Ag and Social Media Influencers–Sifting the Digital Noise from the Cyber Wheat

Social media–ya gotta have it, ya gotta use it, and ya gotta admit it can be cool. But…

Going Digital Can Be Awkward
For some of us old rural analogosauruses, it has been quite a transition. Those long-gone unplugged, unwired, unWiFi days had some advantages…

No Send Button–No Save Button
Instead of Twitter, email, and text messaging, you hammered out thoughts on a clacking social media tool. You might have ink-stained fingers and white-out on your shirt, but you could not hit a send button at 3:00 a.m., and WikiLeaks could not tap into your analog cloud. 

No NSA Monitors–Just Neighbors and Pauline
Instead of having a government network hack your system, a party-line telephone service meant only a few snooping neighbors and the switchboard operator Pauline could listen in. She only gossiped about personal information at PTA meetings and church socials.

No Embarrassing Viral Photos
Instead of Instagram, Snapchat, Vine, or Access Hollywood getting instant photos of you, real-time pics were only possible if someone had a Polaroid–and none of your friends could afford one, let alone know how to use one.

Definitely More Tactile
Instead of interacting with friends through a screen (Facebook, texting, Snapchat), it was real face-to-face encounters. From sock hops to school hallways, from street scuffles to back road parking–communication was usually fun, sometimes awkward, sometimes edgy… and a lot less virtual.

Ag, Social Media, and the Influencers

Most of those archaic forms of social media are in the analog vault, and digital modes are evolving quickly. Some become icons of communication, while others have 15 minutes of digital fame–remember Friendster and Myspace?

CAST and other ag/science information organizations need to consider what tools to use. As shown in a recent “60 Minutes” report, young social media whiz-kids are using creative methods to pull in millions of viewers–and millions of dollars in advertising revenue. It’s all about establishing a brand, a hook, an online personality–and it might involve expensive photo sessions or spontaneous 6-second videos. It’s visual, quick, and innovative.

Some farmers, companies, and ag groups are using such visual tactics. Digital expert Don Schindler promotes Instagram use for farmers and businesses; Alison Van Eenennaam uses video to communicate about science and ag; and the Peterson Brothers from Kansas have made hay–literally on their farm and figuratively through their successful videos, parodies, and presentations. Their latest music video draws an analogy between football and farming, and their Gangnam Style parody, “Working Farmer Style,” has garnered more than 16 million hits. 

Organizations must use the digital modes best suited to communicate their messages–and they need to consider mission, audience, effectiveness, and feasibility (staff, money, time, image).

CAST’s Mission: Through its network of experts, CAST assembles, interprets, and communicates credible, balanced, science-based information to policymakers, the media, the private sector, and the public. As CAST’s Executive Vice President Kent Schescke said, “Inform more than influence–focus on our mission.”

From students to retirees, from consumers in the aisles to scientists in the lab, from company and organization leaders to policymakers in government–CAST publishes research and provides various types of ag/science information through various modes. 

Social Media at CAST: 

Website: Approximately 50,000 visits in past year from every U.S. state and 188 countries

Twitter: More than 5,300 followers; daily tweets, retweets, likes; used to gather info too

Facebook: More than 840 followers; daily “CAST CATCH of the DAY” entries (30 to 500 hits)

Blog: 310 posts; few followers but average 2,000 to 3,000 visits per month; some linked or republished in newspapers, magazines, and on other websites; topics range from CAST research to farm issues to student contributions

Pinterest: More than 650 followers; regular pins, repins, and postings

LinkedIn: 98 followers; a few postings but not very active

YouTube/SchoolTube: videos online; YouTube CAST clips have 143,800 or more minutes watched

CAST Strategic Plan and Social Media

CAST staff members are focused on an organization-wide strategic plan program, and social media is part of that. 

Basic Overview: CAST’s social media should deliver focused messages that are highly accessible to various influential audiences:
1. Identify and define audiences
2. Target messages to key audiences
3. Amplify through increased use of social media

Specifically, staff members are:
1. Rewriting the social media guide pages
2. Evaluating social media modes now in use, including Twitter, FB, the blog, and Pinterest 
3. Considering what action to take with LinkedIn–expand use? revamp page?
4. Considering other modes such as Instagram
5. Use training sessions to enhance staff abilities
6. Decide how much time, money, and staff effort to put into social media

** Note: The CAST website, CAST videos, and the weekly online newsletter (Friday Notes) all fit into this overall evaluation–time, money, effort… and the opportunities for CAST to achieve its mission and communicate effectively about science and agriculture.

** Suggestion: Consider taking the time to power down, unplug, and detox–get the digital clutter out by taking a “forest bath.” Check out the previous blog on this site, “Politics, Halloween, and a Back-forty Bath” to look into shinrin-yoku, the act of hiking in a forest–or almost anywhere–to clean out the head.

by dan gogerty (pics from top to bottom:  digital.jpg,,,, digital.jpg,,, copy.jpg, and with

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