When farmers are coming short on topic ideas, he recommends starting with video and pictures. Content of farmers interacting with their animals is typically popular.
“Video is where everything is headed,” Schindler says. “It can be handheld for a selfie video, and I can’t recommend enough investing in a wireless mic (phone headphones work) due to the background noises of a farm.”
Farmers starting out on social media might have the best success with Instagram because it is designed for simple video and pictures, he explains.
There are many free editing apps, such as iMovie, VideoShow and InShot, but Schindler says bloopers add authenticity.
And for the more adventurous social media users looking to add visual appeal to statistics, Gardner also recommends free apps such as Canva and Pictochart.
Dealing with activist backlash
However, Schindler cautions farmers opening up on social media might bring backlash, but you have many resources.
“If you have ‘haters,’ it means you are making it into the newsfeeds of people who do not agree with you,” Schindler says. “You have to care about the customer enough to keep taking risks.”
Building a relationship with your local checkoff program before a crisis is important, and he also manages the Dairy Checkoff Farmer Group on Facebook where farmers can ask one another questions and checkoff staff.
If activists find your social media accounts and attack them, he recommends unpublishing a Facebook page or going private on Instagram for a few days, then republishing.
“Most likely, trolls’ attention will shift elsewhere after a few days, once they think you have won because they can’t see your page,” he says.
McNaughton says she has experienced trolls first-hand.
“They really seem to come out of the woodwork on dairy topics,” McNaughton says. “I think one person made three separate accounts once and was commenting on my posts.”
She reached out to Alliance staff and received helpful advice, which Kinler says is the intention of the CAO program.
“The mentors give them feedback, give them tips on how to confidently and effectively communicate about agriculture,” Kinler says. “After the week is over, mentors also pull the five best social media posts, and they’ll give feedback.”
Although CAO officially began Sept. 16, 2019, Kinler says it is still not too late to join. The nine-week contest is points-based, and participants receive a separate $75 prize each week if their posts are chosen.
Additionally, there is also a division for college clubs, Kinler says. Rather than posting on social media, clubs host outreach events, which must be completed by Nov. 23.
“I would encourage students, but also collegiate clubs, to look into the Animal Agriculture Alliance and College Aggies Online. Sign up, and see if you can win some money and learn along the way.”