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The year farming embraced social media

Love them or loathe them, there is no escaping the fact sites like Facebook and Twitter are now a part of the UK’s social fabric

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Farming has embraced the power of social media along with the rest of the world #socialfarming

When social media and farming became one #farming #modernfarmer

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More than half of Britons now use Twitter and/or Facebook, with increasing usage driven by the growth of smartphones and tablets such as iPads which enable quick and easy access virtually anywhere.

 

For some, these sites remain an irrelevance, the domain of dull celebrity, inane ‘banter’ and scurrilous unfounded rumour.

 

But for others, including increasing numbers within the farming community, they are now seen as an essential means of sharing knowledge and information and keeping pace with events. They are also a way of having a ‘voice’, communicating with the wider public and campaigning on key issues.

 

A minority of farmers have always embraced the communication opportunities provided by the internet and a core have been active on Twitter and Facebook for a while. But, at the start of this year, the concept of social media in farming circles could be described as ‘niche’.

A few weeks in the summer changed all that.

Campaign

The successful campaign for fairer milk prices took its name from the #sosdairy ‘hashtag’ used to bring people with an interest in what was happening with milk prices and protests together on Twitter.

 

After the initial shock at price cuts announced in July and the extraordinary attendance at emergency meetings arranged at short notice by the NFU, the campaign was largely driven by social media.

 

NFU vice-president Adam Quinney (@ACQuinney) described the use of the site during the campaign as being ‘like jungle drums’.

 

The NFU and Farmers For Action mobilised supporters for meetings and demonstrations by posting details on Facebook and Twitter. Those supporting the campaign were able to share views, experiences and photos from those events, as well as learning instantly how the supply chain was responding.

 

Farmers were also able to communicate their strength of feeling and the key messages to the media, customers, politicians and processors and retailers, all under #sosdairy banner. Some of the NFU campaign posters naming and shaming retailers were ‘shared’ thousands of times on social networking sites.

 

Mr Quinney said: “Twitter is very powerful because it is short, to the point and speedy. As phones are getting more capable and easier to use, it’s instant, it’s in your pocket.

 

“Farmers had a voice all the way through. Simply being able to share photographs of a demonstration or of a farmer milking a cow at 4am said more than 1,000 words.

 

“There is no doubt retailers and processors were watching what was going on.”

 

Twitter has played a big part in other farming debates of 2012, notably the planned English badger cull and the controversy surrounding live exports.

 

Mr Quinney acknowledged this can be frustrating when arguments, for example over TB vaccination, are taken out of context but said, when used well, Twitter also provides a forum for both sides to share information and see the other point of view.

 

But he said, while uptake on Twitter is increasing, there is plenty of scope for more farmers to get involved. “We are really encouraging farmers to get involved with Twitter. The software is so easy to use. You can teach yourself in 30 seconds,” he said.

 

About Twitter

  • Twitter is a ‘micro blogging’ website which allows users to ‘tweet’ comments of up to 140 characters, including links to websites and pictures, which can be viewed by their ‘followers’
  • The UK is the fourth biggest user of Twitter, with 10 million ‘active users’
  • 80 per cent of UK users read or write tweets via mobile devices
  • Twitter still lags behind Facebook, which has 25m active accounts in the UK
  • To sign up, simply go the website www.twitter.com and follow the simple registration procedure

How the #sosdairy campaign unfolded on Twitter – a selection of some of the thousands of tweets

2day FFA call milk processors to reinstate price cuts since 1/4.Deadline 1/8 to do so o/wise notify retailers milk supply will be disrupted.

@FARMERS4ACTION July 4

 

How do you make a small profit from dairying? Start with a big one. Black humour on way to London #sosdairy event

@AlistairDriver July 11

 

Venue holds 2,500. Now full and still people queueing outside. #sosdairy

@AlistairDriver July 11

 

@NFUtweets Go for it BIG style Meurig, Adam and Mansel. Give em hell #NFU at the #sosdairy event

‏@JonathanBrant1 July 11

 

Dave Handley going down an absolute storm. Message is: ‘Cancel your holidays from start of August.’ No excuses… cue massive roar #sosdairy

‏@AlistairDriver July 11

 

Big boos for JP [Jim Paice] after he asks farmers if they have done everything they can to reduce costs. He persists regardless #sosmilk

@AlistairDriver July 11

 

No milk to be had in Morrison’s. Picket line obviously working. Big respect to the dairy farmers #sosmilk

@HBPR July 20

 

“We’ll be out again tonight. And probably Sunday, too.” FFA’s Andrew Hemming tells FG this is just the start. #sosdairy

@AlistairDriver July 20

 

Breaking #sosdairy news. Pressure tells – Asda goes to 29.5ppl, 5ppl above the Arla base price

@AlistairDriver July 21

 

STOP PRESS All D/Crest protests called off immediately, after talks am with D/Crest. S/ment to follow. All energy now on rest C U all 2nite

@FARMERS4ACTION July 26

 

“All three Wiseman Dairies shut Scotland Market Drayton shut Droitwich shut 2 to go!”

@FARMERS4ACTION July 26

 

Now Wiseman moves. Full house #sosdairy

@AlistairDriver July 27

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