Hashtags & Hyperbole: Using Digital Media for Food and Ag Communications

Recently I was thrilled to join some very bright thinkers on a panel hosted by IFIC about using digital media to communicate food, nutrition, and agriculture. I walked away with great learnings to help scientific experts (and enthusiasts) better communicate with people across the country and around the world using social media and digital channels. Here are four essential ones:

1.       Social media are no longer just ‘nice to have.’ They’re critical.

There was a time when social media were a small plus factor. Now, digital technology is incredibly important for conversations about food and agriculture. It is, hands down, the most effective way to share timely information, find out what questions people have about their food, and answer those questions. It can be intimidating to get started, but just think of how impactful a tool you’re embracing.

2.       Rule Change: Answer questions directly.

There are lots of different ‘vocabularies’ in food, and, sure, lots of them are scientifically inaccurate. But don’t let that stop you from answering someone’s question. Somebody who is using inaccurate terms or making incorrect assumptions about food would benefit all the more from getting a clear, science-based explanation. Remember, it’s easy for people to pick up inaccurate language from social or traditional media —it doesn’t necessarily mean they express any kind of hostility toward food or agriculture.

3.       Engage, engage, engage.

Some social media users are ‘follower snobs’ and only engage with users who have a large following. Instead, treat everyone like they’re a celebrity. Thank them when they follow you or share your content.

This didn’t used to be a priority, especially for ‘brands’ or organizations, but showing that appreciation is becoming increasingly important. In a Boston Consulting Group survey, 62 percent of Millennials said that the most important thing they want from organizations is recognition.

So join conversations about food and agriculture issues and provide a helpful resource. Compliment and publicly recognize other posters with great messages and content, whether they have 60 followers or 60,000.

4.       There are communities to tap into everywhere, you just have to know how to find them.

One of the most important takeaways from the panel was this: Find people where they live. It could be any number of social platforms, or it could be a group of blogs, forums, or message boards. Start out by doing some digging on your favorite topics and audiences. Use tools like Paper.li and Tweetreach to find communities specifically on Twitter.

Sure, digital media can feel intimidating. But if there’s one thing the wide world of digital needs more of, it’s science-based experts and advocates in food, nutrition, and agriculture.