Blog 11: Technology and Social Change in Agricultural Communications

Technology continues to affect the way we communicate in agriculture. As a result, communication theory helps to explain how technology aids or hinders communication. As you read this week’s chapter, I am sure you reflected on how communication affects your life. How important has the fifth function of the media, that of social interaction, become in your day-to-day use of the media? How can agricultural communicators utilize the fifth function of media?

We have discussed computer-mediated communication (CMC) before, but this chapter brings it to the forefront of the discussion. I am personally interested in how new and social media alter communication in agriculture. I believe there are multiple opportunities for agriculturalists to use CMC to connect with the public in a meaningful way. I am a part of a couple of grant projects that seek to teach agriculturalists to utilize new and social media to market their businesses. One of these projects is Beyond The Farm Gate.

We have seen the Peterson brothers utilize CMC to connect with people across the country and bloggers like Debbie Lyons-Blythe share the experiences of the agricultural community with moms across the county. What other ways have you seen CMC utilized effectively by the agricultural community? Where have you seen room for improvement? What theory from this week’s reading do you see in action in the CMC use in the agricultural industry?

17 thoughts on “Blog 11: Technology and Social Change in Agricultural Communications

  1. Social interaction through media has been an integral part of my life, not only through work or school, but in my personal relationships.Through my success in work, I must be able to communicate through several mediums, whether that be face-to-face contact, email, phone calls, text, etc. I must be able to utilize several options in order to reach different types of people and there preference for communication. This summer, I gained a customer and sold seed before I had even met him to build a relationship with. His schedule was too busy, so all of our communication was entertained through phone calls and emails. Agriculture continues to integrate the use of social interactions, but these interactions seem to only happen within the agricultural community and need to spread outward.

    Agriculture appears to have a decent presence on Twitter, but I am not an active member of this social media community. I hear about colleagues, customers, and other individuals referring to something they were exposed to through Twitter, but I still hesitate to become more involved. But as the presence becomes established, agriculture needs to find channels to reach consumers and include them in on the discussions of agriculture.

    Consumers and those involved in the agricultural industry tend to incorporate the uses and gratification theory in CMC through their selection of media and information. Individuals seek out information to fulfill a need – whether that be new technology adoptions, or information about the local Farmer’s Market.

    1. Jessica,

      Great post! I really appreciate the aspects of communication that you discussed. Social media can portray many different aspects of everyday life that perhaps are not always as they seem. Social media allows individuals the ability to appear however they wish. This also transfers over into business arrangements. For example, agricultural businesses can advertise what they wish to the outside world, as well as other busiensses that are not related to agriculture. I tend to follow agriculture pages and outlets on social media which becomes another way that I work to learn what is trending or occurring each day outside or simply being in the field each day. Within agriculture, we tend to always think of older farmers and those that are set in their ways. Although, even the younger generation is faced with this issue because he has the same of doing things most likely as Dad and Grandpa just by growing up around it. So like you stated, I agree definitely that incorporating transformations and new technology is difficult but with a little push and an open mind it can really create a brighter future for where we are agriculturists are headed. I enjoyed learning from you!

      Thanks,

      Ashlyn Richardson

    2. Jessica,

      I much like yourself, have to be able to communicate through several mediums. It amazes me today that business can be done all online without ever meeting or talking face to face with an individual. With my education, all of my master’s classes have been done online, and I have even secured an internship without meeting anyone in the organization before training.

      As society turns to favoring CMC over the other four functions, it is imperative that as an industry we constantly are evaluating our performance. You mention that you are not involved on Twitter due to hesitation. What is keeping you from being involved? I myself, do not use a twitter but do heavily use other forms of social interaction on the web.

      I agree that agriculture integrates the use, but I feel that those outside of the community are being reached. The Peterson brothers are a prime example of the industry reaching others outside of the community through CMC. When scrolling through the discussion on their channel and various videos on YouTube, several commenters speak of their unfamiliarity with agriculture but that the videos have opened their eyes.

      Thanks for the great insight this week,
      Christina Peterson

      1. Christina,

        Thank you for your reply. I don’t think I really have a specific reason for not utilizing twitter, other than I am already on other social media outlets. Being a “millennial” I really don’t care to be glued to my phone/computer all of the time for several reasons. Once I start using social media like Facebook or Snapchat – I may find myself wasting more time than intended. Plus, I really feel the need and want for face to face interactions. Aside from agriculture and this class, my frustration with the overuse of technology stems from my personal relationship. It’s frustrating to make plans and go out to dinner or something when both people are just going to spend time on their phones instead. In this instance, it would have been smarter to just stay home and save money. But, when I went to stay with my mother for a few days back in Kansas (I live in Tennessee right now), she was the exact same way, glued to her phone and social media. I hate to say this – but I guess I’m just going to need to be more accepting of the loss of face to face interactions.

        Does any one else struggle with this? Even if you are the one glued to electronics? (I apologize for making this response so personal.)

        Jessica Woofter

    3. Hi Jessica,

      I too struggle and find technology difficult sometimes, in the essence that some people are glued to their phone/computer. I actually have had the exact same thing happen to me when I visited my mother recently. It can be very frustrating when the face-to-face communication is lost.

      To try and combat this issue, I try to make a point to leave my phone elsewhere when trying to engage with other around me. This action is banking on the monkey-see, monkey-do method (Probably not scientific. Ha!). Additionally, if that doesn’t work for me, I usually try to nicely say something that I know it’s important for them to be engaged with their online world (and it can sometimes even be just texting), but it would be nice to just have conversation sans technology for a bit.

      Now back to your initial post. I also find it astounding how much of what we do can be conducted online. In your example, you mentioned that a whole sales transaction was done via phone and email, which surprises me.

      Enjoyed reading about your examples and tribulations.

      Thanks!

      -Anissa

  2. Class,
    I am a person who thrives on synchronous communication with constant feedback. Throughout my educational and career journey, I have learned to tolerate less synchronous communication when utilizing computer-mediated communication as my primary social interaction with people. As a military spouse, face to face conversations and sometimes phone calls are rare for me due to distance and time zone changes with my loved ones, so I rely on CMC heavily to keep in contact. Along with staying in touch with family through CMC, I have a very high blue and ambivert personality. I tend to draw energy from social interaction with other people and constantly want to socialize with others while checking on how they are doing.

    Social interaction through media has and always will be essential to my life whether that is personal or work related. As an agricultural educator, I rely on the media to gain information on areas that I am not highly specialized in as well as to seek out new stakeholders for my programs. Agricultural communicators can utilize the fifth function of media, social interaction, by participating in face to face communication in both real-time and delayed response. By participating in face to face communication, agricultural communicators can utilize face theory and build an image for the industry with consumers.

    I have also witnessed several effective uses of the fifth function and CMC in the agricultural communication community. Several of my likes on Facebook include different users who create graphics with an agricultural image on them or have a blog where they share their personal stories and encounters with agriculture. One of my favorite Facebook pages was created by a fellow sorority sister during a college internship. She still manages the page and has turned it into a full time business. As an agricultural communicator, she effectively uses CMC to spread awareness about agriculture through photographs she has personally captured. Without CMC, her photographs and talent would not have flourished as quickly and been able to convert into her own business. She uses user and gratification theory with her graphics. She travels to various ranches and farmlands photographing families hard at work, which she then turns into beautiful graphics for others to purchase. She acknowledges that some people will turn to the media for information, so she creates aesthetically pleasing posters that depict an accurate face of the agricultural community with real information. I went to her for a set of educator posters as a need to help convey how important the industry is to my students.

    One area that I think agricultural communicators can improve upon is providing synchronous communication to consumers through CMC. Facebook has the option to be live on video through messenger which could be a game changer for current pages that are promoting awareness. A weekly live session to answer in real-time the top trending topics/questions facing agriculture that week would help consumers gain insight into what the industry is thinking.

    Christina Peterson

    1. Christina,

      I agree with you about the preference of synchronous communication. Like you, I thrive off social interaction and conversation. Though in my previous reply about Twitter, I shared my feelings of the overuse of technology, being able to constantly communicate – through text, email, video-chat, etc is a blessing. CMC has been a big part of my day to day life – constantly communicating through work, school, family, and friends.

      Thank you for your input!

      Jessica Woofter

  3. Computer-mediated communication (CMC) is an important part of my life. I am a digital native; I grew up using computers. Much of what I used to do on a computer has transitioned to also being available on my phone and tablet; however, I am on a device every day. Interacting socially with family and friends is how I start and end my day. Though it may not be the best thing to do, I check my Facebook account first thing in the morning and I usually check it before going to bed. Since I use Facebook as my main social networking site, I often see agricultural posts or photos. I am friends with several farmers that do a great job of speaking directly to their audiences and addressing what they are doing on their farms in layman’s terms. In other words, they treat their Facebook friends as real friends and speak to them as such, not like big companies “educating” their consumers. I find that I relate and appreciate the feeling of two-way communication from those farmers because it feels more personal.

    Like was discussed in the Pritchett, Naile, Murphrey, and Reeves article, most of my Facebook friends also use agricultural emoticons or GIFs in their posts to make up for a lack of nonverbal cues and to draw the reader’s eye. I think that we need more agricultural emoticons and GIFs in social media platforms now. Since everyone knows what they mean, emoticons and GIFs are a universal language; we can almost talk completely in pictures now and having relevant images available to everyone might be a good way to increase interest and knowledge about agriculture in general.

    If the agricultural industry gets better at socializing and utilizing the fifth function of media, I believe consumers will be more receptive to agricultural messages. For example, I saw a post on Facebook just today in which Bill Nye the Science Guy, a very familiar face, was promoting GMOs and genetic modification in agricultural crops. I was surprised, at first, because Bill Nye doesn’t usually talk about agriculture; however, the more I thought about it, I realized that this just might be a great way to get people interested in learning more about farming. We all know who Bill Nye is and, when watching him on TV, it always feels like he is talking to you, not at you. I watched numerous episodes of his show in school and enjoyed how he made learning fun and personal. Shouldn’t farmers be able to imitate that? I know that I am biased, but I think farming is fun and can be portrayed as such using social interaction in new media.

    There are many examples of CMC in agriculture, so it’s hard to just pick one. I think a very good example of someone effectively using CMC to promote agriculture is Ree Drummond, better known as The Pioneer Woman. (thepioneerwoman.com) Ree started out as a city girl who grew up on a country club golf course. Once she met and married her cowboy husband, she became a strong advocate for agriculture. She has quite a following today and I am definitely part of her fan club. Ree connects with people through food and recipes and has her own TV show, cookbook series, and cookware products.

    I do follow her for her recipes and I love her dishes but, more than that, I love the way she teaches people about agriculture. She lives on a huge cattle ranch in Oklahoma and she keeps a fantastic blog with great information about what her family is doing on the ranch. When there are wildfires, she posts pictures of her husband preparing to keep his herd safe. When it’s time to brand, wean, or castrate calves, she’s there with her camera to show her followers what really happens. She doesn’t broadcast gory details or obscene photos, but tastefully tells everyone what goes on on the farm and why it happens. She is also great about posting updates on her family. Though she is quickly becoming pretty famous, she makes her life and family seem like a normal farm family. I think that Ree is a wonderful example of someone using computer-mediated communication to effectively engage with both non-agricultural and agricultural audiences alike. Her blog and TV show might be examples of more traditional one-to-many communication methods, but her followers are engaging in many-to-many communication by creating Facebook and Instagram pages to update people about new Pioneer Woman dishes and TV networks regularly post her cooking videos on social media to be viewed and shared. If you haven’t heard of her, I encourage you to poke around her blog and see what she’s up to.

    Just like there are many good examples of CMC in the agricultural industry, there are also some not-so-good ones. I feel that large companies such as Monsanto, Purina, and Cargill try to interact with consumers socially, they don’t do a very good job. I’ve seen many advertising campaigns from Purina and Cargill that show happy employees playing with their dogs or smilingly staring at the video camera from their assembly line work.

    While I know that both of those companies do try to connect with their employees and consumers on a personal level, their ads always seem too high quality to be believable. Even though I am involved with agriculture and feed Purina and Cargill feeds to my animals, I find I have a cynical attitude when I’m watching someone who says they are a Purina employee talk about the great Purina dog chow that they feed their furry friend. I don’t think that it’s Purina’s fault that I don’t trust a person on TV to be what they say they are, that’s still a thought that runs through my head. Each time I see that commercial, I wonder if they really do work for Purina. If they do, is Purina paying them to feed their dog that brand of food. I’m not a gambler, but I would bet that I’m not the only one pondering these things. If these large companies could find a way to make their interactions more social and personal, I think they would be able to connect better. I think the technology expectancy image gap theory fits here. Since large agricultural companies always have high resolution, well produced videos and photos, the public expects them to be better than they might be. When someone sees a supermodel-looking “employee” tossing a ball with her Purina dog on TV and then meets an actual Purina employee who is a normal person, that could hurt the company’s image because they aren’t representing their company truthfully. To communicate effectively, especially since critics are everywhere, it is important to be honest and open.

    1. Hi Deanna,

      I loved your post! In your first paragraph, you touched on a key point; we, as agricultural communicators, should remember to treat our social media friends like real friends when talking about our cause. Establishing two-way communication is key to building relationships of trust.

      I agree with your reflection of the JAC article. I also use emoticons in text to replace a lack of voice inflection and other nonverbal cues. Your suggestion to create more emoticons and GIFs to represent and promote agriculture is a great suggestion. Sometimes, I think that I come across as defensive or offensive when I’m communicating online with people with opposing points of view. I think that by better utilizing emoticons and GIFs in these interactions, I may be able to come across as more open-minded. This will help me establish a healthy dialogue and will allow me to better communicate the truths surrounding agriculture.

      Thank you for sharing your example involving Bill Nye. Being involved in agriculture and conservation, I am aware of the positive impacts that well-managed grazing can have on the environment. Working for an agricultural land trust, I want to be able to better communicate these impacts on behalf of my organization. One idea that I have is to get influencers (people like Bill Nye) to share my organization’s content on social media. Bill Nye reaches a very broad audience, and if we, as agricultural communicators, can tap into these types of audiences, we will be able to engage with more members of the general public.

      I am a huge Pioneer Woman fan. I love the show, and I love Ree’s blog. I agree, she does a great job of promoting agriculture. I never really thought of the communications media that Ree uses as a many-to-many model, but I see your point. She does do a good job at getting her followers to interact through her social media pages and through the comments section on her blog.

      I like how you applied the technology expectancy image gap theory to large animal companies. I can also apply this theory to my personal life. For example, I purchased a new horse show software program when I managed a statewide 4-H horse show. The software company claimed to be on the cutting edge by offering the most comprehensive horse show software program to date. When I began using the program, I was disappointed to learn that the software program didn’t offer a way to change certain settings to automatically calculate the overall high-point award. This resulted in me being frustrated with company. Even though the software really was the most comprehensive program that I could find, I experienced frustration towards the company. Based on this experience, I can relate to people who may have a false sense of a product’s quality or capability based on the company’s television and internet advertisements.

      Best,
      Alyssa S.

    2. Deanna,
      Much like you I am also on either my phone or computer on a regular basis, and although I do not need Facebook that often I find myself participating in a daily ritual where it is the first thing I check in the morning when I wake up. Just the other day in my Animal Ethics course we began a class discussion about social media and using it as a platform to advocate for the agricultural industry. Many of my students thought that there isn’t much out there to show the positives about the agricultural industry therefore they feel that the local farmers in our community need to take advantage of this free advertising situation named “Facebook.” Similar to your thoughts I feel that if the agricultural community gets better at utilizing the function of social media we will begin to have many more educated consumers who are not walking into the grocery store feeling over whelmed or a misguided from product advertising. These are just a few of my thoughts.
      Thanks for sharing!
      -Leah

  4. Class,

    Technology is such an important aspect of agriculture especially in today’s industry. If we take a minute to reflect, even agriculture marketing and advertisements are reflected around technology whether it be social media or even farm journals being posted to the internet. Technology had affected my life tremendously as well as my family cattle operation. For example, when we work cattle and have any new babies born etc. all information is put into an iPad which is something very new for a farming operation but much more efficient.

    Next, I do believe that many opportunities are available for a CMC to used within agriculture. In today’s industry it is very prominent to be able to market agriculture effectively by utilizing technology. Agriculture has came so much father with the use of technology we can actually make progress much quicker. The teaching aspect of using a CMC would potentially be very effectively in the realm of agriculture.

    In conclusion, a CMC could be used for a wide variety of aspects of agriculture just as the Peterson Brothers did and the Beyond the Farm Gate Project. Another aspect of agriculture where the CMC could be used is within agriculture extension for youth as well as adult learning. The educational side can be improvement tremendously as well as teach a numerous amount of people that can be reached could be incredible.

    I enjoyed taking a look at this aspect of agriculture especially since the technology side has changed greatly. One would not have assumed just a few years ago that technology would play such a role in the agriculture section. Fast forward only a couple years and it is such a large smart of our industry and is incorporated in nearly every aspect.

    Thanks,

    Ashlyn Richardson

    1. Hi Ashlyn,

      While I agree that it is important for the agricultural industry to use technology, I would argue that most farms, just like your family’s, have already incorporated new technologies into their day-to-day operation. I’m not sure that merely using technology fulfils the fifth function of computer-mediated communication (CMC). Does your family use the data recorded on the iPad as a method of communication on social media? If not, is there a way that you could use that information to connect with people on a social level?
      You mention marketing agriculture by using technology as a positive thing that could help reach people outside the agricultural community. Maybe I am not completely understanding your thoughts, but I believe that this is already being done and that it is not as effective as socially and personally interacting with people. To me, the word “marketing” implies an asynchronous, impersonal form of communication. In fact, I think that marketing is one of the problems that we have to deal with in agricultural communications today. Unless we are talking to people who understand farming, we “farm people” tend to speak in jargon or, as we see in ads from large agricultural companies, show only the nice and pretty images of our industry. In order to successfully communicate about agriculture, we need to find ways to be as synchronous and interactive as possible; we need to connect interpersonally with the general public.
      Perhaps your example of using CMC to teach in Extension is one way that the discussion about agriculture can be more like face-to-face communication, the best form of communication. I think that teaching and education does have its place in agricultural communications, but we, as advocates for agriculture, also need to focus on building relationships and having personal conversations with the general public. I do agree that we have seen a tremendous amount of growth in technology in just the past few years and that makes me nervous and excited, both, for the future. Who knows what the next few years hold in the way of technological advances!

      -Deanna

      1. (Sorry about the lack of spaces between my paragraphs. I know it makes my response hard to read. Sometimes this website and I don’t get along, it seems!)

  5. The fifth function of the media has greatly influenced my days. As many mentioned, we tend to check our social networking sites daily or multiple times a day. While I’m checking my sites, if something strikes me as interesting or someone else needs to see it, you can bet I will be tagging them in it or sending them a link to the post. While reading, something that struck me as relatable to my life was when it discussed if computer-mediated communication (CMC) was an interpersonal communication. I would argue yes because of the social and negotiated rules of conduct we actively participate in. I may not talk the people I tag or send links to everyday, but it’s an unspoken rule that our relationship is still present. This has changed the way many of my relationships are structured now. Since being out of undergrad, many of my friends have moved away from Manhattan, and our only form off communication is through social media. Our face-to-face interaction was strong enough at the end of college that now I believe it’s an unwritten personal communication rule that was negotiated between myself and my friend. As agricultural communicators, there are so many unique ways we can utilize the fifth function of media to promote agriculture. Personally, I have never been great at “telling my agricultural story” online. In reality, I barely post anything to social media, agriculturally related or not. When considering methods how I could talk about agriculture utilizing the fifth function of media, my best idea was to blog. Creative, I know. However, this wouldn’t be just another blog advocating for agriculture. It would involve the discussion of my life now, as an agricultural communications graduate student. Since I’m not literally on the front line doing daily work to grow food, I can talk about what I am doing and why I am doing it with hopes of interaction through comments, similar to the synchronous thread the book discussed. I think it would be a nice addition to my personal online portfolio page. From there, it could be (possibly) shared to social media sites for further promotion.

    Although a similar example to the one provided, I have seen women step out as a liaison to agriculture through social networking sites, such as Instagram. One in particular is a page called “Cooking with the Cowboy.” It’s another Kansas woman who shares the adventures of her family’s ranch, while also providing recipes and fun pictures of her children. I think this is great way of CMC because it draws you in with something we all love – tasty food.

    Even though there are many agriculturalists having proactive conversations and interactions with consumers, there is always room for improvement. Another personal example I think of is, again, people I follow on social networking sites. However, this time the platform is Twitter, where I have a few actual friends who are seed salesmen for Monsanto. When thinking about their tweets, the only thing I can recall is the same couple of tweets but in different fashions. Those tweets are: what seed is planted in a field (accompanied by a field picture) and a “thankful” post (usually accompanied by a riding in a combine picture). If it were a part of those salesmans’ jobs to also keep up an online social networking account that informed and educated those consumers in their territory about what they are planting and why they chose that, I think it would be beneficial. As much as large corporations try, a mass message to consumers probably isn’t the answer to the future of agriculture. Questions and problems are vastly different from every area. Even some of the concerns of consumers in western Kansas would probably be different than the eastern half. I think this issue relates back to the technology expectancy image gap theory. The company and its communications/marketing staff can’t be the only ones creating and sharing messages. It’s going to take many more than that and many different messages. Otherwise, there will be the unrealistic and disappointing expectations.

    1. Anissa,

      When you bring up the point of CMC being an interpersonal communication, I agree with you completely. I as well, have a lot of friends from back home and friendships I created during my undergrad. Many of these individuals have moved around the U.S and social media is how we stay in contact. A lot of the time if one of us is looking for a job or is doing research in a particular area we will tag one another in articles pertaining to the situation. Although we may not talk on a daily basis, these gestures show we are thinking of them. I loved your idea of creating a blog. People love to know about people’s personal lives and what they have been through. This is a great way for the agriculture industry to open up and become transparent to the consumers. If people feel like they know you on a personal level they might be more willing to trust you and what you write about. Than they might be able to better trust the industry.

      I have never heard of “Cooking with the Cowboy” but it sounds very similar to the Pioneer Woman. I think it’s great that these women can use cooking, and incorporate the importance of the individuals who grow the food used to prepare such tasty meals. Incorporating their families proves to consumers that the food we eat is safe and trusted to be consumed by our most loved ones.

      I agree with you that large corporations should try their best to stray away from universal mass messages. It comes off as cold and leaves a bad feeling for consumers. If given the opportunity, like in your example, if the sales members could personalize their messages to their sales areas, consumers might perceive this better and be more willing to purchase their products.

  6. Computer-mediated communications plays a huge role in my day-to-day function. I rely heavily on CMC to stay connected with distant friends, family, and to stay up to date on news. I use it for entertainment as well as a news source. I get to follow things that I find interesting and want to stay up to date on. I feel like I mention this every week, but because I do not have cable, the internet and social media are really the only places I get my news from. Agricultural communicators can reap the benefits of computer-mediated communications through various revenues. One way would be to show case interesting short articles to grab people’s attention, as a way to increase interest in agriculture. Another great use of CMC, pertaining to the agricultural industry, would be to make pages for businesses. This would allow skeptics of the industry to view where their food comes from and what agriculture has to offer them. Many individuals are unaware of what agriculture is all about. Computer-mediated communication is a great way to appear transparent to the “outside world,” and also provides a great vessel for easy communication and interaction with consumers.

    One form of CMC that I absolutely love and consider a great example is, Cody Creelman’s Cow Vet vlog. In his vlog’s, Cody talks about the agriculture industry and takes you along with him to all his farm visits. Cody is extremely entertaining and the vlogs are well put together. He also includes his family and the families of the ranchers as well. This provides an added bonus for the industry to showcase the people that grow and raise our nation’s food. One place in agriculture that I would argue could use some improvement when it comes to the use of CMC, would be small businesses that sell agricultural products. There are so many different businesses that have amazing products to sell, but I feel that they get overlooked and forgotten about. I think that by supporting the smaller businesses and exposing them to individuals who are unfamiliar with the industry, it would create a since of trust and help out the small business owners. Also, CMC could allow for easier and better communications between owners that could potentially better their own practices by learning from other business, or other sectors outside of agriculture that might be able to create partnerships.

    From this week’s reading, one theory that stuck out to me was the uses and gratifications theory. This theory states that we choose to use media in order to satisfy some need. This can be linked back to the action of CMC in agriculture in the way that when consumers want to know more about the agriculture industry they turn to media for answers. For instance, if someone had a question about how their beef was raised, they would turn to media to answer their question to satisfy their need. If they had a positive mind frame, one might look up the National Cattleman’s Beef Association to get an answer, or if they had a negative mind frame they might look up the answer on a PETA website.

  7. I frequently utilize computer-mediated communication (CMC). From a professional standpoint, I rely on email in my day-to-day communications. Typically, this is a form of asynchronous communication because the receiver responds on their own timeline. However, I also utilize synchronous CMC. For example, I have a meeting once a week with members of other agricultural land trusts. The people involved in these meetings are spread out among seven different states so we utilize Zoom (a video conferencing software) to communicate in real-time. I also rely on social media to supplement my understanding of current events and to keep in contact with my friends.

    One way that I believe different agricultural groups can better connect with members of the general public is through Twitter and Instagram. One idea that I have for the non-profit that I work for is to spread awareness by targeting social media influencers. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the non-profit that I work for puts conservation easements on ranches. We have the potential to appeal to outside groups like nature enthusiasts, people with a romantic view of the West, and people who like the view sheds and open space associated with ranching. Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, I’d like to be reaching out to social media influencers within these different groups. If I can get them to share/retweet my organization’s content, my organization will be able to expand its reach. Utilizing ethos, I think that agricultural communicators can partner with these and other types of social media influencers to better target members of the general public. For instance, agricultural communicators can partner with influencers that have 150,000 or more followers and get them to retweet/share their posts. This means that these agricultural communicators would be reaching the audiences of their influencers. Additionally, the agricultural groups can gain credibility among external audiences from their association with these different influencers.

    I think that there are a lot of agricultural bloggers that are effectively utilizing CMC. Many of them are connecting people to agriculture through the “farm to fork” movement by incorporating recipes and real-life farming stories into their blogs. One of my personal favorites is a blog called “Faith, Family, and Beef”. The blogger has a steady presence on Pinterest (which is how I stumbled upon her blog). One day, I was looking for some quick and easy recipes that incorporated ground beef, and I clicked on one of her recipes and was directed to her website. Thus, I decided to subscribe to her blog. I love it because I can relate with her on a multitude of levels. In the processes of providing great recipes, she is also helping to advocate for the beef industry.

    One place that I have seen room for improvement involves the practice of flaming. In previous blog posts, I’ve mentioned the hostile behavior that I have seen from members of the agricultural community on social media. For example, the My Job Depends on Ag Facebook Group has a plethora of members that demonstrate flaming on a regular basis. They often engaging in name-calling when interacting people who don’t share their same opinions. This type of behavior may negatively influence peoples’ perceptions of the agricultural industry. I think that agricultural communicators need to be very careful when using social media. We must ensure that our messages and behaviors do not create negative perceptions.

    One theory that I have seen used in the agricultural industry is the uses and gratification theory, which assumes that people choose to use the media to fulfill a need. For example, the Peterson Brothers do a great job of satisfying peoples’ needs of entertainment by creating engaging parodies and videos. These videos fulfill our need for entertainment, while raising awareness of the agricultural industry. Additionally, the California Farm Bureau does a great job at utilizing this theory in their emails. I get weekly emails with four or five short bullets that have hyperlinks to a full article. The email layout makes it easy to scan. Thus, I am able to choose which articles I want to read to fulfill my own needs.

    -Alyssa S.

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