When the dairy industry is faced with an issue or negative commentary from a special interest group, one of the emerging tools the dairy checkoff staff uses is social media. This allows the industry an opportunity to provide a quick response that can begin minimizing any damage to consumer confidence. Jolene Griffin, manager of producer communications for Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), talks about the benefits of using social media.

Q: How does the dairy checkoff use social media to address issues?
When an article or video appears online that questions dairy production or dairy product consumption, the Dairy Communications Management Team (DCMT) determines if it’s necessary to respond to the claim being made. This may include sending a letter to the online editor or website owner, or reaching out to a third-party expert to provide a comment. In some cases, we also activate the myDairy social media network of more than 1,200 dairy producers and enthusiasts to provide an accurate picture of modern dairy farming practices.

Q: How do you decide whether DMI will use social media?
When someone makes a negative comment about the dairy industry, the DCMT analyzes previous postings by the author and the website, and the specific claims being made. If a credible person or organization made the claim, we reach out to them with facts that support dairy. If the author is not a credible source or organization, it is unlikely that we will respond, because we don’t want to get caught in a back-and-forth argument that may make the issue appear bigger and/or threaten the industry’s credibility. We do work to correct blatant misinformation, however.

Q: Why is social media important in helping to manage issues in the dairy industry?
Social media plays an important role in how we see and view everything. Almost anything that happens can end up on a social media channel, whether it’s a video, a Facebook group to support a cause or a link sent via Twitter. Since social media allows everyone to be an author, it provides a great opportunity for those in the dairy industry to share their experiences on their farms, working in nutrition or creating new opportunities for consumers to enjoy dairy products. Everyone is on the same page within social media; everyone has a platform and everyone can be heard.

Q: Has social media been used to help address dairy industry issues in the news?
Yes. We used social media earlier this year when undercover videos depicting animal abuse on dairy farms was captured and posted by an anti-animal ag group. When we learned of each video, national and local dairy checkoff staff shared information throughout the industry and among producers, including messages that dairy advocates could incorporate into their online conversations. We encouraged dairy producers to highlight the steps they take to care for their animals, and, ultimately, to reassure consumers that the actions on the video were unacceptable and were not indicative of everyday practices on dairy farms. Earlier this year, a national nightly news program aired undercover footage that was captured on a dairy farm. In the week immediately following the broadcast, nearly 40 percent of the comments on the site were pro-dairy. We even saw the industry’s key messages woven into the personal comments.

Source: Dairy Management Inc.