Stop Using Money as an Excuse for Ag Practices

Stop-Using-Money-As-An-ExcuseLet’s be honest here with one major fact about most farmers: most farmers need to make money.

While this is a fact about most farmers, we as agvocates typically use money as an explanation for some agricultural practices. For example: “They wouldn’t do anything wrong because it would hurt their bottom line”, “I do the things I do so I can put food on the table for my family” and “I need to grow my operation to support my family”. While I understand the logic behind each of these statements, they really come off as “cold” and heartless to the unassuming consumer. It makes your family-run farm look like a well-oiled, profit-driven company.

Whether you like it or not you need to think about the perceptions that form from everything you say. While money may be a good reason to the agricultural community, money is not a good reason for the general public. Consumers want to hear you say that you care about their families, not just your own.

Making a personal connection with consumers helps make our message much more effective. Make sure you think about that the next time you are about to use money as an excuse.

Social Media Spring Cleaning

social media, sping cleaning

Your social media spring cleaning bucket.

Now that we have finally reached spring (yes there was snow on the ground this weekend, but we will take it), I think it is time to do some spring cleaning for our social media sites. Here are five easy things you can do to give your social media presence a fresh, new look.

1. Change your bios

So we have been at this social media thing for a while and the entire time, we haven’t went back and changed any of our bios. Take the time this month to change and update your about page on your blog, change your Twitter bio and any other bio-like things you have on social media. You may find that you have changed the direction of your blog and social media since you first wrote those bios and your about page on your blog may have some drastically wrong content. Spring cleaning is the perfect time to do these necessary updates.

2. Change pictures

Now that we are out of the winter drab, take some time to change your blog and social media pictures to something more inspiring. Go out and snap a picture of your farm or the sunrise and then put it on your social media sites. You can also use this time to make all of your social media pages look consistent. This is really important to help create  your “brand” so people can recognize that they are on your social media sites no matter what site they are on.

3. Add a new page on your blog

Take the time to actually add another page to your blog. Maybe you want to add a page about  bloggers you think are doing a great job, or maybe you want to create a page about common misconceptions in agriculture and link to several blog posts that address these misconceptions. The possibilities are endless, but these pages should provide additional content to your audience that they would find useful.

4. Make sense of your categories

Blog categories tend to be a mess after a while. Some blogs may not be in a category or may not fit in the category that it is currently in. Take the time this spring to take charge of your categories so these actually work for your blog. People use these categories to find other blog posts that are similar to the one they are reading, so having categories that are effective is really important.

5. Increase efficiency

Making social media work for you, on your own time, can be important for weeks when you don’t have a lot of time to use social media (i.e. planting season). Things like Feedly, Hootsuite, Tweetdeck and a smartphone are all ways to save yourself some time on social media. Feedly allows you to accumulate all of your favorite blogs and their posts into one location to make it easier to read. I usually use Feedly on my phone so I can read the posts whenever I have some down time. Feedly also lets me post straight to Twitter right from the website. Hootsuite and Tweetdeck allow you to schedule posts and see multiple streams at once (home feed, search terms, etc).  It allows you to make social media easier while also making it look like you have been on all day, when really you were only on for 20 minutes. All of these ideas are even easier when you use the smartphone applications. That way you can look at anything whenever you have some down time during the day (or when spending the entire day in the tractor).

Now that spring is finally here, make sure to make some spring cleaning changes to your social media sites. I just hope you have time to  make these changes before planting begins…

What Agvocates Need to Know About Tweetchats

Tweetchats, in my opinion, are one of the best social media inventions of all time. Tweetchats are conversations people have that use hashtags to group all of the tweets together. For instance, #agchat is a tweetchat every Tuesday night where people weigh in on agriculture. These tweetchats are a great way to meet other people interested in agriculture and, if you find the right tweetchat, a place to connect with consumers. Whenever I participate in tweetchats, I always get a lot of new followers and people to interact with on Twitter. Below are the top  5 things you need to know about tweetchats.

Tweetchat1

1. Always remember the hashtag at the end
2. How the questions look

The hashtag is the thing that makes the entire tweetchat work. If a post doesn’t have the hashtag in it, then it won’t be seen in the tweetchat stream. #agchat, #blogchat and #foodchat are great examples of tweetchats that you can get involved in.

2. How it works

There is some variation in how tweetchats work. Some have a question and answer system, like #agchat, while others have a free-for-all like #blogchat. It really depends on the preferences of the people in the tweetchat. When there are questions that are asked, the tweet usually starts with a question identifier like “Q1.” Whenever you answer that question, your tweet needs to have either “A1” for answer one or “Q1” at the beginning to tell people you are answering that question. Then you answer the question the best you can in 140 characters or less. Usually the hashtag will go at the end.

Tweetchat

2. Using “Q1” to answer
3. Tweetchat.com
4. You can adjust the speed of the tweets

3. tweetchat.com

My favorite thing to use for tweetchats is tweetchat.com. This website allows you to login to your Twitter account and follow a tweetchat. When you use Twitter search it doesn’t show you every post that comes through, especially when there are a lot of posts quickly. Tweetchat makes sure you see all of the posts with the hashtag. Another nice feature is that it has a refresh speed you can set. This allows you to choose how fast tweets can come into the feed, which is important when you are trying to read a bunch of posts. Tweetchat.com still counts your characters for you, just like Twitter, but also automatically adds the hashtag at the end of your post. Just one more thing you don’t have to remember in the furry of a tweetchat.

4. The speed

Tweetchats can go by really quickly, which is why it is really important to remember that you don’t need to read every tweet. It is more important that you engage and talk to people in separate conversations. Tweetchats were created to help its users make connections and find answers to their questions, not to just read the answers of others.

5. Tips and tricks

In my time participating in tweetchats, I have found it really helpful to have tweetchat.com and Twitter open at the same time. I use Twitter to keep track of all of my interactions by staying on the “connect” tab. When I am in tweetchat.com, new interactions show up on the Twitter tab. This tells me that I have a new interaction and that I should engage this person further. It is also really important to be on tweetchats that pertain to your target audience or help you succeed. In our case, we probably want to use tweetchats that have our target consumers on it or that help social media agvocates succeed (like #agchat).

Tweetchats are a great way to find connections, find answers and have interesting conversations, but they are also really hard to master. Feel free to post your questions about tweetchats in the comments section below and I will answer them the best I can.

Twitter 101 for Beginning Agvocates

Twitter, hashtag, handle, character, RT, retweet

1. Hashtag
2. Twitter handle
5. The character counter
6. The RT

While Twitter is a great way to connect with consumers and other social media agvocates, it is very different than other social media sites out there. Below are some cool features of Twitter you need to know.

1. The hashtag (#)

The hashtag is a “tracking device” for Twitter posts with similar interests. The hashtag starts with the pound sign (#) and then has letters after it that signify a specific event, Twitter chat or just a funny hashtag. Some events that you go to will have a designated Twitter hashtage like #WDE13 and #agexpo13. Some hashtags mark a Twitter chat like #agchat, #blogchat or #foodchat. People will also use hashtags as a joke at the end of a tweet like #winning. In the end, hashtags are a great way to group posts together so others can search for the experiences on Twitter. Simply search or click on one in a post to follow a hashtag.

2. The Twitter handle (@)

The Twitter handle is an identifier specific to every person on Twitter. You will get an update whenever your Twitter handle is used by pressing the “connect” tab. You can also tag people in a post using their Twitter handle to make sure they see it. It is important to know that whenever you start a post with a Twitter handle, it is only seen by that person and people who follow both of you. Many people put a period before the Twitter handle if they don’t want that to happen.

3. Twitter search

One of the most powerful things about Twitter is the search function. It allows you to search for nearly anything on Twitter including hashtags, Twitter handles and words.

4. Lists

Lists are a great way to make different groups of the people you are following. You can make your own lists or you can subscribe to lists that are already made. Either way you can go to this list and view the tweets by people in the list. This can be really helpful when you start following a lot of people and can’t keep up with your Twitter feed.

5. 140 characters

Every tweet has to be below 140 characters. A character is any letter, number, space or symbol that is used in the tweet. Twitter has a character counter in the bottom right near the tweet button to help you count. I would also recommend keeping any tweet you want to be retweeted pretty short. This allows people to add their own take on the subject and put your Twitter handle in the retweet.

6. The retweet (RT), modified tweet (MT) and favorite

Think of a RT as a share on Facebook, but for Twitter. You can RT anyone’s content at any time. A RT typically starts like this: RT @advocate4ag: Twitter 101… and continues with their original content. It is a good idea to add a short comment to the beginning of a RT to further engage the tweet writer. An MT is just like a RT, but the original tweet has been modified a little. This usually happens when the RT doesn’t work in 140 characters.  The favorite is basically a “like” on Facebook. I usually favorite something if I liked what they said, but it wasn’t RT worthy.

Twitter is a great resource to use, but it takes a while to learn the “ins and outs” of it. Use it regularly and don’t be scared to ask others (especially myself) for help if you need it.

Top 6 Reasons to Use Twitter in Your Social Media Strategy

Top_6When I first started using Twitter a long time ago, I didn’t understand it and I didn’t see the difference between Facebook. A few weeks after I joined I got tired of it, a common feeling I hear when everyone starts using Twitter. On a previous post, Top 5 Needs to Become a Social Media Agvocate, I said Twitter was one of the top five needs for a social media agvocate because I believe it is the most important social media account every social media agvocate should have. Here are the top six reasons to use Twitter in your strategy.

1. Open door policy

Twitter has an open gate policy, so you can choose to follow almost anyone even if you don’t know them. The only time you are not able to follow someone is if they have their account locked. This open gate policy allows you to make an impression on someone without having to actually meet them.

2. Hashtags

Hashtags (#) are used to connect groups of posts.  The #agchat hashtag is used to connect Twitter posts that would resonate with people in agriculture. The hashtags are commonly used for tweetchats, which is the main purpose of the #agchat hashtag. A tweetchat is a designated time when people get together to talk about certain issues by following the hashtag. If you have a Twitter account, you can join in on the #agchat conversation on Tuesdays at 9/8 c.

3. Lists

Once you become a stupendous social media agvocate, you will probably start following several Twitter accounts. Lists are a way to control your Twitter feed, without having to unfollow everyone. By making or subscribing to lists, you can read the tweets of the members of the lists. This allows you to disect who you are following and make lists of the important people you want to hear from. It’s almost a Twitter feed inside of a Twitter feed.

4. Search

The single-most powerful thing on Twitter is its search function. Twitter can actually search every single Tweet, making it a powerful search tool. You can use Twitter search to get real-time information about anything you search for. Whether it be an event or if anyone has mentioned you without tagging you in the post. Twitter search is a powerful tool, that many do not use to its fullest capacity.

5. 140 characters

This is one of the things that made Twitter very popular. You can only write 140 characters (140 letters, spaces and punctuation). While this idea may be hard to grasp initially, it is actually a great tool that forces you and others to get to the point quickly. You can still add pictures and links, but they take up characters. You just have to be crafty sometimes.

6. Other social media agvocates are on Twitter too

While your target audience may populate Twitter, the real advantage to Twitter is to connect with others in your industry. Most social media agvocates are on Twitter and are sharing blogs and connecting with people all of the time, setting up a network. It is easy to make connections because you can Tweet at someone whenever they are talking about something interesting. This allows you to use the connections of the network to reach out to people instead of trying to do everything yourself.

Twitter is confusing at the start, but it is a great way to connect with people from across the world. Twitter has several features that many other social media sites do not have. Twitter is different from Facebook, but you need to experience it for yourself.