It takes an Internet connection, a computer or phone – and about 15 minutes a day to start using social media, says Michele Payn-Knoper of Cause Matters Corp., which provides ag advocacy training and social media strategy to groups.

“My best advice would be to start with one tool and get it figured out. I used to recommend Facebook first, but I have changed that based on what I have seen from farmers who like technical data. If you’re a social person, use Facebook; if you’re an information-technical person, try Twitter.”

As one social media form starts to make sense, farmers should explore more pieces to it, such as developing fan pages on Facebook. But have fun, too, she says.

Payn-Knoper, in her training sessions to farmers, often shows a YouTube video of Will Gilmer, who runs a dairy farm with his dad, David, in Lamar County, AL. Gilmer shoots video from his tractor cab while spreading manure on pasture – and singing about nutrient management to the tune of the 1959 Stonewall Jackson hit, “Waterloo.” He calls his song “Water ’n Poo” (see tinyurl.com/Poovideo).

“It’s hysterical. Farmers just start laughing because it’s so ridiculous, but it does a great job of talking to people about manure nutrient management in a way that’s meaningful to those outside of agriculture,” Payn-Knoper says.

Gilmer also tapes MooTube Minutes, showing how they produce their milk, the environmental practices they use and general life on a dairy. “He will shoot videos from his smartphone, upload them to YouTube and tweet and Facebook them,” she says.

Utilizing all those forms of social media, and cross-referencing how to get from one to another, has increased the odds that people of all walks will stumble on one or more of his efforts. (For more of Gilmer’s videos, go to YouTube.com and search for Gilmer Dairy.)

Of all the social media forms, Twitter seems to be the most confusing and, to some, intimidating.

“You do have to take some time to get it set up,” agrees Payn-Knoper. “But I think it gives a voice to farmers; Facebook puts a face on farming.

“What I recommend is to send some tweet out about a hobby you like, or something about the farm, or about books. Just get the feel for 140 characters and do that a few times over. As you begin to search for people you can follow who have similar interests, then you start seeing more information coming from others. Then you can retweet their information, similar to forwarding a message in a public way. People pay attention to retweets.”


Social Media Links
These online resources should help most social-media newbies:
• Discover Your Social Web: An Ohio Farm Bureau Guide to Social Media – tinyurl.com/OhioPub.
• Cause Matters’ Ag & Social Media Links – tinyurl.com/MPK Links.
• The Twitter Guide Book – mashable.com/guidebook/twitter/.
• The Facebook Guide Book – mashable.com/guidebook/facebook