On July 8, Will Gilmer climbed into a tractor and noticed that one of his employees had left a Lionel Richie CD in the cab. Wanting to make the most of the situation, he turned on the CD player, reached for his Internet-capable cell phone, and announced to his Twitter followers, “I’m putting out hay while jamming to ‘All Night Long.’”

Gilmer, who milks about 200 cows in northwest Alabama, sends five to 10 messages on Twitter each day — mainly to project a positive image about farming to people who may not know much about agriculture. For instance, in his July 8 “tweet” about the Lionel Richie CD, he was trying to inject some humor and relate to non-farmers, as well. 

The advent of “smart” phones has made this possible. Gilmer is able to send out messages — and give people a little slice of farm life — while going about his daily chores. And, he can also receive messages, including news updates. “I do read several (news) stories a day,” he says, whenever there’s an interlude in his schedule, such as waiting for the manure-spreader to fill up.

People in all walks of life are doing this. According to the digital communication-trends firm, comScore, the number of people who used their mobile phones to access news more than doubled from January 2008 to January 2009.

That is why Dairy Herd Management will soon be ramping up the amount of news provided to readers via their cell phones. 

People want it now

“The whole population has gone toward immediacy, having instant information at their fingertips,” says Tom Butler, an Overland Park-based marketing consultant. 

Mobile communications will be as revolutionary as anything we have seen since the advent of e-mail in the mid-1990s, Butler says.  

Already, we have seen millions of households get rid of their landline phones in favor or their wireless phones. In fact, 17.5 percent of the households in the United States are wireless, according to the Wireless Association. That is an increase of 9 percentage points since 2005. 

“More and more households are ridding themselves of the monthly expense associated with a landline and moving toward a wireless-only home,” says Nate Schmidt, president of LowCostCells.com, an online cell phone company that features the likes of AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Nextel and Sprint.

And, these aren’t just any cell phones. Most any phone you buy today has the ability to access the internet.

“Over the course of the past year, we have seen use of mobile internet evolve from an occasional activity to being a daily part of people’s lives,” says Mark Donovan, senior vice president, mobile, at comScore. “This underscores the growing importance of the mobile medium as consumers become more reliant on their mobile devices to access time-sensitive and utilitarian information.”

Untapped potential 

While Americans are information-savvy, they still don’t measure up to the Japanese when it comes to fully utilizing the potential of mobile communications.

For years, Japanese marketers have used quick-response (QR) codes, which look like miniaturized crossword puzzles, to communicate with Japanese consumers. All the consumer has to do is scan the code with his or her Internet-capable smart phone and an image appears on the cell phone screen, providing more information about the product.

The Japanese have found numerous other uses for QR codes. By scanning them at bus stops, people can get an estimated time of arrival. Or, while visiting a cemetery, they can scan the codes on grave markers to learn more about the person buried there. They even use QR codes to find out where the nearest toilet is located.

The codes can take a person to videos or posters, Butler points out. Or, they can instantly translate an article into Spanish for someone if the article has a special code for that purpose.

The advertiser index on page 61 of this issue has QR codes for each of the advertisers listed. If your smart phone is ready (with some free software downloaded), you can scan those codes with your cell phone for additional product information.

Practical benefits

Ray Prock Jr., who runs a 475-cow dairy in Denair, Calif., has a good idea of how this year’s corn and soybean crops are shaping up by following what others say on Twitter. He’s only been “tweeting” on Twitter since April or May, so he is still getting a feel for this information. But real-time communication with others around the country about emerging crop trends could potentially help him with his feed-purchase decisions.    

As of Aug. 10, Prock was following 1,444 people (and a friend’s dog!) on Twitter, and he had 1,316 people following him.

Therein lies the beauty of Twitter. Prock can send messages to all 1,316 followers without having to type in 1,316 separate e-mail addresses. The ease with which he can reach those people is important, considering that he wants to reach a large number of people outside of agriculture. 

“The biggest impact (of using social media like Twitter) isn’t on my dairy, but the dairy industry itself — to communicate with the public so they can better understand what we do, which will hopefully increase consumption of dairy products,” Prock says.

To do this effectively, Prock needs to stay up-to-date with what’s happening in the dairy industry. It all boils down to getting information on his mobile phone — when he wants it, where he wants it, and how he wants it. 

Dairy Herd Management steps up

Within the next few months, Dairy Herd Management will provide readers with daily news feeds to their cell phones.

The alerts will be delivered once a day, Monday through Saturday. And, readers may also want to receive market updates three times a day — market open, midday and close of market. Besides cash cheese and dairy futures prices, the market updates will include corn and oil prices, as well as the Dow Jones Industrial Average.  

“We’re providing the vehicle for them to access this information — when, where and how they want it,” says Mark Siebert, group publisher of Dairy Herd Management and its sister publications.

You can sign up now by going to www. dairyherd.com/mobile and using the signup form.  You can subscribe to mobile market updates by texting “dairy” to 74574.