Editor’s note: This article was written by Michele Payn-Knoper Cause Matters Corp.

Society has shifted in an era of  500 million Facebook users, 50 million tweets, 450 million people on mobile internet and 68 million bloggers -  whether you accept new media or not.   We’re bombarded by 13,000 marketing messages each day, now largely due to new media. (Watch the Evolution of Online Agvocacy if you want to see more.)  All of this social media mania is also building a fear that humans may just stop having real conversations -after all, we can just text, direct message, instant message, Facebook or email (how old school!).

Nothing could be further from the truth, based upon the energy level of a group of farmers, ranchers and agricultural folks at the inaugural AgChat Foundation Agvocacy 2.0 Conference. The best talent in the business spent about 24 hours together in Chicago with the unified vision of helping connect food, fuel, feed and fiber by empowering farmers to tell their story. This is the same group that’s been a part of creating 6.7 million unique impressions with a “Thank a Farmer” effort on Twitter last November, influenced a change in Pilot and YellowTail’s support of anti-ag groups, answered non-farm questions in February for three hours for 3.1 million unique impressions. Suffice it to say, farmers have embraced the opportunity to help the 98.5 percent of the population not on a farm or ranch.

We talked “techie” tools like Tweetreach from dairyman Ray Prock and rancher Jeff Fowle – our resident 140Conference stars, who also demonstrated Tweetdeck. Artist and DVM Kathy Swift discussed FBML for Facebook and Ohio Farmer Mike Haley taught people how to shorten & track URLs with and the value of Listorious. There was threat of an “ag nerd versus ag communications smackdown” over Google Analytics with people like Kansas data farmer Darin Grimm, who also loves TwapperKeeper. From blogs to videos, hundreds of tools flowed from nearly 30 speakers at the Agvocacy 2.0 Conference – and even more were shared in hallways and at dinner tables.

The greatest tool demonstrated at the conference? It didn’t have anything to do with technology.  It was the people connecting on a personal level. Some of my greatest learnings:

  1. Humans connect to humans. The Agvocacy 2.0 attendees had shared thousands of conversations, but most had never met. The buzz and energy were palpable, as you can see at Agvocacy 2.0 Buzz.
  2. Being 100 percent present. Sometimes technology moves people farther apart, even when they’re face-to-face. We saw people engage immediately, lay their technology aside and be fully present for the experience.
  3. Idea sharing. Some businesses believe they need to keep their “intellectual property” internal or it loses value.  How is an idea really valuable until you share it with others?
  4. Laughter. People in agriculture are very serious in trying to advocate. We sometimes forget the happy hormone release associated with gut laughs. I heard a lot of those in Chicago and even invested some nocturnal time in enjoying this myself.
  5. Community propels influence: One person may be able to reach 100, but 100 people create the momentum to reach 10,000 or 100,000. I’ve seen agvocates generate amazing results through their blogs, simple Facebook posts and YouTube responses. The personal connections galvanized in Chicago are going to influence the roadmap for our business for the long-term, big picture. This isn’t about a singular idea; it’s about a shift in thinking.

How are you advancing social media to tell agriculture’s story?  It’s not about the technology, it’s about the people.

Source: Cause Matters Corporation