convincing other agriculturalists around you to become social media agvocates with you. Lean on your posse for support, share tips on what works and what doesn’t, share each others content and give feedback on blog posts so everyone knows that they are on the right track. This posse is all about encouragement and making sure you stick with becoming a social media agvocate.

Social media is a great avenue to tell your story, but it is something that needs to be understood first. Make sure you have these top five needs for becoming a social media agvocate before you start, otherwise you may fall flat on your face.

Adding a WordPress Background Image – Using Your Own Picture

There are a lot of great features you can do with a WordPress blog, one of which is adding a picture to your background. Naturally, as an agvocate, we want to put a picture of agriculture. For some of us, that is a picture of our farm, our favorite tractor or a simple picture of rolling wheat fields.

Before you go out and take a picture of your farm for your blog, you need to get your camera ready. You want your picture to be as large as possible to prevent tiling (having a picture that repeats) because tiling doesn’t look very good. In order to get the largest picture possible, you need to change the image size. To do this, go into the settings of your camera and change the image size. I would suggest getting as close to 2560 x 1600 pixels as possible. After you have changed the image size, look for your image resolution in the settings and set it as high as possible. Something to note when changing these settings, each picture will take up more memory (space) on your camera and your camera will store less pictures.

AppearanceNow you can go out and take some pictures of your farm. Since I am not a photographer, here is a blog with some beginning photography tips. After you have downloaded your wonderfull pictures onto your computer, now you need to upload them to WordPress. Login to your WordPress blog and go to your dashboard. Once you are in your dashboard, go to appearance and click on background (1).

This should bring you to another page where you click on browse (2) and a window from your computer will pop up. Select the picture of your farm and click open (3). After you have selected your picture, you need to press the upload button (2).

Pic_Upload

Pic_ChangesYou know your picture has been uploaded when it appears in the gray box at the top of the page. You can now make some appearance changes to your background image (4). The first is alignment, which typically is set to “left.” You should also set your tiling to “no repeat” because your picture should be large enough to fit across several screens. If after you look at your background image and it does not cover most screens, then you can set your image to tile. The next setting is whether you want your background image to be “fixed” or to “scroll.” A fixed background image will not move when someone scrolls down a page. A scrolling background image will move if someone scrolls down the page. I prefer a fixed image because it will help make the image viewable at all times when someone is reading your content.

If you click on the “current color” tab, a color pallette will appear (5). You can select a specific color for the background of your blog. The background color will appear only if the user’s screen is larger than the picture or if the user has his or her picture settings turned off.

After you are done selecting your color, you can click save changes (6) and you have just added a background image to your blog. Go to your homepage to view the background and make sure everything looks right.

You have just made your favorite picture of your farm into the background image of your blog and I am sure it looks great!

WordPress Setup for Agvocate Beginners

If you have decided to begin an agvocate blog, there are several blogging platforms to choose from. My personal favorite is WordPress.com because it is really easy to use and set up for beggining bloggers. Plus, when you become a mega-star agvocate blogger, you can upgrade and get some great new benefits. When you first go to WordPress.com, press the “Get Started” box to begin.

Getting-Started-Button

After you press this button, you will be prompted to enter an email address, username, password and blog address. Make sure to enter your email address correctly and make a memorable username and password. The blog address section (1) is a really important section because it is what the URL will be for your blog. Most of the time, agvocates make their URL’s similar to their blog title or their blog writer’s name. For instance, my URL is jordansimonson.wordpress.com, which uses my name. There is really no right or wrong URL, it just needs to be easy to remember. I would suggest staying away from confusing number sequences and anything that would be hard to remember or type.

Simple_Form_WP

Once you get past the initial page, WordPress will send you an email verifying your email address. Go to your email and follow the prompts. Once your blog is set up, WordPress will ask you to create a blog title. Blog titles need to be simple and memorable, yet convey a sense of what you will be writing about. For instance, the title of my blog is “Advocating for Agriculture” because I want to teach others how to use social media to advocate for agriculture. Make sure to make your blog viewable by everyone because you want as many people as possible to see your blog. Even after you pick the title of your blog, you can always go back and change it as many times as you want.

Wordpress_Title

During this process, you will get several prompts to upgrade your account. I would not recommend doing this until you get into blogging some more. Your entire advocating for agriculture philosophy could change in a very short time period and so locking yourself in for a year is not wise at this point.

Once you have all of that information filled out, you have the start to your very first blog post. Congratulations! Now it is time to start blogging.

Social Media Strategy for Agvocates: Step 1

In talking to other bloggers, they always say the first mistake they made was not having a strategy set in place before they began. The very first step in your social media strategy is to find your topic. Here are four easy steps to help you find your topic.

1: Find your favorite thing to talk about

When trying to find something to blog about, you should think about what you like to talk about on a daily basis. What really interests you? What is something you can talk about for hours (I know agvocates can do this)? As an example, say my favorite thing to talk about is agriculture (which is actually true). I have talked to consumers a lot about agriculture and I know there is enough to talk about. Once we have a great topic, we need to move on to step 2.

2: Make your topic more specific

While agriculture is a great topic to talk about in real life, it is too broad for a blog. You need to make your blog more specific so it can speak to a defined audience (step 2 of you strategy). This may seem counterintuitive, but we need to remember the Pareto Principle which states 20 percent of our audience makes up 80 percent of our business. That means, you should be focusing on a very targeted group, the group that is going to search for your knowledge the most. Instead of talking about agriculture, maybe you could talk about calf care or tips and tricks to ride a horse. Specific topics may have a smaller sample, but that sample will be more in tune with your message. For a good example, check out the Dairy Carrie blog.

3. Find your angle

Once you have a blog topic, it is important to think about how you want to present your topic. Do you want to use pictures? Words? Videos? Do you want to just tell people about your topic or do you want to be really controversial? Finding your angle, or you voice, can be really hard to do in the strategy before you actually start writing, but your angle is really important. It can evolve over time, so don’t feel bad if you don’t know what your angle is yet.

4. Write 52 blog post titles

Once you have a blog topic, you should write down 52 blog titles that relate to your topic. Not only will you be able to see if there is enough to talk about with your topic, but it will also help you when you are having trouble writing blog posts for the next year.

Creating Content to Advocate for Agriculture

Marketing is a simple, yet commonly misunderstood word in the english language. In fact, you are probably using marketing techniques in your daily life as you advocate for agriculture. Every time you talk to a consumer about agriculture, you are using sales techniques, a part of marketing. Every time you use social media to advocate for agriculture, you are marketing. The definition give by the American Marketing Association is:

Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.

I bring this up because there is a new form of marketing that has popped up since the dawn of social media. It is a new a tool that works competely different from anything before. It is called, content marketing. One expert on this new form of marketing is Joe Pullizzi and he is a part of the Content Marketing Institute. This institute is helping people all over the world understand content marketing. The definition of content marketing from the Content Marketing Institute is:

Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

You may be wondering why content marketing applies to advocating for agriculture, especially when it seems we as agvocates are not trying to “drive profitable customer action.” But wait, aren’t we trying to drive profitable customer action? After all, we as agvocates, are trying to make agriculture more profitable right? We want to sell consumers on agriculture?

Content marketing is the best way to connect with consumers about agriculture and sell its importance. As agvocates, we need to “attract, acquire and engage” our target audience of consumers. Those consumers may want to know about organic food or more about tractors. These consumers may want to know about animal or food safety. Maybe you want to talk to consumers that are other farmers and ranchers. There are many different kinds of consumers, but it is our job as agvocates to create valuable content for them to use.

You may be wondering how you, an agvocate, can create content for consumers. Well, there are many different forms of content. You can create a blog like Carrie Mess (@dairycarrie), Ryan Goodman (@AR_ranchand) or Michele Payn-Knopper (@mpaynknopper). You can make videos like the Peterson Brothers or Lil’ Fred. You could also make a blog using your favorite farm pictures, your favorite recipes using farm fresh ingredients or how-to information that you need to know to live on a farm, like how do you start a tractor? You can do almost anything, but it needs to be relevant and valuable.

For instance, say you like Coca-Cola, I mean you really like Coca-Cola. You discover they have a blog and the first post you see is about Coke Zero. You read the blog and it only talks about the selling points of the soda. It has 95 calories and this much sugar, etc. How long would you sit and read a blog post like that? I would leave after the first sentence. This is why relevant and valuable information is important. It needs to be appealing to your audience and shouldn’t be trying to sell someone on agriculture. Tell your story, not why they should support the farm bill.

Now that you understand content marketing and why it is important when advocating for agriculture, next time I will explain the first step in creating this content, your strategy.