“The whale that sticks his head up is the one that gets shot.”
That’s the line my husband uses every time I ask him to do more public relations for the dairy.
To him, a Facebook page, a website or a Twitter account is just like putting a bulls-eye on his hind end.
“Besides, we’ve spent decades developing a certain way of doing business – we’re not going to give it away for free,” he says.
His sentiments are much like those of many other dairy producers I’ve talked to in the last month, especially the larger dairies. On top of that, even if they wanted to, none of them feel like they have the time to manage an online presence, much less the money to pay someone else to do it.
Here’s my argument: If we don’t control our message, someone else will. We live in difficult times. At no other time in our history have consumers been this interested or concerned about their food content, and yet at no other time in history have people understood less about where their food comes from. That’s just my opinion, of course, but the amount of bad and misleading information out there not only irritates me, it frightens me.
My thought is: The more facts we can get circulated, the better. Otherwise, people make assumptions based on what they think they know, and that rarely comes out in our favor.
While my husband understands my argument, entering the world of social media is still too risky for him. And really, I understand that, too.
Done right, though – I have to believe it would be a good thing. Walt Cooley, the editor of Progressive Dairyman, put it this way.
“Sometimes, the whale that sticks his head out is Shamu and people pay to see Shamu.”
Since my husband refuses to let me use the dairy as my test case in my social media adventure, I decided to use my blog here at Proud to Dairy and create my own personal website to chronicle my adventures. In the process, I’ve met some really wonderful people and I’m having a great time.
Since my January post, I created a Facebook page to promote this page, “My Side of the Barn.” Within 24 hours, I had more than 50 “likes” and by the end of the first week, nearly 100. Now, most of those came from my friends and family trying to support me, but there were several that came from somewhere else, and that’s what we’re shooting for here – getting new people introduced to the page.
I try to make sure I post something on my Proud to Dairy page and my Facebook page once a day. The items that get the most traffic are photos of the farm. (Go figure.)
Then, I signed up for an online class with my friend Dennis Smith. For $60, I get three hours of lessons on how to set up my own website, with tips for promoting it using social media.
Plus, I bought my own website domain, using Dennis’ service. That cost me $25. It’s not entirely necessary to do that – many blog services are free, but I thought for what I wanted to do, this was the way to go. Now I’m in the process of building that page.
I also worked to increase my presence on Twitter and Pinterest. I use these two services to post quick updates about what I’m doing on the farm or to share information about established bloggers and writers promoting their farms using social media. I’ve also come across some other dairy families using this service in fun ways.
I’ve been working with friends and neighbors to get them involved in my social media project, too. My neighbor, Cindy Ebberts, joined Proud to Dairy and started a Facebook page for her dairy, Bill Braun Dairy.
“I just hope that it can help educate people and encourage people to feel free to ask questions,” she said. “I hope that people can see the positive in all we do.”
I’ve also met some wonderful new friends on Proudto Dairy. Christina Winch is a dairy farmer in Wisconsin. Her dairy is totally different than ours and she’s involved far more than I am, so I’m learning a great deal from her and enjoying her ideas and thoughts.
She’d also like to do more consumer education but is learning along with me. We’re having a blast.
I’ll get my page up and running and start sharing information there. I’ll also keep bugging my husband about doing something for the dairy.
In the meantime, I’d like to hear from you. What are your thoughts and ideas about communicating with consumers? How do you use social media in your farms and businesses? What would you like to learn more about?
Just send me a message here, on Facebook or via Twitter, @karmawrites.