So you've done it, you've jumped into the world of online agvocacy head first. You have been sharing your story and by now maybe you've even had a few spirited discussions with vegans and animal rights activists. You're well on your way to being an "agvocate."
If gaining the confidence to share your story is the first step of being an agvocate, the second step is figuring out how to reach beyond the choir. I've pulled together some ideas to help you reach outside your normal circle and make the work you're putting into agvocacy more productive, by reaching the right people. This month, I am going to focus on tips for Twitter and Instagram; next month we'll look at Facebook.
If Facebook is designed for you to stay in touch with people you know, Twitter is designed as a place to meet new people. Twitter is a great place to connect with people you would probably never meet in real life.
• We all have hobbies that aren't farm-related. Twitter allows you to indulge in these interests without leaving your farm. Use the search function and key phrases about your interests to discover relevant hashtags. Tweet using the same hashtags to jump into the conversation, and make sure to follow people who are part of the conversation.
There are hashtags for just about everything, and you can use them to follow conversations about politics, your favorite TV show, sports team or special events.
• Reply, favorite and RT! If you see a tweet come through your time line that's interesting, take the time to reply to the person who sent the tweet and strike up a conversation. It may feel awkward at first, but it's really no different than making small talk while waiting in line. If you're not sure you have something to add to the conversation, but you liked what the person had to say, you can show appreciation by clicking "favorite", which is similar to clicking "like" on Facebook, or you can RT (retweet) and send out their tweet for your followers to see.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, Instgram is worth millions when it comes to agvocacy. Often, a simple photo of what we do is more powerful than any words we can pull together. From newborn calves to farm kids learning the family trade, people love farm photos!
• Make sure your profile is set to "public"; having your profile set to "private" will make it very difficult to reach beyond your friends.
• If you see a photo that you love, don't just click like and move on. Take 30 seconds to write out a comment. I may look to see how many people liked one of my photos, but I don't bother looking to see who liked my photos. If you want people to notice you're there, comment!
• Get local! Using location specific hashtags, you can find other Instagramers in your area, follow them, and comment on their photos! Make sure you post your photos using these same hashtags so local people can find you. Being from Wisconsin, I use tags like #wisconsin, #wi, #wiwx (WI weather), #wistagram, #sconnie, #MSN (Madison), and #MKE (Milwaukee). You can do the same with your state or closest cities.
Reaching beyond the choir online does take work and a concentrated effort, but in the end not only will you be more effective in your agvocacy efforts, you'll feel more connected to your customers" lives.
Carrie Mess farms in partnership with her husband Patrick and his parents on their 100-cow, 300-acre dairy farm near Lake Mills, Wis. She also speaks to agricultural organizations, empowering farmers to tell their own stories through social media.
"Dairy Carrie" can be reached via
Follow her blog, The Adventures of Dairy Carrie, at dairycarrie.com.