You Don’t Always Need to React

I recently visited the Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) social media center, which they refer to as the “fish bowl”. It is a glass-encased room full of TV monitors and bright, young minds in the world of social media. They are in this fish bowl every day trying to tell the good stories of the dairy industry. One of the most interesting things I learned during this visit was about reacting to controversies. People, organizations and companies promote tons of things on social media, but learning when you should and shouldn’t engage in a controversy was an important skill DMI felt agvocates need to understand better.

Most of the conversation was about Chipotle’s recent Hulu experiment where they created a series titled “Farmed and Dangerous.” These social media minds were explaining how this campaign wasn’t really gaining much traction and in fact, would have died faster had we agvocates not picked it up and ran with it. This led me to wonder what other controversies we as agvocates have promoted, leading the controversy to get more publicity than it would have.

Here are three things that could help you when thinking about whether to react to a controversial hashtag or blog:

1. Who is reacting

A controversy is often started when a person, organization or company creates a blog post, tweet or some other form of media. So, initially that group breaks the “story” and it is then up to the general public to decide if the story thrives or dies. When you are reading tweets or blog posts in this controversy, you need to look at who is in the conversation. This is where looking at bios on Twitter and blogs can be really important. Are the people that are commenting always against agriculture or are these people every day citizens? If a large amount of the following on the topic is the general public, then you should be joining the conversation.

2. Track it

If there is a hashtag associated with the controversy, then tracking that hashtag is really powerful. Using websites like hashtracking.com and tweetreach.com can provide you with analytics on the reach of the controversy and who the big talkers are in the controversy. These free websites can help you gain insight into the real strength of the controversy.

3. Is it on the news

The news is a very powerful entity and when a controversy has reached the news, then you know it is a serious issue. A lot of new entities use the the Associated Press and New York Times  to help them find stories. So, following these entities closely can help you find news stories before they are shown on every television screen across America.

While these are three tips that can help you decipher the strength of a controversy, others may have some other ideas. If you know of another way to decipher the strength of a controversy, post it in the comments below.

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