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?

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

  1. When so much of my media interaction is scrolling and searching I look forward to, if not crave the opportunity to interact socially with others. I don’t believe we were made to do our day-to-day life alone, we need social interaction. We certainly can engage in social interactions through media, I for example enjoy conversing with people in my PLN (Professional Learning Network) on Twitter. A platform like that could be a great way for the agriculture industry to interact with consumers. An #AgChat style conversation to discuss food safety and quality, connecting producers to consumers. YouTube is becoming such a popular platform for the public to learn about new topics, skills or cultures. Creating authentic content with that platform, makes the agriculture industry accessible to those far removed from it. Peterson Farm brothers were an example in the original blog post, but I think of the Farmland Documentary, similarly Discovery Education partnered with the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance to produce “Discovering Farmland,” a web-based resource with virtual field trips of different farming and ranching operations, technology usage in agriculture and more. It is a great educational resource! Agricultural equipment dealers are using different forms of CMC to market their products but also train their technicians and salesmen, making it easier to update employees on products and features through virtual training. I think the biggest area of improvement is access to training on different platforms. Commodity groups need trained people on staff to maximize these platforms and CMC for the better of the industry. The uses and gratifications theory is certainly seen in the Agriculture Industry, agriculturalists and non-agriculturalists alike have a reason for interacting with agricultural groups through CMC. Whether they want to connect with people with like-type livelihoods or a desire to learn more about the their food, there is purpose behind the search.

    1. You make a great point about YouTube as an effective platform. I didn’t really think of that because I don’t use YouTube very often myself, but I know for other people it is a heavily used media for learning new things.

  2. The fifth function of media, social interaction, is very influential in my day-to-day use of media. I am aware that I am of the generation that is probably on social media too much, but things like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and even just texting are great ways for me to keep in touch with my friends. Agricultural communicators can (and do) use social interaction as a function of media to facilitate interactions between producers and consumers, answer questions about agriculture, and disseminate new information easily to many people.
    I have seen CMC use effectively in the agricultural community by popular bloggers like Uptown Farms Blog, Dairy Carrie, and others. These blogs often tell personal stories about agriculture, in addition to sharing important facts and bringing new insight to consumers that are not connected to agriculture. These blogs are often shared over many forms of social media, widening their reach and thus widening people’s interactions with them.
    Many individuals without widely shared blogs or social media pages also use CMC effectively to spread the word of agriculture in similar ways. However, this can sometimes be ineffective when posts (especially tweets) become condescending to misinformed consumers and lack a broader context. This condescension makes the information less trustworthy and more likely to get backlash and negative attention from people outside of the agricultural industry.
    I think the agriculture industry’s use of CMC demonstrates technological determinism in action because changes in technology have controlled the changes in how many people in the agricultural community communicate with each other and the world as a whole. This is demonstrated by the many classes and workshops given to agriculturalists to teach them how to better use this new tool to restructure their communication and effectively reach more people with their message.

    1. I agree with you Elizabeth. I so many effective blogs being used and I think the most beneficial part of blogs is that they are personal while still being factual. This gives consumers a face and personal story to attach to agriculture which helps them become more invested.

  3. It is amazing how much of our daily lives now is focused around social media interactions, whether that be communicating through snapchat or connecting with others on Facebook or Twitter. Most people interact with people personally throughout their day however it is becoming more common in my opinion to socially interact rather than face to face. For example I see this in my classroom, students will be snap chatting or texting either other when they are in the same classroom. Of course I realize that some things being shared can be a public thing however most of the time they will admit that they could have that face to face interaction.

    When thinking about agriculture and how we communicate media can be a great platform to reach many people. I think a lot of the time people think of agriculture information being shared on social media being negative because as a person of agriculture we get more upset about seeing the negative rather than the positive. I see many positive aspects being shared from agriculture businesses creating a snapchat story to show the truth on how something is processed to a Facebook page sharing facts about agriculture.

    Some examples in which I have seen CMC use effectively in agriculture is by Pioneer Woman, Peterson Farm Brothers, and one of my favorites is Debbie Lyons-Blythe. All three of these individuals have a common goal however how they share that information is very different from singing, to sharing a good blog, to small shout outs on her cooking shows. I think the biggest area of improvement is the continuous use of using different platforms and modifying the information they are sharing to fit those platforms. For example YouTube is an effective platform however what other methods can we use to supplement that information being shared on Youtube, is there a survey that can be conducted on Facebook, or a shortened version to share on Snapchat.

    1. Michelle,

      I agree that organizations and companies could do better using all the social media platforms. I’ve managed social media accounts for some organizations and I definitely lean more towards certain platforms than others. Social media managers need to remember to use all of the platforms out there to engage the most people.

    2. Michelle,

      I’ve to agree the companies and organizations should expand to using all social media platforms. Just like Lexi is doing I help manage 9 different social media accounts at my current position and I can say that to more platforms you use the better the engagements.

  4. I’m sure that many of us have taken a personality assessment sometime in our life and have been told that we are an introvert or an extrovert. Personally, I am an extreme extrovert and pretty much anyone who has met me will attest to that very quickly. That being said, I thrive on social interaction and if I do not have it then I find myself trying to find a way to get it. I think that we as agriculturalists can take advantage of the increasing popularity of social interaction through social media and use it to our advantage. I think that having open and honest conversations through platforms such as Twitter through hashtags are great examples. When I interned for the National Teach Ag Campaign we had a monthly live twitter chat where people from across the globe could participate in a discussion on a certain topic for an hour. I also think that writing blogs plays a huge role in breaking down the barriers between consumers and agriculturalists. Many blogs tell personal stories that tie back to the farm and give a face and name to the famer for consumers. This allows consumers to have a personal connection and helps remind them that farmers are people too. Once example of CMC that I have seen being used is through the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board’s Cheese & Burger Society Website. They use an engaging website with recipes for burgers and a tab about the cheese used for the burger to educate consumers. They also have a few burgers from states to make the website appealing to those beyond Wisconsin. Here is the website: http://www.cheeseandburger.com/ I have seen a lot of room for improvement in the use of social media to educate consumers. Most of what I see on social media with farms is using it to do giveaways which is great, but I think that we need to start using social media to educate consumers and give a face to the agriculture industry. When looking at the theories included in this week’s theory, the technology expectancy image gap theory stood out to me because I have seen many consumers get a new product in agriculture and expect a lot more than what you can get out of it. One major example of this is the advancing technologies to grow our crops. Many consumers hear about how advanced our technologies have become to make planting more precise and growing crops more efficiently and they then expect us to be able to grow crops without the use of any chemicals. The consumers hear about the technology which does help famers a lot, but there is an unrealistic idea of what the technology can actually accomplish.

    1. Tabitha,
      I agree with your view about using hashtags on Twitter. I intern for Missouri Soybeans, and a lot of our Twitter interactions revolve around hashtags. We use hashtags regularly to make our content more searchable and to join in other conversations. It is also interesting how many other conversation options, like the live Twitter chats you mentioned, the app offers.

  5. It’s great how easy it is to access information and news with the media, but I think the need for social interaction is still very important. With the overload of information we have today, I find it useful to be able to talk about it with other’s. We can read and consume as much information as we want, but to really make sense of it and see the application of it, we need to talk about the subjects with other people. I think agriculture could make some of their social media more interactive and give their audiences more opportunity to communicate with each other about the topics the page is addressing. If agriculture groups were able to engage their audiences more, it would also help bring more people into the conversation and they could possibly use it as a tool to advocate for agriculture.
    One person that I follow on Facebook is Cody Creelman, Cow Vet. He’s a large animal vet out of Canada who vlogs about his work and shows the different aspects of cattle production in the process. I think this is a great way to show those in agriculture to learn more about their own herds health, but he’s also good at sharing information in a way that is easy for the general public to understand and helps show how much producers care about their livestock. Like some of the others mentioned, he shares a lot of his personal life and I think that is a big reason he is popular, he’s relatable. I think it’s important for agriculture to have these spokespeople, but they also need to remember that everyone they post has the possibility of being used against the industry. Everyone who shares information about agriculture online needs to be aware of how anti-agriculture groups could twist what they post.

    1. Lexi,

      I will have to look up Cody Creelman, Cow Vet. He sounds like he has a good vlog to watch. I follow other beef and dairy production vlogs, but not him. I am wondering if Cody posts his vlogs on any other social media platforms? Facebook is still a viable platform, but it is not popular among the younger generations. In order to stay relevant, agriculture communicators need to utilize all forms of social media. We need to engage all generations, but we especially need to engage those generations that are currently the largest percentage of consumers and the generations that will soon be adding to that primary consumer population.

  6. Social interaction is becoming increasingly more important and simultaneously occurring less often in today’s world. I’m no different than anyone else – when presented with the option to stay home with my dog or go interact with ~people~, 99 percent of the time I will choose to stay home. I can see what others are up to via social media, and can disconnect whenever I want. I like being able to jump into conversation with people from across the country, and even world, using media to connect from the comfort of my home. I still exercise my in-person abilities daily, but having a broader network and more flexibility in my communication is very convenient. Agricultural communicators have endless opportunities with this fifth function of the media. It has never been easier to gain access to someone who raises food or fiber, and never before have we had the ability to so easily share the stories of farmers, ranchers, producers, and growers across the world.

    It seems that computer-mediated communication (CMC) is everywhere these days. Dairy Carrie started a very successful blog, which led to extremely popular social media accounts and several speaking engagements. Carrie does a feature every so often she calls “Humans of Agriculture” which highlights individuals involved in various aspects of agriculture and their stories.

    As I mentioned before, the opportunities for agricultural communicators to utilize social interaction via the media are endless. From live videos, to stories, to discussions and threads, we can communicate any message via online media and reach millions of people each day. We should always be trying to improved our communications and storytelling and finding new ways to connect with the public to share ours and others’ agriculture stories.

    -Rachel Waggie

    1. Rachel,

      I enjoyed reading through your comments. I can most relate to social media being a selective form of social interaction. I’ve always been a homebody and like that I can be engaged without having to leave my house. You are very correct in that statement and it was not a point that I had considered when thinking about my own social media use.

  7. The fifth function of the media, social interaction, has become very important in my day-to-day use of the media. I use social media regularly throughout the day for both work and social purposes. Social interaction with others through posting, shares, comments and direct messages is the exact reason I use social media. Without interaction with friends and followers, I wouldn’t have a reason to get on the sites. Personally, I would feel disconnected from my friends, family and society as a whole without this social interaction. Professionally, my boss and I would have to go an extra mile to interact with stakeholders without social interaction on our company page.

    Agricultural communicators can use this social interaction to personalize their messages. I know people who follow our work page really connect with our accounts when we share personalized messages with more a social purpose than a news reporting purpose. I think really focusing on the social and conversational capabilities of the media will allow for more connections, shares and interaction of agricultural content.

    I think an interesting way computer-mediated communication (CMC) is being utilized by the agricultural community is through YouTube channels. This encompasses everything from vlogs to informational videos. A young farmer in my community planted popcorn for the first time this year. Since popcorn farming is a somewhat underrepresented sector of agriculture, he decided to create short videos about his journey. These range from targeting adults to young children and include informational vlogs and animated how-to videos. The popcorn YouTube videos are just one example of the various ways I have seen CMC utilized on the platform.

    I see room for improvement in the volume of agricultural content shared using CMC. I think agricultural communicators are starting to do better about generating more content, but in a world where CMC is prevailing and users are hungry for social interaction and content, there is still a need to produce more.

    I see the uses and gratifications theory in action in the CMC of the agricultural industry. Agricultural communicators use media to satisfy the need of promoting their respective organizations while consumers use media to fulfill their need for information and learning more about agriculture.

  8. The fifth function of media, social interaction, is something I use on a day-to-day bases. Yes we are a generation on that is always on social media, but social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat etc. are ways we keeps in touch. Agricultural communicators do you social interaction whether via social media or word-of-mouth. They use this a tool to communicate between the producer and consumer.

    I have seen CMC being used by any agriculture bloggers especially the Farm Babe, Pioneer Women, Dairy Carrie, etc. All their blogs share personal stories in agriculture and share insight to consumers who may know nothing about agriculture. I think the biggest room for improvements using their stories on all social media platforms instead of just sticking to one. Remember that their are consumers every were on the internet. By broadening their content they are able to reach more followers and get their stories liked and shared.

  9. As I reflect on the fifth function of the media, I would definitely agree that it has become a very important part of my day-to-day use of media. When I think about how much I am on social media or using other forms of media, it becomes clear that I am a “typical” millennial in the way that I grew up around technology and it did affect how I learned to communicate. However, there are many instances where I prefer face-to-face communication instead of using a device of some sort. There are many messages in my day-to-day life that certainly cannot take place through media, or I know that by the time I try to convey my message through an email or chat message, I can just as easily walk over to that person and have a conversation. With this in mind, I do enjoy the social interaction I get by using social media, such as Facebook. I enjoy following old friends through their lives as they thrive in their careers, or expand their families. I feel like I get to be part of their life and journey even though I cannot physically be there.

    Agricultural communicators can use the fifth function of media to their advantage simply due to the outreach and accessibility of social media or other media platforms. How many millions of people tuned in to watch the super bowl and, as a result, were exposed to the infamous “God Made a Farmer Commercial?” How many hours does the typical person spend in their vehicles per week where they are exposed to ads of all sorts through the radio? The outreach through social media can also multiply exponentially through likes, shares, or comments. With this kind of outreach, it is definitely something that agricultural communicators should utilize to its full potential. I have seen several good examples of how CMC is used through The Pioneer Woman’s blogs, cooking show, and social media pages. She does a great job of showcasing agriculture in a very reserved way. She never pushes on any touchy subjects, but is excellent at being truthful and presenting facts without causing much controversy. “It’s a Farm Thing” Facebook page is also one that I follow that shares an abundance of stories from other agricultural advocacy pages. As for improving these sources, I think that a large majority of the information that is presented is on subjects that are important to agriculturalists rather than focusing on the needs, questions, or concerns of the consumers. It has been mentioned many times before, but the consumers need to be listened to first and foremost and then use those needs to present information that is relevant to them.

    The theory from this week’s readings that I see in action in the agricultural industry is technological determinism. In this case, I would agree that the medium is more important than the message. An example I see of this is how the Humane Society plays somber music and shows all of these sad neglected pets as a way of getting money for their organization. If they would have made a newspaper or radio ad, it is likely that their campaign would not have been as successful. These mediums are a target for anti-agricultural organizations and in the above example, they nailed both the medium and the message. However, the agricultural industry can also use this to their advantage and plan their media methods by using the right mediums when putting out information.

  10. I enjoy social media as a pass-time when I need to be by myself for a minute, but I cannot be left to my own thoughts all day. As a strong extrovert, I need social interaction in my everyday life. Phone calls, texting, and snapchat can only suffice for a short period of time. I need to talk through my thoughts and concerns with other people in face-to-face conversations to feel normal. I believe this is something we all need, extroverts and introverts, in varying amounts. As agricultural communicators we can create these face-to-face interactions by making ourselves more visible in our communities. Maybe we can partner with our local agriculture companies and extension offices to volunteer to speak to the public at different events they host. Or, as other member of the class have stated, creating vlogs that include a personal element so we are relatable to multiple audiences. These vlogs would need to be posted on all social media sites though. We cannot limit ourselves to just Facebook or just YouTube, because not everyone uses these platforms.

    I follow many different agriculture vlogers on Facebook. The one that stands out to me the most right now is Tillamook Dairy Farmer. I find his posts relatable and funny in a sarcastic way because I have grown up in the agriculture industry. He uses a tone that calls anti-agriculturalists mainly ignorant and blind to common sense and research. I am not sure he intends for his vlogs to reach people outside of the agriculture industry, but I am sure they do since he runs a public account. If I were going to change how this particular vlogger runs his vlogs, I would ask him to take on a more reasonable tone that is calming and educational to the public instead or argumentative and alienating.

    When looking at what theories are used most often by agricultural communicators, I see the gratifications theory used the most. We tend to post the most about or own organizations and our own opinions in a way to promote them to others. We hope that by putting the information out there, we will by chance inform someone new about agriculture and maybe change their minds in support of our cause.

    1. Victoria, I greatly appreciate how you brought up the fact that we can also implement these communication theories beyond media platforms! You are right, it is quite important for us to have face to face interaction and connection.

  11. As part of a ministry team, I am reliant on social media to keep up with our campers and the other members of our team. Social interaction is a majority of my social media use, it has also allowed me to make and maintain connections with other agriculturalists in different parts of the country.

    Agriculturalists can use social interaction to personalize their messages and make connections with others that relate to them in a multitude of ways (production agriculture, motherhood, small business, etc). It is important to note that social interaction for an agriculturalist isn’t reliant on only interacting with other agriculturalists. Creating meaningful and personal connections, while sharing the everyday struggles and victories of agriculture, is a great way to spread the positive message of agriculture. I really appreciate that Instagram has a public setting so that you can connect with a multitude of people in a safe way, whereas I view Facebook as more personal/private (unless you are running a page to follow verses a personal profile).

    Aly McClure is a well-known agriculture marketing consultant from Kansas, she manages her own personal content as well as a multitude of agricultural businesses. Aly always does a great job engaging with her audience and creating meaningful connection with those both in and outside of agriculture. I have seen room for improvement on a variety of pages, typically they have shared an image of some of the not-so-pleasant parts of agriculture and failed to effectively communicate the “why” of what is going on in the picture, these images can be quickly misinterpreted which quickly becomes an issue.

    1. It is very interesting to know how the agricultural consultant Aly McClure uses the framing theory where it highlights negative aspects to obtain uncertain results and questions to consumers. No doubt that type of advertising campaigns adds certain high risk to the propaganda.

  12. The development of computer-mediated communication (CMC) is increasingly transforming the way in which information is disseminated and obtained in the agricultural sector.
    The CMC can support farmers by providing access to information in different categories:

    1) Acquisition of inputs and commercialization of agricultural products, that is, providing access to market information in real time and facilitating contact with other actors in the chain of value, help farmers acquire quality agricultural inputs at competitive prices, promote their products in different online markets and negotiate prices. In general, they also allow farmers to respond better to market demands.

    2) Strategic information. It can provide information on agricultural practices, support the organization and preparation of land, help determine the appropriate amount of inputs, provide meteorological information, allow early detection and treatment of pests and diseases.

    3)Past trends. They can play a crucial role in making decisions about agricultural production, by providing information on past trends in productivity, pest attacks, and climatic conditions, among other aspects. Information on weather conditions can, for example, help farmers to program the agricultural activities to optimize production and control of adverse factors

    4) Decisions on government policies. Several CMC tools allow access to information on government policies related to agriculture (such as marketing, labor laws and rural properties), which can be crucial for farmers when making decisions.

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