If President Obama has taught us anything, it’s that the Internet can make or break a political presence. Some would argue that the 2008 election was won through Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. While this is easy to see on a large-scale level (like during the elections for the leader of the free world), it’s a little more subtle on a smaller scale. Local, regional, and state officials are finding their places in social media.
The important question to ask is this: are you getting social with your politicians? You should be.
Social media has made the world a whole lot bigger, and smaller, all at once. People are able to share experiences as never before, which removes the limitations of geographical distance. At the same time, the capability to communicate has increased and encouraged a much more profound sense of interactivity. Public figures now have access to a larger portion of their constituents than ever before, all through a few keystrokes and the click of a mouse.
Farmers have slowly begun to adopt the same realization. More and more, the agricultural community is using social media to reach out. As an agriculture advocate, communicator, and tech geek, I love this. And because social media is, at its core, social, then shouldn’t these groups overlap? Shouldn’t the politicians who turn to social media to improve their image and reach their voters, also be learning about today’s agricultural issues from it as well?
We have the power to make change through positive communication. The only real barrier is anonymity. If we can break past that status quo, and really reach out to others, a difference can be made.
Agriculture’s advocates must connect with the politicians who drive agricultural legislation. Ag, as an industry (and culture) has had a long history of being a quiet voice among shouts. When competing against outspoken (and often radical) activists groups, it’s hard to drive a point home. Building a relationship, however, is more valuable than shouting into the darkness.
Recently, I had the pleasure of working with several farmers and ranchers in California’s central valley. One member of the cut flower industry had an outstanding story to share with the rest of the group. He’d found himself personally contacted by the aid of a public official here in California. He found that the aid’s views were fairly in-line with his own, and that they were fairly well-versed on his trade. When he asked where the aid (and subsequently, the aid’s boss) got their information, the aid confessed that a lot of their research began with his very own blog. That blog made an impact on someone. Because this agriculturalist was brave enough to engage with others and put himself out there, he gained the attention of someone who can help address ag’s concerns on an even larger scale.
This is just one instance where social media has connected agriculture to lawmakers. There are many more examples that are constantly taking place, all over the Internet.
So, now you know that you should try to connect with policy makers in your area. Here are a few pointers:
- Find them. A public figure, like a politician, is generally so overwhelmed with other conversations and obligations, that they aren’t going to seek you out. It’s up to you to start the conversation.
- Be positive. I like to use the saying, “You’ll attract more bees with honey than vinegar.” It’s true. Keep your message and your story as positive and non-confrontational as possible.
- Find opportunities to converse, but don’t be overbearing. Connect with the person in question, but don’t badger them.
Social media, in essence, is a super-party. It’s up to you to walk into the party and find the attendees and conversation that best fit your interests, needs, concerns, and desires. Policy makers are using the Internet to converse, just as other everyday people are. We know they’re out there; now it’s up to us to engage them.
What can you do to start a conversation with influential public figures in your locale? Have you ever had a conversation with them? Should you?
Kelly Rivard, is country girl, agriculture advocate, passionate communicator, Gen-Y’er well-versed in social media and AdFarm intern. She can be found @kmrivard on Twitter or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Katie Pinke lives with her husband and three children in the heart of the rural North Dakota prairie, where she connects people and businesses equally passionate about food and farming to AdFarm. You can find her @katpinke on Twitter or at Katie.Pinke@adfarmonline.com.