By Jordan Strickler
In the world of agriculture, social media is proving to be a powerful tool. Once a primary instrument for just talking to friends, the platforms have become a powerful tool for business in recent years, farming included.
The total number of social media users reached almost 2.5 billion in 2017 according to Statista.com. Like every technological advancement in agriculture over the span of civilization, social media has changed the way farming is done and perceived.
Various social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and WhatsApp are becoming greater ways of sharing information about agricultural produce and marketing. In addition to the use of social media on a personal basis, farmers are telling their stories of successes and failures via the various mediums. They also share updates regarding harvesting and post-harvesting, market agricultural produce and answer problems their fellow farmers might be experiencing.
"Social media, in my opinion, is quite the asset to the modern farmer," says Jenny Saur-Schmidgall, an Illinois corn, soybean and Angus producer as well as the creator of The Witty Farmer clothes line. "Not only does it introduce farmers to one another, but it’s a chance to see how people are running their operation, and maybe give you some ideas to implement on your farm."
She credits social media for teaching her new farming technologies which increased her productivity that she otherwise might not have learned. She also says that without social media, she wouldn't have had the opportunity to create her successful side business.
"It’s pretty amazing, and it’s all because of social media. If you don’t use social media now, I highly recommend changing that."
A 2015 study of farmers who used social media found that 42 percent of producers who used Twitter and Facebook use it on a daily basis. It also found that YouTube has turned out to be one of the most helpful platforms. Of the 51 percent of farmers that use the site, 60 percent seek out general news, 58 percent use the site for music, and 56 percent will utilize the site for educational or how-to videos.
However, social media is not for farmers of all stripes. Michelle Miller is a large user of social media for her brand, Farm Babe, which she uses to dispel myths of farming and teach the public more about the realm of agriculture. However, she calls her farming “old school.” Miller, who produces 2,200 acres of corn, soybeans, alfalfa, oats, sheep and cattle in Iowa, says while she loves social media for her Farm Babe brand, she isn’t a big user of it on the farm itself.
“We don’t really use our smartphones or social media for our farm; we’re not really doing anything really high tech,” she says. However, as an international speaker, journalist and farming advocate, it has been a primary source of her marketing.
While Saur-Schmidgall relies on Twitter for most of her outreach, Miller finds Facebook — where she has over 100,000 followers — to be a bigger asset. “I use Facebook the most because it is a better way to interact with people. I also don’t like being limited on characters. I enjoy engaging with my fans. Agriculture is such a complicated industry that it can be harder to communicate that via other social media platforms. I like to do storytelling and Facebook gives me more visibility and provides a better way to do that.”
“For me, social media has been huge,” said Miller. “Right now, I’m having the most fun I’ve ever had in my life. I feel like I have a purpose right now. That all stems from social media. So, it’s really been the best thing I’ve ever done. It has helped me find my calling in life.”