FARMERS need to take a less adversarial approach to their engagement with consumers through social media if they are to best exploit the powerful medium.
That was the message from Alex Milner-Smyth, director of MediaRoo Communications, at this week’s Innovation Generation (IG) conference in Adelaide.
In her presentation, Ms Milner-Smyth went through what she described as the ‘seven deadly sins of social media’.
The major failing, according to the digital media specialist, is not thinking beyond the agricultural sector.
“It’s easy to get caught up in thinking everyone around you thinks the same when you are surrounded by ag all the time, but two thirds of the population in Australia lives in cities and they may not have a direct connection to agriculture.”
“Rather than hating on the city, as we see in various memes, I think it would be a good thing for farmers to spend more time in cities and get a better understanding of what urban consumers are interested in and why.”
Ms Milner-Smyth said there were obvious rewards in getting traction among affluent inner-city consumers.
“You see the examples, people paying $16 for a loaf of bread because they feel the grain used in it is special, the premiums paid for organic produce, there is a clear incentive in engaging with these potential customers.”
She said many farmer users of social media made posts expecting consumers to be grateful for their role.
“I don’t think that whole ‘thank a farmer’ push is constructive – farmers should not be expecting extra gratitude from consumers, buying the product is gratitude enough.”
“These sort of approaches to social media can be confronting and end up alienating your target audience.”
Ms Milner-Smyth also said farmers needed to be conscious of the image they were trying to cultivate.
“Thou shalt not be a hick. Make sure you represent your industry professionally, the last thing agriculture needs is the consumer public thinking we’re a bunch of red-necks.”
Ms Milner-Smyth also urged growers to engage with their audience.
“If they are following you on Twitter or Facebook or whatever they want you to contribute to the conversation, you can’t just sit there lurking.”
“Share your story, be respectful and constructive and show both the positives and the negatives of farm life, you can really have an impact by telling your story well.”