The Internet is the third most popular news platform in the world, only second to local and national TV news. And, social media accounts for the majority of the news consumed on the Internet.

Because the Internet is the third largest source of news, it’s important that every dairy farmer do their part to join in the conversation.

Like any other productive conversation, it all starts with listening, says Jolene Griffin with Dairy Management Inc.

With the Internet you might not be able to listen with ears, but you can listen with your eyes. There are many tools that can help you find and “listen” to conversations online.

Three of the most popular tools are: Google alerts, Tweet Deck and iGoogle. All three are free and easy to set up.

Google alerts are internet searches that are constantly scanning the web looking for items of interest to you. With Google alerts you can specify the information you would like to receive through key words, how much you would like to receive and how often.

Tweet Deck lets users monitor Twitter conversations. Tweets can be categorized and filtered by topics that you are interested in. Hash tags are an important component to tracking conversations because they allow you to follow specific conversations. Hash tags you might have an interest in include #agchat, #dairy and #ag.

iGoogle is a “dashboard” or Web page that is customizable and can be populated with information of your choosing. Twitter feeds, alerts and blog posts are just a few examples of items that could be customized on the page.

In addition to these three tools, another Web site where you can look for conversations about dairy or animal agriculture to join is Quora. Quora is a question and answer Web site that allows anyone to go on and ask a question. Questions can be answered by anyone.

AgChat is another useful tool; AgChat brings all walks of agriculture together online. Farmers work together to relay information about the agriculture industry to consumers.

Other ways to find conversations are through online communities. The internet boasts communities for everything ranging from sports to fashion to recipes. Pioneer Woman, Smitten Kitchen, Hungry Girl or Epicurious are just four examples of recipe and cooking communities that might hold an opportunity to be part of the conversation.

Find a recipe or an article that you or your family loved, add a comment and establish yourself as a member of the community, notes Griffin. If something ever arises on the blog about dairy, you’ve already established yourself as a dairy expert. It becomes a natural way to inject into the conversation and help balance the information presented by other community members, she says.

But the one thing to remember when listening to conversations about dairy online is to know when to join the conversation and when to leave well enough alone.

Griffin advises to evaluate the messenger. “Know who the person is behind the comment. We need to have conversations with people not living in agriculture every day.” Don’t waste time having conversations with anti-agriculture or anti-dairy people.

There is no exact science to jumping into a conversation, she says. If the person commenting or having the conversation is never going to see your side let the conversation go. “You’re looking for the people who are just uninformed due to something they read and don’t have a personal contact in the agriculture industry. Engage in conversations with those people, become their contact.”

Dairy Management Inc. recently hosted a Webinar for its myDairy advocates on social listening. To view the Webinar go to: If you are not a member of the myDairy program, email,