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Farm Today’s Social Community

Extend your reach through social media.

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (Nov. 4, 2015) — In a room full of people attending the Farming Your Social Community Angus University workshop, only a few hands raised when Michele Payn-Knoper asked, “Who is on social media?”


“Because farmers and ranchers are modest, independent and stubborn. You’d rather deal with your animals or your land than all this people crap, right?” she told her audience at the National Angus Convention & Trade Show in Overland Park, Kan., Wednesday, Nov. 4.

Payn-Knoper raises Holstein cows and is known as a leading farm and food advocate.

She then asked her audience who, if anyone, was upset or may have even grumbled about Subway® Restaurants’ recent announcement that it would only serve protein from animals that had never received antibiotics.

This time, almost every hand shot up.

“Did you complain four months ago, or did you talk to people four weeks ago about why you use antibiotics?” Payn-Knoper posed. “You don’t have permission to gripe and whine and moan when foodservice companies, and others, make decisions based upon what pressures they’re getting from activists groups, if you’re not talking about issues proactively.

“I have found, through personal experience, that social media is the singular best way to talk to people proactively about hormones, antibiotics, food safety, animal care and all the other crazy issues they care about because it allows us to share our human personal story,” she stated.

Payn-Knoper defines social media as mass influence. She said thanks to social media, she has been able to extend her reach by at least 1,000-fold. She noted social media as a tool to expand people’s reach, whether that reach is to sell cattle or tell beef’s and agriculture’s story.

She listed Facebook, YouTube, Google+, Instagram and Twitter as some of the top social media sites for connecting with consumers.

For those interested in learning in detail about each social media channel, she referred them to her website where visitors can search “ag and social media.” This is basically an owner’s manual or a “how to” tutorial on social media, she asserted.

Again, why social media? According to her own research since January 2009, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has seen a 550-fold increase on Twitter. Greenpeace has experienced an 850-fold increase on Facebook. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has shown a 200-fold increase on Facebook.

“Ultimately, in 2015, for those of you that are perhaps a bit skeptical about the value of social media, it’s about protecting your right to farm and ranch as you see fit,” she claimed.

Payn-Knoper detailed the target audience, the 2015 consumer, as someone who believes in convenience, wants information immediately, is always connected, ignores ads and seeks authenticity.

Success with social media boils down to three steps: Know your purpose, build a community around that purpose and be a resource to your community, she listed.

Furthermore, she stated, social media is not a place to “educate” the consumer.

“How many of you would throw a person off your farm if they walked onto your farm and said, ‘I need to educate you on how to breed better cattle because you’re stupid.’ Yet, we in agriculture, in all of our glory, say, ‘Stupid consumer, let me educate you.’”

“Social media is about having a conversation. It’s about listening to somebody. It’s relating to them and then, and only then, once you have made a connection through their hearts, do you have the opportunity to educate them.”

With one last call to action, Payn-Knoper challenged her audience to participate in one social media channel for 15 minutes every day for three weeks.

“Social media is about having fun with other people. It’s about engaging in conversation and that’s not all serious business. It’s not all advocating. It’s not all hard-core issues management. … It is about being a human being first and foremost and connecting with others on a human basis,” she concluded.

Angus University was sponsored by Merck Animal Health.

Editor’s Note: This article was written under contract or by staff of the Angus Journal, which maintains the copyright. To request permission to reprint, please contact Shauna Hermel at 816-383-5270.